Labor senator Doug Cameron has called for the debate over marriage equality legislation to remain secular.

Addressing the Senate yesterday, he said that as an atheist he was offended by people who considered only religious marriage to be valid.

“I was offended when I heard Senator Brandis and others talking about the sanctity of marriage, that you can only have a decent marriage if it is sanctified by God or if it is done in the eyes of religion,” Cameron said.

“I’ve been married for a long time, and my marriage is as good and as strong as any religious marriage in this country… I object to it being treated as second-class because I was not married in a church or under some sanctified mumbo jumbo, as far as I am concerned.”

Cameron said that pushing religion “should be unacceptable in this parliament”, and that he was concerned about discrimination against LGBTI people under the proposed “religious freedom” provisions around marriage.

“Religion is privileged in all areas of society in this country,” he said.

“The people who have not been privileged in this country, and who have certainly been placed in a position of deficient rights in this country, are the LGBTIQ community.

“I say it will now be a problem for some of the atheists in this country if we get more so-called religious freedoms, which is simply code to be able to discriminate against the LGBTIQ community.

“It should not be about religious freedoms but about rights for everybody in this country.”

Cameron said marriage equality should have happened years ago without the expense of the postal survey.

“We should not be here now debating this. It should have been law in this country some years ago,” he said.

“Politicians should simply have done their job and dealt with the matter, without wasting over $120 million of public money on a divisive and unnecessary postal survey—$120 million of public money wasted on a survey that told us exactly what everyone knew: that the Australian public supports marriage equality.”

Cameron thanked the MPs and community activists who have been instrumental in fighting for marriage equality, including Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese and Louise Pratt, Rainbow Labor, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

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