There is much being said about marriage equality and the plebiscite from both sides of the House. It is my view that this issue is fundamentally one of human rights and equality. Every citizen on this Earth deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and to have his or her human rights recognised and valued regardless of their race, religion, sexuality or culture.
But for me this is a deeply felt and personal issue. My husband and I have three wonderful children. The eldest is a young man who has a nine-year-old son and a four-week-old daughter; he is engaged to be married. Our second child is a daughter who is married and has two beautiful children; a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. And our youngest daughter is engaged to her same sex partner but cannot marry in this country.
My youngest daughter tells me she realised she was a lesbian when she was 14 years old in Grade 9, and it took her until she left school and commenced work before she was able to tell her wider family and friends that she was a lesbian. I cannot imagine just how hard it was for her as a young adolescent to work through where her life was going into the future, knowing that there would be people in her community who would not understand her life situation.
She did, in that time, have bouts of depression and anxiety, but to her credit and strong will she survived and has grown into a beautiful, confident young woman, who is now in a committed relationship and has become engaged but cannot get married.
As a mother, it breaks my heart to think that my youngest child is not considered equal to her older brother and sister in terms of her ability to get married. I find this absolutely and totally unacceptable in 2016. The most important thing to me in my life is my family and my children.
Throughout my working life I have stood up for the rights of the most vulnerable people in our society. I have worked with people who have become severely mentally ill as a result of their sexuality. I have seen a friend bashed senseless just because he was gay. I just cannot accept that this is good enough.
I have spoken with many LGBTI people in my electorate who are so worried about a plebiscite and the impact on them and their families. I talked with a 65-year-old man who was reduced to tears because he is so fearful of what this could mean in his life -- he remembers the hatred and discrimination that he experienced as a young gay man. He told me that he did not think he could cope with reliving that nightmare.
The Marriage Act has been amended 22 times in the Federal Parliament without a plebiscite, so why now? As long as I have breath in my body I will fight for marriage equality so that my daughter and the many other LGBTI people in our communities can have the joy of marrying the person that they love.