Waiting for marriage

Published: 05 December 2017

There’s a lot of speeches to get through

Pollies keep talking though Dutton says amendments won’t pass

There’s a lot of speeches to get through
Image © 2017 AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

As if the process of getting a marriage equality bill passed into law wasn’t already protracted enough, the House of Representatives has returned to sit again today as more of the 117 MPs scheduled to speak on the marriage equality bill get their turn.

Sitting hours have been extended to make sure that every member gets to have their say it seems to all be hot air, as the law seems increasingly likely to pass without any amendments.

Eventually. Hopefully by Thursday.

Cabinet minister and prominent same-sex marriage opponent Peter Dutton admits that will adding further ‘religious safeguards’ to the private members bill would be "near impossible" given the numbers in the lower house.

"In this business, we face the reality of arithmetic and that is the reality in this parliament," he told colleagues on Monday night.

Mr Dutton is against changing the Marriage Act, but has committed to voting 'yes' out of respect of the result of the postal survey - an idea he put forward when Tony Abbott's compulsory plebiscite failed.

He will, however, support "sensible" amendments to be put forward by his Liberal colleagues, including conservatives Michael Sukkar and Andrew Hastie.

Many of the speeches have been heartfelt, including Labor MP Linda Burney paying tribute to her late, gay son Binnie.

"I have seen first-hand the confusion, anxiety and pain that many of our young people experience struggling with their sexuality," Ms Burney said this afternoon.

Fellow Labor MP Cathy O'Toole's daughter Louise knew quite early on that she was gay, but did not act on her feelings until her early 20s out of fear. She struggled with depression and anxiety throughout her teens.

Next year, Louise will marry her partner Cat.

"As a mother, all I have ever wanted for all of my children is for them to be happy, to belong, and to be accepted for who they are," Ms O'Toole told parliament.

Liberal backbencher and committed Catholic Andrew Wallace offered his own tale about his daughter.

"About three years ago our daughter told my wife and I that she was attracted to women - that she had a girlfriend," Mr Wallace told the House.

"My wife and I were shocked. Probably more me than my wife. I didn't know what to say."

"Homosexuality went against what I had been taught to believe for many years. How could this be happening? How could this be happening to me, to our family?" he asked.

His daughter Caroline struggled with mental illness and eating disorders throughout her teenage years.

She had boyfriends growing up, but told her father "it never felt quite right" and she felt she could not tell her parents because she thought they would not approve.

"She said she had always secretly been attracted to women and I'm sure this internal conflict would have, in some part, at least exacerbated her mental state," Mr Wallace told parliament.

Caroline is now in a much healthier and happier place.

"She has a terrific job and a wonderful partner who our family love very much."

Mr Wallace will support same-sex marriage but also wants to see greater religious protections in the bill.

Coalition members including Mr Sukkar and Mr Hastie are seeking wide-ranging changes, including exemptions for civil celebrants, small businesses and religious charities, and two definitions of marriage - one for men and women, and another for two people.

Members of Australian Christians for Marriage Equality were in Canberra on Tuesday to lobby MPs against the amendments.

Uniting Church minister Margaret Mayman said there was a chorus of conservative Christian voices seeking to undermine the will of the Australian people.

"We believe there's no basis, in either democratic principles or Christian faith, for introducing amendments that are arbitrary, divisive and unnecessary," she told reporters.

Anglican priest Angus McLeay dismissed as a "myth" claims the charity status of religious bodies was being threatened.

"Plenty of Christians are completely relaxed about this law going through. It's not an issue for their faith - millions of Christians voted 'yes'," he said.

Mr Dutton denied the amendments were an attempt to frustrate the process and delay the bill's passage, and would instead improve the legislation.

"I do believe Australians would support those safeguards, that's why it is important for us to have another process ... because I think there is a debate to be had in this country around religious and parental protections," he said.

The immigration minister believes enshrining further protections will have greater success following an inquiry into religious freedoms early next year, to be led by Philip Ruddock.

with AAP
© 2017 AAP