Politics

George Brandis Just Gave An Extraordinary Speech On Marriage Equality

"You are not unusual, you are not abnormal, you are just you."

As the Senate debate on the marriage equality bill continues, there have been plenty of heartwarming and cooked moments alike. Now, Attorney General George Brandis has given an extraordinary speech that may just be a contender for the debate’s most powerful moment.

In the speech, he said the impending passage of the bill “will come to be seen as one of those occasional, shining moments that stand out in our nation’s history — about which people will still speak in admiration in decades, indeed in centuries to come.” More than that, he gave a profound, resounding affirmation to young LGBTQI+ people, putting perfectly into words the way this bill will resonate for those who need it most.

“The decriminalisation of consensual homosexual acts removed a stigma which had blighted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians,” Brandis said, “but merely to decide that conduct should not be the subject of the criminal law is a long way short of acceptance.”

“By decriminalising consensual homosexual acts, the Australian community only began its long, halting journey to recognising the complete equality of gay people — a journey first of toleration, then of acceptance, then of respect, and at last of embrace.”

“These late spring and early summer days of 2017 will always be remembered as a time when the Parliament heeded the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Australians: that ours should be a society defined by greater decency, truer equality, more complete freedom.”

He then turned to the bill’s symbolic significance, which he said goes far beyond its mere practical effects.

“I want to reflect for a moment on the message this will send, in particular, to young gay people,” he said. “To the boy or girl who senses a difference from their friends, which they find difficult to understand and impossible to deal with.”

“How many hundreds of thousands of young Australians have known that fear? How many have lived with it, silently and alone? How many have failed to come to terms with it, and been overborne by it?”

“By passing this bill, we are saying to these vulnerable young people ‘there is nothing wrong with you’. You are not unusual, you are not abnormal, you are just you. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, there is nothing to be ashamed of, there is nothing to hide: you are a normal person, and like every other normal person, you have a need to love. How you love is how God made you. Whom you love is for you to decide, and others to respect,” he said.

“Australia may have been slow to reach this day,” Brandis concluded. “But when that day did come, it came triumphantly, it came joyously, and most importantly it came from the Australian people themselves.”

Granted, Brandis is not perfect. He’s wrong in saying that this bill is the last hurdle for LGBTQI+ people; we cannot forget that he is part of a government that called for this postal survey, that ignores what is happening on Manus Island even as this speech was made. But this was also an extraordinary speech, and a profound affirmation of queer youth in this country. You can watch it below.