Yesterday I accidentally got to see the Australian Senate pass Dean Smith’s private member’s bill on marriage equality. I was in Canberra for about six hours with three other members of Australian Christians for Marriage Equality. We could almost have been the start of a joke: an Anglican priest, a Baptist pastor, and two Uniting Church ministers walk into Parliament House …
Originally we were going there to talk to Senators about any ‘protections’ of religious rights that discriminate against LGBTIQ people. Our argument was that religious freedom is already sufficiently protected, and that marriage equality shouldn’t be used as an excuse to expand on the exemptions religious groups already have from anti-discrimination legislation. But as it turned out, we didn’t need to make our case. The proposed amendments to the bill were being voted down quickly and suddenly the Senate was voting on the bill itself.
Most of the speeches I observed were wonderful, with the speeches by senators Penny Wong and Dean Smith himself the stand-outs. The cross-party support and celebrations were also deeply moving. I actually felt proud of the Senate and the Parliament and Australia’s democracy. I wish the postal poll hadn’t happened; I wish the hatred it unleashed had remained unspoken as unacceptable. But I’m so glad we finally got here.
Now it’s up to the House of Representatives, and I suspect another group of Christians will be heading up next week to again remind politicians that many LGBTIQ people are Christian and vice versa, and that religious freedoms are already strongly protected in legislation,
(It will be interesting to see what the Ruddock enquiry finds. I would love more protection of human rights at the federal level, but I’m a bit worried about focusing on religious rights alone, and very worried about the state defining religion or deciding what the tenets of particular religions are.)
Anyway, I was there! Watching and crying and standing and cheering.
I also bumped into three other Uniting Church people who were at Parliament House for various events, which was lovely. Obviously Parliament House is the place to be.
Most importantly, the four of us got to meet Dean Smith and pray with him and for him on this extremely important day. I suspect that was God’s plan for us.