Last Thursday, our senior policy advisor Senthorun Raj and I represented the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs inquiry into the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012.

We were joined by our allies Alex Greenwich and Rodney Croome from Australian Marriage Equality, Shelley Argent from PFLAG, and Professor Kerryn Phelps.

We each represented our respective organisations, but we also came as individuals with stories to tell. We are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and parents, and all of us have felt the effects of discrimination, as have all of you.

We needed to present rational, empirical evidence about the benefits to individuals, families and communities that marriage equality would bring — and we also had to speak from our hearts about the impact of inequity on our lives.

During the hearing I told the story of Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon, whose words feature in the GLRL submission to the inquiry. Dorothy is a retired Uniting Church minister, noted humanitarian, and one of the most beloved members of our community.

Sadly, Dorothy’s partner passed away in recent weeks after a battle with illness. Her story left the committee to ponder how many other loving relationships would end in this way, without formal recognition, before marriage equality became a reality for all.

A civil union scheme, one suggested alternative to marriage equality, will not suffice. Such a scheme reinforces the relationship hierarchy we seek to end. What we want is recognition of the dignity of our sexuality and the depth of our relationships, and only full equality can provide that.

Much has been made by our opposition about the purported negative effects that allowing marriage equality would have on children. However, as we opined during the hearing, same-sex couples already can and do have children, and surely if the interests of these children were taken to heart, it would be in their interests to afford them the security of having married parents.

Nothing in the proposed amendments removes the rights of religious organisations to choose whom they will and will not marry. This was reinforced by a letter read at the hearing by Rodney
Croome from the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, who feels secure that religious freedoms are sufficiently protected by the law.

While we recognise this hearing as just one step in a long journey, we could not have wished for a better hearing.


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