02 July 2015

Last Friday, the United States, a nation dedicated to the idea that all are equal, gave new meaning to that truth. 

It’s time Australia did the same. 

My reasons for supporting marriage equality are well known. 

I believe marriage equality is a simple change that sends a powerful message. 

It is a chance for us to say, as a nation, to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians: your love is equal under the law.

To say to parents, children, friends and families of same-sex partners: just as the people you love are equal and valuable in your eyes, their relationships are equal and valuable in the eyes of the law.

To say to young people who identify as gay: we are proud of you for who you are. You have a right to the same hopes, dreams and opportunities as every Australian, including the right to marry the person you love.

To say to same-sex couples: you deserve the right to celebrate your love with a public measure of devotion.

When someone has found not just another person they can live with, but a person they can’t live without, they should have an equal right to the true qualities of a bond that runs deeper than any law.

The same joy and sacrifice, the same care and compassion.

Equal rights and responsibilities. 

I was pleased to hear that a new cross-party marriage equality bill, effectively identical to the one Tanya Plibersek and I introduced into the House of Representatives in June, will be brought before the Parliament in August. 

I congratulate the MPs who have made this happen, from all sides.  

I especially thank the Liberals who have shown the courage to speak up and sign this Bill. I’m conscious their actions carried risks and I thank them for standing by their principles. 

For me, for all of us who support the cause of marriage equality, the signature on the bill, the name on the piece of paper isn’t important. 

I don’t care who brings the bill into Parliament, as long as all of us get a chance to have a free vote on the issue. 

This new cross-party bill puts the ball in Tony Abbott’s court. 

I understand he has a different and long-held view of marriage equality, I respect that. 

I know that for people of faith, from all sides of politics, this can be a complex question. 

But I sincerely hope the Prime Minister can put his personal opinion aside and offer his party room a free vote. 

Without a free vote, marriage equality cannot succeed. With a free vote, I believe it cannot fail. 

So often, free or ‘conscience’ votes show our Parliament at its very best. They are respectful, honest and dignified exchanges, where MPs speak for their communities, and from the heart. 

The people to whom marriage equality means the most – are entitled to this show of national respect. 

Inevitably, there are some who say this is not a first-order issue. I disagree. 

Ending discrimination and extending equality should always be a national priority. 

And Australians are smart enough and sophisticated enough to engage with more than one issue at a time. 

So often in our history, Australia has led the world in the pursuit of fairness. 

On marriage equality, we are lagging behind. 

It’s time to change this. It’s time to make marriage equality, a reality. 

This article was first posted on the Guardian website on Thursday, 2 July 2015