Government And Labor MPs Make Bipartisan Plea For Marriage Equality

02/03/2016 3:49 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Fairfax Media

Labor MP Terri Butler has made an impassioned, emotional call for the parliament to legislate marriage equality, as the government's newest member in openly gay Trent Zimmerman spoke openly of his sexuality and criticised those who "peddle prejudice".

Butler moved to reintroduce a marriage equality bill -- which has been before the House of Representatives since August, but which has not yet been debated -- to the house for debate on Wednesday afternoon. Despite her impassioned pleas in the chamber, her motion to debate the bill was defeated by the government.

Beforehand, along with deputy opposition leader and Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, Butler said it was her dream to see marriage equality legalised in time for this weekend's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

"We don't need that national division; we have an opportunity for national unity, righting a wrong. We can do it now," she said, referencing controversial comments around LGBTI issues made by conservative politicians in recent weeks.

"It's a moderate bill, a pragmatic bill. something the whole community can get behind."

The bill Butler sought to debate on Wednesday was first introduced in August 2015, a cross-party bill introduced by Liberal MP Warren Entsch. Speaking of her frustrations that marriage equality has not yet been legislated, Butler came close to tears as she referenced family and friends directly affected by the ban on same-sex marriage.

"How much longer do people have to wait? How much longer do my friends in their 70s and 80s, who have been in long term same sex relationships, have to wait for marriage equality? How much longer do my family members have to wait, and their kids have to wait?" Butler said, her voice almost breaking.

"How much longer does my grandmother have to wait before my cousin can get married? How much longer do my friends, who have been together for a decade, have to wait until their kids can be the flower girl and page boy at their wedding?"

"There is no reason except the cave-in to the hard right [of the Liberal party]. It's time Malcolm Turnbull showed some leadership, it's time Malcolm Turnbull delivered a free vote, it's time Malcolm Turnbull stood for something."


Trent Zimmerman (right) embraces marriage equality advocate and Liberal MP Warren Entsch, after Zimmerman's maiden speech

Not long after Butler's media conference the Liberal Member for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, made his maiden speech to the house. Zimmerman, who replaced the retiring Joe Hockey at a by-election, is the parliament's first openly gay MP and spoke of his sexuality and his hope marriage equality would be legislated.

"I am very conscious that my election to this Parliament represents the first time an openly gay man or woman has entered the House of Representatives," Zimmerman said, claiming that some had asked him not to mention this aspect of his life in his maiden speech.

"While we have made great strides discrimination remains and too many are prepared to peddle prejudice. Our laws still deny access to marriage -- our society’s ultimate expression of love and commitment. Young gay men and women are more likely to suffer depression and other mental health issues. They are more likely to be bullied at school. More are likely to attempt to take their own lives and tragically some will succeed."


Zimmerman (right) is congratulated by PM Malcolm Turnbull after his speech

"And while people feel the need to suppress their identity they will live in a life of fear and trepidation. They are denied the opportunity to love and be loved. To be full and flourishing member of our community. To simply be themselves. We will not have reached the end of the journey until no person feels compelled to live a life that is not their own. Until we recognise that a person’s sexuality is not a choice or a preference -- it is as innate as the colour of their skin. We should regard intolerance in the same way modern Australia regards discrimination based on sex or race -- no more and no less."

"But I hope that my election to this place will, in a small way, send a message of hope. That your sexuality should not and need not be a barrier. That you can be gay and even be a member of the Australian Parliament."

Read more of Zimmerman's maiden speech here.

More On This Topic