AS parliament continues to debate the same-sex marriage bill, Member for Page Kevin Hogan has added his voice to the debate, speaking last night in Federal parliament.
Mr Hogan was one of 125 speakers on the bill, and the speech detailed his personal views towards the same-sex marriage debate, and reaffirmed his belief that the issue was one to be dealth with by the people.
He paid tribute to LGBTIQ advocates, and reaffirmed that he looked forward to the passage of the legislation, while protecting religious institutions and freedoms of the country.
The full text of his speech is here:
Mr HOGAN (Page) (19:48): A number of years ago, when I was a political aspirant and wasn't in this place, I was asked about my attitude towards same-sex marriage. I said back then, which was obviously a while ago, that I thought the decision should be made by the Australian people, whether it be through a plebiscite or a referendum. I think the result of what has happened through this process validates that. I always said I would be comfortable in supporting that, and voting yes, if that was the way the Australian public chose. I have always thought that, because what we're doing here is a massive cultural shift. We are changing an institution and the definition of an institution that has been around for thousands of years. It's not something like putting the tax rate up or down or changing other policy, which we do in here on a daily basis-and then another parliament or another government may well reverse or change those decisions. The decision we are making in this parliament on this postal survey that we did is a big cultural shift that will not be reversed. Therefore, I thought going to the Australian public to do this was always a good idea.
Some activists and some advocates for this in the community disagreed with me vehemently on this through the process, and I certainly had sympathy for where they were coming from. People within the LGBTIQ community said, 'We will be discriminated against.' I do not know what that discrimination would feel like, given I am not in their shoes, so I certainly had sympathy for the fact that they thought this process would be damaging. While there were certainly isolated cases of that, I have spoken to a few of them since then, and they felt that the process went exceptionally well. One reason is obviously the turnout of the Australian population in this postal survey, at 80 per cent. Obviously the result was definitive. One person came up to me a day or two after the result and said, 'Kevin, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually pleased, even though we've had debates and arguments about it through the process, that this is the way it happened, because this is validating it more than if we'd just had a conscience vote in parliament by 150 MPs, when there would still be, for many, a lot of conjecture about whether it was the right decision or not.' Even those who voted no are very conscious that the Australian people and the Australian public have validated this, as I said, not only in the numbers that came out but also in the numbers that said yes.
I congratulate the advocates, including those in the LGBTIQ community who have been mentioned before, who have been putting this case, in some cases, for decades. There are a couple in my community. Again, I don't really want to pick people out, but I will mention Cam Hogan, who's no relation. Cam was the person I was referring to before, who was very concerned about this process and how it would work. I will also mention Marie Reilly, who also did a lot of work. I'd like to mention my office manager, Peter Weekes. Peter has been a gay rights advocate for decades. He was very passionate about this cause and did a lot of work in our local community to get people to enrol to vote and in pushing the 'yes' case. There were obviously people before them. People over many decades, if not longer, have been pushing reforms. Young gay people now are going to receive the rewards of that and live lives that people before them would only have dreamed about.
I said many years ago that I would support this. I will be voting yes for this legislation. We have had a discussion and a debate about the religious freedoms and the religious protections about that, and I think that's very important. I too applaud the appointment of Philip Ruddock and the others who will look at this, because I think they will do this in a very considered, measured way. Again, as has been mentioned, there were millions of people who voted no and who are struggling with this, and we said, very importantly, that we need to protect the religious institutions. We have separation of state, church and judiciary in our country, and it's very important that we value churches and religious freedoms and that they can protect their values and what they believe.
I will just finish by saying that my mind shifted on this a number of years ago, and it was actually in a discussion with a friend of mine who is a Catholic priest. I was having dinner with him and my wife. I consider him a friend. He's an exceptionally articulate and intelligent man. On theology and philosophy I very much listen to him. I remember the Italian restaurant we were in. The discussion of same-sex marriage came up, and I wasn't there at that stage in my own mind. He said, 'Kevin, I can live with state-sanctioned same-sex marriage as a priest as long as you protect us.' I thought, 'Well, if he can get there, why can't I?' He was the first person who really spoke to me in that way, and I then had to really question my own beliefs and my own values. I was brought up in a very Catholic family. I went to church every Sunday until a relatively senior age; I haven't been doing it as much as I should, but my upbringing was very traditional. But when a friend of mine who was a Catholic priest was sitting across from me at the table saying, 'Kevin, I can get there in my mind,' I thought I needed to question my own principles and values on this.
I think we've come to a good place. The Australian people have done us proud by embracing this in a way that I think was very open and was done relatively well. Again, I look forward to passing this legislation but, at the same time, very much protecting the religious institutions and freedoms in our country.