After Australia voted Yes to marriage equality on Wednesday, Liberal Senator Dean smith, Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch, introduced their marriage amendment bill to parliament.
On Thursday, Smith opened debate on the bill by paying tribute to one of it's architects, long-time marriage equality campaigner, Liberal Warren Entsch.
"When I look at this victory and the thousands who made it possible, I keep thinking of one man - the one who carried the torch before there were any openly LGBTI members of the Coalition in the Parliament," he said.
"This bill is more Warren's than anyone's — we simply walk in the tracks that he has laid."
Of the impressive 61.6% vote for equality, Smith said "We saw a glimpse of the country that we all yearn for — a country that is fair-minded, generous and accepting.”
He warned conservatives who want amendments to the bill that discriminate against LGBTIQ people, that "The postal survey was a vote on amending the Marriage Act. Full stop."
"Let me be clear - amendments that seek to address other issues, or which seek to deny gay and lesbian Australians with the full rights, responsibilities and privileges that they already have, will be strenuously opposed.” "Australians did not vote for equality before the law so that equality before the law that has already been gained is stripped away," he said.
Smith acknowledged the fears some Christians have about "the change in Australian culture towards people of religious faith."
"I understand these fears — because they are reflections of the fears that LGBTI citizens have felt through our country's history. Fears about acceptance, fears about jobs, fears about hiding part of you, and yes, fears about violence," he said. Yesterday, Labor Senator Penny Wong, who is co-sponsoring the bill, burst into tears while watching the announcement that Australia voted Yes. Today she watched Smith become overwhelmed with emotion while listing all of the ways he thought his career and life would be limited by being an openly gay man. He paused to collect himself before saying "I never believed the day would come when my relationship would be judged by my country to be as meaningful and valued as any other. The Australian people have proven me wrong."
"To those who want and believe in change — and to those who seek to frustrate it — I simply say: don't underestimate Australia. Don't underestimate the Australian people. Don't underestimate our country's sense of fairness, its sense of decency and its willingness to be a country 'for all of us'."
Attorney-General George Brandis is proposing two changes to the bill. The first is a passage to protect non-religious civil celebrants who want to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. The second is a line that will “make it clear that nothing in the bill makes it unlawful for people to hold and to express the views of their own religion on the subject of marriage." “Neither of those amendments, I think, are strictly legally necessary,” he told ABC radio, “but I think they are worthwhile, to give the reassurance to the millions of Australians who voted No that their religious freedoms will not be impinged on by this bill.” The marriage amendment bill is set for debate during the week beginning 27th November, with the aim of having marriage equality approved by both houses of parliament before they rise on December 7.