A group of Coalition MPs have told Parliament that reforms to end discrimination against intersex and transgender Australians and older GLBTIs should be achieved before dealing with same-sex marriage.
During debate on a Greens motion calling on MPs to seek constituent views on same-sex marriage, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said although he supported marriage equality, areas of graver need included, “where some individuals are unable to access the necessary Medicare rebate codes required to provide medical treatment because of the way the government sees their sex”.
“Government communication often still contains the prefix Mr rather than Mrs or Miss. For a transgender woman living in a rural town, this can cause enormous mental anguish as your neighbours find out about your past,” he said.
“Many older people … have lived a lifetime of discrimination and they continue to remain in the closet in aged care … and are therefore largely invisible in the aged-care sector.”
Entsch said that transfer of responsibility for aged care to the federal government provided a unique opportunity to address those issues.
He also announced the formation of a GLBTI Parliamentary friendship group and invited MPs from all parties to join.
The Liberal’s Teresa Gambaro echoed Entsch’s call on intersex, transgender and GLBTI ageing issues, despite not making clear whether she opposed or supported same-sex marriage, as did Malcolm Turnbull. All three voted against the Greens’ motion.
Entsch and Gambaro could not be reached for comment however, Turnbull told the Star Observer that while he was currently not an opponent or supporter of same-sex marriage, “if there are any remaining statutory legal discriminations then they should be addressed and we’re certainly very committed to that”.
Turnbull said he had not supported same-sex marriage in the past out of fear it could have jeopardised more practical reforms.
“You can run the risk of alienating people … and this is demonstrated in the United States where there was a backlash against gay marriage in many states, including California which actually passed referendums to prohibit gay marriage,” he said.
“I do recognise that traditional views of marriage and relationships have changed considerably over the years.”
Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said a cross-party group on GLBTI issues would be “a good thing”.
However he would not comment on a News Ltd story claiming he and Penny Wong struck a deal with then prime minister Kevin Rudd to take civil unions to the 2010 election. Albanese said his on-the-record address to that conference showed where his objectives lay.
“I have a view that my relationship, because I happen to be heterosexual, is not undermined by someone else’s relationship because it is homosexual. I have a view that history is moving forward on these issues,” he told that conference.