Given the significance of the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) Bill 2012, the members of the government have been given a conscience vote, and that means the vote of individuals from the government is not dictated by focus groups or poll driven and is not even determined or dictated to by the group as a whole. It is a matter of personal conscience. It should also mean that opposing sides can achieve disagreement where both sides of the argument understand the other’s arguments and understand why they disagree. Unfortunately, many who do not support this bill have had charges of hostility, unreasonableness and bigotry aimed at them. In fact, I have witnessed some and had some aimed at me. There have been exaggerations and some bizarre comments made by people on both sides of the debate. I think that has served to discredit those arguments.
I do not oppose this bill on the basis of religious zealotry, fundamentalism, hatred, bigotry or homophobia, contrary to some comments made to me and about me. I oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and I have no issue with the legislation on civil same-sex unions. But what I believe is that the traditional and current definition of marriage should remain as being between a man and a woman. The institution of marriage precedes governments, parliaments and written law. It is an ancient institution and holds a special and unique status—and deservedly so. In our culture, and virtually every other, the act of marriage as we know it has always been between a man and a woman, and this bill aims to profoundly change that traditional meaning and understanding. It disconnects from the issue that male to female married relationships are different from other kinds of relationships, sexual or non-sexual, and it disconnects from the issue that marriage deserves its unique legal and cultural status—