Local, Independant and Effective

Indi says "Act now" on marriage equality

Posted November 28, 2016


Ms McGOWAN ( Indi ) ( 11:32 ): I support this Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 [No. 2]. It is interesting that we have Cathy McGowan, the federal member for Indi, representing rural Australia; an Independent, Andrew Wilkie, the member for Denison, representing regional Australia as in Tasmania and Hobart; and Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne, representing inner urban Australia. We have come together with a plea to the government to please listen to what most of the people in Australia are saying: do something, act now and sort this out.

I am not going to go over the arguments that the member for Denison has so eloquently put forward. What I want today is to talk about why the people of Indi have asked me to come and have their voices heard. I was at a meeting yesterday when there was this rousing cheer when I said that we were going to reintroduce this bill. The people of Wangaratta said: 'Cathy, that's just fantastic. Know you've got our full support.' These are people in Wangaratta, not Melbourne, not Hobart, but your solid, really good people in rural and regional Australia, who are saying: 'Deal with it. Make marriage equal. Stop the discrimination. Give the people in rural and regional Australia, in Melbourne and the other parts a chance to do what they know they want to do, which is stand up in public, proclaim their love and be accepted like everybody else.' That is what they are asking of us. It is no big deal.

There are two particular voices I want to bring to the discussion today. One is the Bishop of Wangaratta, the very Reverend John Parkes. He wrote to me in September asking me to make representation on his behalf to the Prime Minister saying that this division is causing such tension and worry that could we please address it quickly and sort it out, and not go to the next election with this hanging over our head because, if we were worried about what the plebiscite might do, having it as an election issue in two or three years time is really going to cause damage to large numbers of people. The bishop, as leader of the Anglican synod for Wangaratta, which covers all northeast Victoria across to Albury, made a unanimous decision for us to please address this issue. Bishop, I have brought your comments here on behalf of your congregation. The Anglican synod of Wangaratta is normally not a radical, outrageous group of people. They are solid, good Christians, and they want this issue dealt with.

I would also like to talk about a young person in my electorate—Harry. Harry is 16 and a year 10 secondary student at Wangaratta. This month, as part of the debate in his English class, he offered his opinion that legalising marriage is a step in the right direction. I would like to bring some of Harry's words to parliament. Harry asks: 'It doesn't affect anyone directly except for same-sex couples or gay or trans or other LGBTI people, and who are we to say that their love isn't valid enough to be married? It's not like these people are in any way subhuman, so why are we treating them as if they are?'

Surely two adults who love each other should be able to get married regardless of gender, and by preventing them from doing this we are letting an archaic mentality and belief dictate others' lives.

He argues that Australia is being left behind by other countries, and says that other countries are leagues ahead of us with regard to equality. To see these countries pulling away from Australia in terms of acceptance, he says, as a 16-year-old living in Wangaratta, 'Is frankly embarrassing for our once progressive and open country,' and says:

If these countries who have a fundamentally devote Christian voter base have no problem with gay marriage then why are we still opposing it? More importantly, it is a necessary step our magnificent country must take in order to move forward and advance.

In closing his argument, Harry offers this:

Your religion, personal beliefs or preferred political party shouldn't be able to dictate another person's life, their happiness, future or legitimacy. And if you're selfishly allowing an antiquated book or a gut feeling to make your decision maybe you need to take a step back, re-evaluate your position, put yourself in other people's shoes and love your neighbour as yourself.

I bring to this parliament a call from the people of Indi to bring this legislation on to debate, to make a conscious decision so that people can freely stand up and do what they need to do, to sort it out and enable our country to get on with the business of government, which is what our people really want to do.

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