LGBTIQ+ Politicians Are Flooding The Senate With Emotional Marriage Equality Speeches
"We stand here on the shoulders of our LGBTIQ elders, in power and in love."
Earlier this morning, the senate began debating the proposed marriage equality bill. Right from the get-go, that “debate” has starred our LGBTIQ+ senators delivering speech after moving speech about how much this bill means.
It’s something rare and pretty special, to see LGBTIQ+ voices centred in our parliament. The speeches featured courageous vulnerability, moving personal stories, quotes from ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ and Macklemore delivered almost back to back, and more than a few tears.
We’ve written already about Dean Smith’s powerful introduction to the bill, but here are just a few of the equally powerful responses. It’s a pretty beautiful moment, at the conclusion of a rough few months of debate.
Penny Wong: “This has been a very personal debate, as I demonstrated quite publicly yesterday”
"This is the most personal of debates because it is about the people that matter most to us… the people we love." @SenatorWong talks about her partner Sophie and their two children. pic.twitter.com/zosh8eZEMq
— BuzzFeedOz Politics (@BuzzFeedOzPol) 16 November 2017
Labor senator Penny Wong made headlines yesterday for her emotional reaction to the postal survey result. Today, she returned to parliament with a more measured but no less moving speech about what this bill means to her as a gay woman.
“My very identity has been the subject of public scrutiny and public debate,” she told the Senate. “Our fears about what kind of debate this process would lead to have been found to be well-placed.”
“This has been a very personal debate, as I demonstrated quite publicly yesterday.”
— Alex Ellinghausen (@ellinghausen) November 15, 2017
Wong went on to detail the many, many hurdles along the way to marriage equality that she’s been present for. She spoke about the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act — the one that made Australia’s opposition to same sex marriage more explicit in law — which Wong was bound by the Labor Party to vote for.
This and other moves by parliament to oppose marriage, including the plebiscite, send “a message that we are lesser. It is a message that we are less valued as citizens. It is a message that our relationships and our children matter less. And it is a message that because of who we love, our love is worthless.”
Wong also spoke about growing up as a person of colour in Australia, saying that “it was this experience growing up in a predominantly white Australia that taught me the impact of fear and prejudice.” She spoke of the White Australia policy, historical anti-miscegenation laws, and the other historical struggles we’ve experienced to overthrow discrimination in this country.
“Equality never comes easy,” she said. “It must be fought for, and it must be won. It was true of women fighting for suffrage, it was true of workers fighting for decent wages. It was, and remains true for women fighting for wage equality, as it was for married women fighting for the right to remain in paid employment. It is true of Australia’s first peoples, who have fought to be truly recognised as citizens of our nation, and it has been true for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians fighting for equality before the law.”
Janet Rice: “We stand here on the shoulders of our LGBTIQ elders, in power and in love”
— BuzzFeedOz Politics (@BuzzFeedOzPol) 16 November 2017
Draped in a rainbow flag, Greens senator Janet Rice took to the podium just after Penny Wong to read out the lyrics of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue,” she said. “And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. These lyrics are so fitting for the debate we are having right now.”
“To my family and me, and to so many LGBTIQ Australians, it means that our dreams will soon come true. It means that our love, our relationships, and our families will be equal under the law. It means that LGBTIQ people will feel safer to hold the hand of their partner when they go down the street.”
Rice then acknowledged the work of the countless LGBTIQ people who have campaigned for change over the years. “There are so many campaigners who aren’t with us now, who have passed on prior to today, who have missed out on the joy of hearing Australians resoundingly say yes to our lives and our loves,” she said. “So we achieve this reform with them in mind, and with their memory in our hearts.”
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) November 15, 2017
“We didn’t need to have this postal survey,” she said. “Parliament could have done its job way before now.”
“The last two months have been hard for LGBTIQ people. They have been so hard. Our identities, our relationships, our lives have been dissected and analysed and talked about. We’ve been told that we’re not normal, our relationships are not normal, our families are not normal.”
“For my wife Penny and myself, people’s blatant transphobia was on full display, with people challenging Penny’s trans identity, with offensive attacks on our marriage and our love.”
“But our community is one of the strongest that there is. We’re more resilient than you know. We stand here on the shoulders of our LGBTIQ elders, in power and in love. We have endured, and now Australians have said yes.”
Louise Pratt: “It will take our community some time to heal, as joyous as yesterday was.”
Labor senator Louise Pratt, meanwhile, used her speech to highlight through personal experience how harmful the postal survey has been for LGBTIQ people.
“I know firsthand the hurt that people experienced,” she said. “It’s been hard work going head to head with the No campaign, and indeed going door to door to ask for the right to marry.”
“It’s of no surprise to me that calls to mental health helplines increased in recent months. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Australians endured this, and our community, for that, needs to be commended.”
“I have to say, though, that I have been dismayed at the lack of recognition coming from the government on the impacts of this hurtful campaign on the LGBTIQ community. The spikes that we’ve experienced in mental health lines and and support are real, and it will take our community some time to heal, as joyous as yesterday was.”
Pratt then took the opportunity to call for the government to provide additional funding and resources to support the LGBTIQ community in this healing.
#marriageequality plebiscite came in under $100 million, less than the estimated $122 million. Labor senator Louise Pratt suggests the difference go to #LGBTIQA+ and mental health services. Hear, hear.
— Mike Jones (@mikejonesmelb) November 16, 2017
Pratt then turned to the topic of queer parenting, which the No campaign made a key issue of the postal survey debate. She became teary recounting a story “of a five-year-old boy who came home and told his mums he needed a new family”.
“I am very glad that my own son is too young to understand. Yesterday, his dads tell me he was happily talking about equality Transformers,” she said, laughing.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning parent. And Australians know that, and they showed that overwhelmingly.”
“It’s a great relief, and it’s humbling that Australians have stood up for us.”
These are just a few of the incredibly moving speeches from this morning. So many senators have come out in favour of this bill and the community, to pay their respects to queer activists past and present, and to express solidarity with those hurt by this process. The debate has adjourned for now, but it will continue in the senate later this afternoon.