Moore / Time for Zed to stand up to end discrimination

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TRUST in politicians and the political process seems at an all time low. However, it is set to take an even greater dive.

Michael Moore

Unfortunately, ACT senator Zed Seselja is part of the team of ultra-conservatives who are undermining the recent vote and undermining the democratic stance taken against discrimination.

With a voluntary voting system, a voter turnout of more than 80 per cent and with three quarters of voters in Canberra voting in favour of same-sex marriage, you would hardly expect one of our senators to set about undermining the intention of the community and the outcome. This was, after all, a vote that most of us saw as nothing more than a sop by the Prime Minister to the very people who are now trying to undermine the outcome of the process they demanded. No wonder confidence in our politicians is at an all time low.

It is bad enough that we were forced to a vote on the matter, but now for the very people who have demanded the vote, to seek to introduce legislation to water down the concept, is an affront to the people of the ACT, Australia and an affront to our democratic processes. We expect more from an ACT senator.

No doubt there will be arguments about ensuring that legislation to allow same-sex marriage needs to have protections for religious freedom. Our discrimination acts already have appropriate protections in place and the legislation introduced by Senator Dean Smith (Liberal) is cognisant of these concerns. The arguments of this kind are really an attempt by those dissenters to distance themselves from the decision and to maintain the hard line the no campaign failed to get across the line.

This is a rear-guard action. No amount of pretence about increased protections for religious freedom will be able to hide their attempt to discriminate against people who are different from themselves.

Their actions are about increasing discrimination when voters made their intention very clear that discrimination, even on the issue of marriage, is simply unacceptable. The “Yes” vote had greater approval than any government elected within living memory and it was about ending discrimination.

Canberrans can be proud that their jurisdiction delivered the highest support for same-sex marriage. However, inner-city Melbourne and Sydney electorates delivered even higher support with those of Tanya Plibersek (Labor) and Adam Bandt (Greens) favouring same-sex marriage by more than 83 per cent. It is interesting that electorates with higher levels of education delivered much higher “Yes” votes than those of lower education and the highest “No” votes were often in Labor electorates. Overall though, nearly 90 per cent of electorates and all jurisdictions voted in favour of removing this discrimination.

Canberrans can also be proud of the leadership taken by our local ACT government and the majority of Assembly members as well as by corporations such as Canberra Airport which was very clear in its support for equality. Other than Senator Seselja, the ACT Federal representatives have been strong in their position of support for ending discrimination and we now need to be sure that the legislation itself delivers an end to the sort of discrimination that has been identified in this debate and that has plagued LGBTIQ people for so long.

Senator Seselja may well disagree with the outcome of the vote. But there is a higher-order issue that he should now recognise – the majority outcome is clear and he should be taking all actions appropriate to see that the intent of ending discrimination is delivered.

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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