The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Prime Minister of Australia
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Saturday 27 May 2017
Dear Prime Minister
Pass. Marriage. Equality. Now.
I am writing to you again about a subject that may be just another political problem for you to deal with, but for me is something very close to my heart.
And that is to ask you, and the Government you lead, to allow a parliamentary vote on marriage equality so that tens of thousands of couples around Australia can finally get married.
Couples like my fiancé Steven and me.
We’ve been together for almost nine years. We’ve been engaged for more than seven. And yet it is now looking increasingly unlikely Steven and I will be able to wed before our 10th relationship anniversary in August 2018.
The way things are going, we may not even be able to get married by our 10th ‘engagement-versary’ in January 2020.
All because we are two men, in love, but whose Parliament continues to refuse to treat that love equally to that between a man and a woman.
It’s not right. We know it. As opinion poll after opinion poll demonstrates, the vast majority of the Australian community know it. Deep down, you know it too.
You must know that all Australians deserve the same right to marry their partner that you enjoyed with your wife Lucy more than 37 years ago – and that right must not be denied simply because of the sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status of the people involved.
It’s time for you to act on that knowledge. It’s time for you to summon the courage to stand up to the homophobes who believe that the Marriage Act should define some couples as being more worthy of legal recognition, and acceptance, than others.
It’s time for you to bring on a free vote inside the Parliament to resolve this issue once and for all.
Steven and me – and literally tens of thousands of couples just like us – have waited long enough for the right to say ‘I do’. All it takes to fix this horrible, and frustrating, situation is for you to finally show some leadership.
In doing so, however, you must also ensure that any amendments that are passed do not simply replace one form of discrimination with another.
I make that request because the draft legislation released by your Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, in October of last year, would have done exactly that.
The Exposure Draft Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill would have allowed same-sex couples to legally marry, but it would also have allowed civil celebrants, religious-operated ‘for profit’ businesses and even military chaplains to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people who simply wanted the right to wed.
Even worse, it singled out LGBTI couples, and LGBTI couples only, for this adverse treatment. Such homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia is unacceptable.
Changes to the Marriage Act 1961 should be aimed at removing these prejudices from Commonwealth law, not inserting them into new areas.
Given my serious concerns about the possibility of new ‘special rights to discriminate’ being introduced as part of any reforms, I started a petition on Change.org demanding that ‘Equal love should not be treated unequally’.
With little promotion, almost 800 people have signed this petition to you, endorsing the message that:
“Marriage equality should be exactly that: equality. It should not be undermined with provisions that treat the marriages of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians differently from anyone else.
“Unfortunately, your proposed Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill would create new special rights to discriminate against any couple that is not ‘a man and a woman’.
“Please replace this legislation with a Bill that achieves genuine marriage equality, and most importantly one that would not see LGBTI couples treated worse than their non-LGBTI counterparts.”
I attach a copy of this petition with this letter. I encourage you to read the many passionate comments shared by its signatories, including:
“Equality cannot be conditional: that means we must have the same laws and the same language for everyone.”
“I want my gay daughter to be exactly equal under the law, not almost equal!”
“Marriage equality must be equal, without any added clause that would allow discrimination.”
“There should not be any people more equal than others. And there should definitely not be anyone allowed to discriminate against LGBTI couples. Equal means equal. Full stop.”
“Equality should be equal, simple as that. The Bill should make all couples equal, not with some being more equal than others.”
“Equality has no exemption clauses.”
“To allow this bill to pass in its current form is to give approval to more homophobia. The current religious exemptions are enough – there is NO NEED to allow celebrants, or any business, to discriminate against LGBTI people and in fact to do so is just plain wrong. Change it now.”
“Everyone should have the right to marry if they wish. Allowing individuals such as celebrants and organisations that provide goods and services to discriminate is not acceptable. Equality is the aim and should be able to be achieved quite simply and easily.”
The full list of comments is available here: Equal Love should not be Treated Unequally Petition – Comments
These are people expressing not only their desire for marriage, but just as importantly the need for genuine marriage equality – with a Marriage Act that treats all couples exactly the same. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, really, that’s not much to ask for.
Finally, I am sure that you are already aware of the recent death of long-time LGBTI rights campaigner Peter ‘Bon’ Bonsall-Boone.
Earlier this year, in a much-shared video he and his partner of more than 50 years, Peter de Waal, personally urged you to pass marriage equality. Knowing that he was terminally ill, Bon said that:
“Marriage for Peter and me would be a great fulfilment of many years of association and love, and then I will know that we are officially a part of each other. Which we have been of course, for 50 years, but that’s unofficially part of each other. To make it official would be just great.”
Unfortunately, Peter and Bon never got their wish. Not because it couldn’t have been passed in time – it could have. Simply because our country’s politicians lacked the will to do so.
Obviously, that includes you too. As Prime Minister, you bear more responsibility than any other person in Australia for the failure of marriage equality to be passed this year. And last year. Indeed, you shoulder a significant share of the blame for the twenty months since you assumed ‘the top job’ in September 2015.
Peter and Bon are not the first couple in that period where one (or both) has passed away, denied forever their chance to be treated equally under the law. They are simply the most high profile.
Nor will they be the last to suffer that fate.
But the question of how many more LGBTI couples are permanently denied the right to legal equality is something you have control over.
You cannot undo the past, but, if you choose to act now, you can prevent other couples from experiencing the same heart-breaking outcome as Peter and Bon, and countless other couples before them.
The disappointing thing is, I don’t actually believe you entered politics with the desire to be the Prime Minister that unnecessarily extended the mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians, and our relationships.
But that is the role that you are currently playing, and will continue to play, until you allow a parliamentary vote and ensure marriage equality is finally passed.
In the meantime, Steven and I, our family members and friends, and tens of thousands of other LGBTI couples and their families and friends – indeed all Australians who support the equal treatment of equal love – are left waiting, in a state of fading hope and growing desperation.
Please, Prime Minister, allow a free vote and Pass. Marriage. Equality. Now.