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The fight for marriage equality has not yet been won
Today, the NSW Cross Party Group on Marriage Equality, introduced the NSW Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2013, into the NSW Legislative Council for debate.
Those opposed to the bill have argued that same-sex marriage will undermine the long-established and unchanged institution of marriage.
Anyone with knowledge of history knows that this is not correct. When this country was still a colony, it regulated the marriages of convicts, only granting them to the most ‘industrious’ or sober. It used to allow young children to marry. It also had shameful laws which restricted marriages between Indigenous people, and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Thankfully, many changes have occurred to marriage, and they reflect the changing times and development of views in New South Wales and Australia. They reflect a move to a fairer and better society.
But the fight for marriage equality has not yet been won.
In the NSW Parliament’s Inquiry into Same Sex Marriage Law, there were two findings that stood out to me most: firstly, that when we talk about marriage, we are talking about something that the United Nations has declared as a human right in their charter (article 16).
The marriage equality movement is a human rights movement.
The other finding was that marriage as defined by the Federal Marriage Act as a “union between a man and a woman” is discriminatory. How did they come to this conclusion? The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, “except as provided by the Marriage Act”. Can there be any clearer statement that the Marriage Act is discriminatory?
Although, full marriage equality can only be achieved by making changes to the Federal Marriage Act, this should not stop us from doing the right and decent thing in NSW when we know that we can.
The NSW Same Sex Marriage Bill heralds a change which can make marriage better. By removing discrimination from our law, and valuing the love, and commitment between two people, regardless of their sex, sexuality or gender identity, we are restoring the rights of others, acknowledging their humanity and hopefully realising our own.
Mehreen Faruqi is the Greens Member of the NSW Cross Party Group on Marriage Equality