On 7 December 2017 the Federal Parliament voted to change the Marriage Act. I support traditional marriage, so I abstained from the final vote out of respect for the will of Canning. This has been my clear public position over the past 18 months.
As a Liberal, I stand for freedom of conscience, as well as religious and parental rights. During parliamentary debate, I moved an amendment to protect Australians who support traditional marriage based on their religious or conscientious views. This was to shield them from intimidation and legal activism.
I also fought for the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes that teach sexuality and gender fluidity, in the same way that parents can withdraw their children from religious classes now.
My amendment was voted down by Labor. They opposed the right of parents to withdraw their children from radical programs like Safe Schools. Labor also refused to allow me to table letters from Christian and Independent schools organisations representing local schools like Byford John Calvin and Serpentine Jarrahdale Grammar. They silenced teachers concerned about religious freedom.
I acknowledge the heartfelt joy of many people who celebrated same-sex marriage. The task now is to balance the competing rights of all Australians.
Below is a link to the amendment I moved, and speech I gave in its defence.
The question put to the Australian people in the postal survey was this:
'Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?'
The answer given was a clear yes. Nationally, 61.6 per cent of the population responded yes; 38.4 per cent of the population responded no; and nearly eight out of 10 eligible Australians expressed their view.
The Australian people have voted decisively in the Marriage Postal Survey. There is a clear majority who support same-sex marriage. I congratulate the YES campaign on their victory. I know this result carries significant meaning for many Australians who have long campaigned for a change to the Marriage Act. Importantly, this result gives them both a legal and cultural mandate for change.
During the campaign, I argued in favour of retaining the current definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I also voted NO in the Marriage Postal Survey, alongside 4,873, 987 Australians. I thank them for their support.
We now have the task of legislating same-sex marriage in the Australian Parliament. Out of respect for the Australian people, I will not be voting against the legislation to change the Marriage Act. Rather, as I have previously said on the public record, it is my intention to abstain because I cannot vote against my conscience. The outcome of the legislative change is assured: my abstention will not obstruct the passage of same-sex marriage.
I intend, however, to vote for subsequent amendments to the Marriage Act to protect people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Freedom of religion, conscience and expression are foundational to our democratic tradition. Those with conscientious objections should enjoy the same protections as people who support same-sex marriage. This change in law should not compromise the freedom of the 4.87 million Australians who voted NO.
That is why I will fight to have strong legislative protections for individuals and organisations. Of particular concern is the freedom of parents and faith-based schools to raise and educate children in accordance with their moral and religious convictions. It is my hope that my Coalition colleagues share the same commitment to securing the freedoms of conscience, expression, religion and parental rights for all Australians.
Media Contact: David Birch 0468 393 762