Wong v Bernardi.
Senator Wong was Team Same Sex Marriage, of course.
And Senator Bernardi was on the side of ‘marriage is a union between a man and a woman etc etc etc.’ (You might remember Bernardi as the staunchly conservative Catholic who in 2012 provoked outrage by linking same-sex legalisation to the acceptance of bestiality.)
Senator Wong – who lives with her long-term partner Sophie Allouche and their two daughters – kicked off the debate.
“Australians pride ourselves on our egalitarianism, a fair go to all. Quality is central to our spirit, a part of our national identity,” she said.
“Misogyny and discrimination haven’t been eliminated, but they are no longer entrenched in law,” she said, referring to women earning the right to vote.
“The institution of marriage has evolved too…
Senator Wong, herself a practicing Christian — and one of the 53 percent of Christians who support marriage equality in Australia, according to Galaxy Polling — reminded the audience that what she is fighting for “
Senator Wong then powerfully concluded that: “
If Australia legalises marriage equality, she said, “the sun will rise. Heterosexual marriages won’t crumble… but we will have made a profound change.”
South Australian Senator Bernardi began his opening argument by framing the issue as “the homosexual marriage debate” and a “textbook propaganda debate” by human rights groups.
“many right-wing and religious commentators were being “silenced” from sharing their views.
Senator Bernardi proceeded to launch into a tirade about the so-called danger to the family unit posed by same-sex parents.
“The ideal is still a child being raised by their married mother and father,” he said.
Pushed on that point by a question from the audience, Senator Bernardi elaborated: “
Senator Wong — who welcomed her second child in December — interjected at one point: “We already have children, so it’s not actually the issue in the marriage equality debate.”
Pointing to instances of some wedding vendors being sued overseas for refusing to photograph gay weddings, Senator Bernardi added that when same-sex marriage is legalised, “then the process of eroding rights of others begins”.
A journalist then asked Senator Bernardi to confirm whether he still believed same-sex marriage could lead to the legalisation of bestiality.
Senator Wong drew a laugh from the audience when she quipped: “I would say to Cory, if you want a statement from me that I would stand with you in a defence against bestiality being recognised in law, I’m happy to give that today.”
She went on to give one of the most powerful statements of the whole debate: “We don’t shout you down, we don’t denigrate your relationships. We don’t say your children are compromised… so who are the people hurling insults in this debate?”
Some Twitter responses to the debate (post continues after gallery):
When Senator Bernardi emphasised that he was a Liberal ‘through and through’ — saying “
Today’s debate followed a decision at Labor’s national conference at the weekend that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would legislate for same-sex marriage within 100 days of government, if the party is elected.
The party also agreed to bind MPs to vote for marriage equality, rather than have a conscience vote, if laws had not been enacted by the end of the next term.
In what may have been the presentation of her career, a clearly emotional Senator Wong called for Labor to unite as a party in favour of marriage equality.
“LGBTI Australians deserve equal treatment before the law. And I say to you the aspiration for equality is remarkable persistence. And we will continue until we win,” Sen Wong said in her speech.
“Marriage equality is a campaign of hope. It is a campaign of justice. It is a campaign of equality, but most of all, delegates — and this is why we will win — it is a campaign for those we love.”
In that speech, Senator Wong also thanked her colleagues and the LGBTI advocates for their hard work.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you’ve done,” she said.
“I say to you, progress has never been easily won. Reform is never easily won.”
Watch Penny Wong’s speech on marriage equality at the 2015 ALP national conference here (Post continues after video):
According to Marriage Equality Australia, Galaxy Research polling show that 81 percent of people aged 18-24 years support marriage equality, and 64 percent of Australians support marriage equality.
SBS news reports the percentage of Australians who support the reform may be as high as 70 percent.
Social media reactions to Senator Wong’s speech: