Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE Speech on Same Sex marriage introduced in the NSW Legislative Council‏

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [10.17 a.m.]: I speak on this motion moved by the Hon. Cate Faehrmann, which calls on us to support marriage equality and also calls on the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to provide marriage equality. I recognise that this is ultimately a Federal matter and it is up to the Commonwealth Parliament to make the decision with regard to marriage and marriage equality.
My decision to speak on this motion was a difficult one, and I had written three separate speeches. One opposed the motion because I do not support same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, that the child or children in the family structure are the key focus and all else is peripheral. I also wrote part of a speech on the basis that I would abstain as I believe that homosexuals, gays, lesbians, transgenders and others, like every other Australian citizen, have every right to be respected under the law of this land and our Constitution. The legal system should not discriminate or differentiate and favour one citizen over another simply because the lawmakers see the need to differentiate based on established ideological or religious prejudices or beliefs.
I also thought that if I voted for the motion it would not present a threat to the way I live my life, the way I want my community to live their lives and the way Australian Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jewish communities continue to conduct their religious practices and beliefs. How I vote today was not predetermined.
I accept that many people in Australia do not support gay marriage. They make their voices heard in a number of ways, but their opposition to changing the laws remains constant. They see marriage as a unique relationship between one man and one woman. They see marriage as a foundation of family which in turn is the foundation of society. To them marriage is deeply valued for cultural and religious reasons and they argue that that should be respected. They even believe that research shows that a child with a married biological mother and father do best, and that children should be given the chance to start life with both biological parents. I received one letter that referred to a recently published report of Professor Patrick Parkinson in which it was argued, "Children raised outside of a traditional marriage have alarmingly increased rates of self-harm, substance abuse, mental illness, and premature sexual activity."
I also accept that many people argue the case for same-sex marriage and want acceptance and respect for same-sex couples who contribute to society equally but are not treated equally by the law. They argue that it is time to end discrimination. One letter I received stated, "The Australian Psychological Society has found that children raised by same-sex couples are just as well adjusted, psychologically, sexually, intellectually and socially as their peers." Those in favour of same-sex marriage cite the fact that our laws already accept relationships between gays and lesbians, whether it is our immigration laws or our citizenship laws. It is also accepted under our social security, taxation, Medicare, veterans affairs, superannuation and child support laws. I am conscious of and respect the effect of this motion on people of faith, just as I respect the views of those who are on the other side. I am confident that the amendment of the Hon. Trevor Khan to the motion of Hon. Cate Faehrmann protects the rights of all religious beliefs, faiths and religious institutions, whether they are Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism, Sikh, Buddhism, Shintoism or any other religion. The amendment of the Hon. Trevor Khan to the motion states:
That the question be amended by inserting after paragraph (b):
(c) notes that Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance",
(d) calls on all participants in the debate on marriage equality to treat those with differing views with respect, dignity and tolerance, and
(e) calls for any amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to ensure that religious institutions are not forced to solemnise marriages they do not wish to.
I support this amendment, as it will ensure that religious institutions are not forced to solemnise same-sex marriages, which goes against the grain of their religion. I would have no hesitation voting against this motion if it took away the right of people who observe their religions and forced on them a practice they do not believe in. I would not support a motion to make something right by imposing a wrong on others. I would not agree with forcing religious institutions to solemnise gay and lesbian marriages. Under this amendment of the Hon. Trevor Khan, imams, priests, rabbis and reverends of all faiths can refuse same-sex marriages with the protection of law. Secular laws have not intervened in the fundamental affairs of the church—I use the term "church" broadly to include all religions—and this amendment will maintain the rights of the church. My conscience is therefore clear in whatever decision I take on this matter today.
I am also conscious of the fact that we live in a secular society where our religions, religious beliefs and religious institutions are protected. I am conscious that secular laws have given significance to human rights, which I support and will always argue in favour of. I support the human rights of children, women and the elderly, just as I support the human rights of the underprivileged, the poor, and the dispossessed. I support the human rights of all people of faith to practise their faiths, their culture, their language and their beliefs without fear or discrimination. I also support the rights of minorities and condemn all forms of discrimination, racism and bigotry. I support the rights of minorities because I know what it means to be on the receiving end of racism, discrimination and bigotry.
As an Australian of Lebanese heritage and Islamic faith, I want all laws, local, State and Federal, to respect minorities, amongst them Muslims and all people of faith, and for all faiths to be protected under the law. I want the anti-discrimination laws of New South Wales to protect Muslims just as they protect Jews, Christians and people of other religions. That is why I have called for, and will continue to call for, an amendment to the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. I hope one day soon to introduce a private member's bill to revise our inadequate laws and amend the Act by including religion as a ground against discrimination.
I want to put on the record in no uncertain terms that I personally do not agree with marriage other than between a man and a woman but I recognise and respect the right of all Australian citizens to be treated equally under the law. Irrespective of how I vote today my conscience is clear. I am voting to protect the rights of religious institutions—Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hindu and Buddhists—to continue to observe their beliefs according to the fundamentals of their faith. My conscience is clear that irrespective of the way I vote today I will continue to respect the right of those who support and wish to protect the institution of family and I will continue to respect the rights of all our citizens irrespective of faith, gender, colour or creed.
I have listened to and read all the views of my colleagues in this House and I have canvassed people outside this House from across the spectrum of views. I have received approximately 4,700 emails and letters from both sides of the divide. Over the years humanity has struggled to provide for those who seek to remain in their comfort zone and retain institutionalised beliefs and those who want change. Humanity over the millennia has evolved in habits, beliefs, practices and behaviour. One of the overarching drivers has been the right to equality. It has been the overarching principle in all societies to seek equality between men and women, equality in wealth and equality in all its forms.
As a pragmatist and realist, I accept the rights of all, so long as the rights of one group do not impede on the rights of another. I respect the right of those who want to hold onto the institution of the family as they see it but I do not deny the right of others to equality under the law. Our pluralist secular democratic society has succeeded because it paves the way for reform in our system and in our behaviour without having to undergo structural reform. There are many who do not believe in God. That has not changed how those who believe in God view their religion.
There are those who do not believe in Christianity or Islam, or any other religion for that matter, and that has not brought down religion. There will always be people who believe in the right of the individual and a laissez faire approach, and there are those who believe in the right of the public over the private. Our system of government and laws has not collapsed because of it; our system survives because of a plurality of views and beliefs. Some people believe that our society is based on Judeo-Christian principles, but that is not true for others. They believe it is based on Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles, and I add Hindu, Buddhist and other religious principles. I will cast my vote having listened to the contributions of other members.


The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane MLC.
Level 11, Room 1116.
Parliament of New South Wales
Parliament House
Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
( 02 9230 2526 || � 02 9230 2722

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