In this important debate about same-sex marriage—which is more often referred to as equal marriage—it is worth taking a moment to set the debate in context. The Equal Opportunities Committee is the lead committee for consideration of the bill and it has the formal remit of considering and reporting on matters that relate to equal opportunities, which include the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on the grounds of, among other things, gender, marital status, race, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion.
The proposition that is before us today is that the belief that is traditionally, if not exclusively, held by members of the Christian faith and other religions—that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman—discriminates against same-sex couples and therefore the law must be changed to allow equal marriage. That is a dangerous distortion of equality. Equal opportunities celebrates diversity. In that context, equality is not about seeking to make everyone the same but is, in essence, about elimination of discrimination and concentration on fairness and diversity. Equal marriage sets two equality strands—sexual orientation and religious belief—in competition with each other.