politics

Tanya Plibersek: "Have we not learned we should give up judging other people's relationships?"

On Tuesday, Malcolm Turnbull stood up in Parliament and told 11-year-old Eddie that “as he gets older” he’ll understand why the Government wants to fund a $7.5 million campaign so people Eddie has never met can judge his family.

But Eddie already understood – far better than the Prime Minister – what that campaign would mean for families like his.

Eddie chose to come to Canberra on Tuesday to ask Malcolm Turnbull to “please do your job.” He wants his mums to be able to get married without having to hear in the playground that there’s something wrong with his family.

When Eddie came into my office on Tuesday morning with other kids from Rainbow Families, a support group for LGBTQI families, it really struck me that he had a point.

Why should people who barely know him make assumptions about his family and have a vote on how they can live?

Eddie chose to come to Canberra on Tuesday to ask Malcolm Turnbull to ‘please do your job’. Image via Facebook: Malcolm Turnbull.

No-one got to vote on whether I should be allowed to marry my husband.

Our views on marriage and families in Australia have changed over time. Years ago, the government could determine who Aboriginal Australians could marry. In most states, Aboriginal Australians were not allowed to marry their non-Aboriginal partners.

As late as 1959, the Darwin protector of Aborigines refused Gladys Namagu permission to marry her white fiancé, Mick Daly.

In his speech at The Ethics Centre earlier this year, Indigenous journalist Stan Grant spoke of the dispossession of his people. Of the Constitution that had "allowed for laws to be made that would take our children, that would invade our privacy, that would tell us who we could marry and tell us where we could live."

Listen to Mia Freedman, Kate de Brito and Monique Bowley discuss the plebiscite on Mamamia Outloud. 

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Australian soldiers who fought overseas in WW2 and fell in love with a Japanese woman were not allowed to marry her or to return to Australia if they did, until the law was changed in 1952.

No-one would think it appropriate today that the government could deny a marriage because of race.

My mother-in-law was forbidden from marrying her first love because she was Catholic and he was Protestant – that seems absurd and cruel to us today.

Fifty years ago, if you had asked people, they would have said a mother’s place was in the home. Working mothers like me, away from home a lot, would likely have been thought by many not fit to be mothers.

Single mothers and women living in de facto relationships often had their children removed. Some children were taken from their families just because their parents were too poor to look after them. Thousands of Indigenous children were removed.

We assumed children would be better off in institutions than growing up in a family structure that didn’t fit the ideal at the time.

We have offered unreserved apologies to those parents and the children taken from them.

Families come in all different shapes and sizes. What matters is the love and care in that family.

We already know the majority of Australians support marriage equality.

It’s time for the Parliament to make marriage equality a reality – it could be done next sitting week, without a damaging and divisive $170 million plebiscite.

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