Same Sex Marriage Bill

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:18): I rise today on the Same Sex Marriage Bill introduced by the member for Port Adelaide. As the member for Giles has declared, I am a single parent and my mother was a single parent, so I am not hiding behind any facade, let me tell you.However, this is an issue that has had increasing traction both in this place today and in the federal arena.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:18): I rise today on the Same Sex Marriage Bill introduced by the member for Port Adelaide. As the member for Giles has declared, I am a single parent and my mother was a single parent, so I am not hiding behind any facade, let me tell you.However, this is an issue that has had increasing traction both in this place today and in the federal arena.

It is an issue that requires one to think long and hard about their decision, their view and their vote. I am here today representing my constituency, who have given me extreme feedback. Hundreds and hundreds of people have come to my electorate office. I have had a mail trail miles and miles long with people's opinions and views, their argument one way or another, and that has informed my decision on opposing this bill.

I believe that marriage is the lawful union of two people: a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Now, that did not work for me, and that did not work for my mother. It has not worked for all of the people who are listening to this debate or all of the people who are sitting here today, but it is the way that things work; it is the expected outcome of a marriage.

As I said, I have been inundated by the feedback of my constituency, and they are the people that I am representing; I am here voicing their concerns. I have taken a lot of time over the last few years to listen to and consider the views and positions of my constituents, not just on this bill, but on every decision that we stand here and debate. As the representative of the electorate of Chaffey, I think it is appropriate to act according to the balanced views of all sides of the argument.

One of my primary concerns and indeed a concern of many South Australians is that if this law is to go through, enacted by state parliament, legalising same-sex marriage would likely be constitutionally invalid. The weight of the legal opinion seems to support this conclusion. The commonwealth has regulated the area of marriage since it introduced the Marriage Act in 1961. This is where the current definition of marriage comes from, under section 109 of the Australian Constitution. It would appear that a state law allowing same-sex marriage, such as that put forward by the member for Port Adelaide, would be inconsistent with federal legislation. It would therefore be inoperative.

The member for Port Adelaide herself says she is almost certain that the bill, if passed, would face a High Court challenge. High Court challenges are extremely expensive in both time and money and are mixed with emotion. The state Labor government has already committed hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defending its legislation, and we cannot afford these expensive challenges. It is not about the money; it is about the moral obligation of people's beliefs.

This bill might also create difficulties for same-sex couples in other areas. For example, couples may experience problems in having their rights and responsibilities recognised under other legislation. This includes areas like family law and succession.

As I mentioned before, I have received large amounts of correspondence from my constituents about this issue, and I would say that the majority of the feedback I have received from the people living in Chaffey has been to oppose the bill. Each of those individuals is entitled to their views, as am I. As the member for Chaffey, and therefore the representative of people living in that electorate, I feel that the most appropriate action is to listen to the people.

I also have a number of friends who are gay and, as the member for Waite has said, I have had extensive discussions with them on this particular topic. Our discussions have always been robust, and they have always been understanding and informative discussions. They know my position on this issue and they are accepting of that, as I am aware and respectful of their position.

I am yet to be convinced by the long-term merits and benefit of this bill. As I keep stressing, this is a decision that I have come to after thinking about it for a long time and by listening to the opinions of my constituents, friends and family. So, I will be voting against this bill today on the primary ground that the constitutionality will be invalid and would therefore expose South Australian taxpayers to an enormous legal bill. My decision is also based on the views of the Chaffey electorate.

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