I am very proud and honoured to be able to rise this evening to acknowledge the marriage of my close friends the Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC and his husband, Dennis Liddelow. They are Western Australians, but they were very proud to come and be the very first couple married under the new ACT laws. Theirs was one of some 20 marriages that took place over the weekend. It took place right here in Canberra, outside Parliament House, at one minute past midnight on Saturday. It was particularly pleasing for me to be there as an official witness at their wedding, because I was unable to travel to their civil union in Ireland more than a year ago because it was a parliamentary sitting week. It is a good indication of what Australian couples and their families and friends miss out on when they cannot get married on Australian soil or in their home state. It was an absolute thrill for me to be able to be their official witness. Their marriage not only marks the significant love shared between Dennis and Stephen but it also marks the fact that marriage equality in our nation is possible. It is possible if we, as law-makers in this great country, have the moral belief that all people in this land of ours are equal.
On that note, I want to commend the ACT government for putting into place the laws that allowed these historic events over the weekend to occur. I would like also to commend the ACT community, who have embraced marriage equality. I bought some flowers at the parliamentary florist here on Friday, and it was lovely to get a sense of congratulations and joy and that people wanted to be part of these great celebrations taking place all over Canberra. There was that sort of sense from florists, venues, hire car companies and community celebrations all over the ACT. It was really terrific to see the way the ACT community embraced all those couples who got married over the weekend.
It was a thrill to see the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain was blacked out before midnight and re-illuminated at midnight in sequential rainbow colours to acknowledge the first same-sex marriages on Australian soil. These are the first marriages to take place under laws created by an act of a parliament, in this case the ACT parliament. On that note, I would like to acknowledge all the same-sex couples in Australia who are married, whether their marriage took place overseas or at home in their community, despite the fact that their home states and our nation do not provide for recognition of those marriages. I can tell this chamber that all those couples take their wedding vows and that commitment as seriously as any other.
It is a delight for me to note that Governor-General Quentin Bryce also acknowledged that same-sex marriage is a litmus test for a fair and inclusive Australia. It is notable that this is not the first time that an Australian Governor-General has professed support for marriage equality. Governor-General Bill Hayden expressed support for marriage equality in 1995. What we know is that over two-thirds of the Australian people have expressed support in a lot of different polling that has been done, so there is a lot of support for the principle of marriage equality in the community and across the political spectrum.
Tonight I do not want to dwell too much on the politics of that and instead recognise the joy and celebration of all of those couples that got married here on the weekend. People like Chris Teoh and Ivan Hinton, Ms Peck and Ms Cowan, Mr Wright and Mr Player, Margaret Clark and Anne-Marie Delahunt - I was so honoured to meet some of these amazing couples on the weekend and to share in their happiness and joy.
What was also particularly lovely was the willingness of these couples to share with the Australian public their stories as the first marriages on Australian soil. They all made history on the weekend. Many of these couples have had civil unions overseas, have had marriages overseas or have been very-long-term partners who always had the desire to marry, so it is of no surprise to me that these couples were the first to put their hands up as soon as these laws became available.
On that note I congratulate all of those couples that have been married this week in the ACT. I note with some concern that the High Court this week is yet to make a decision about the validity of the ACT's marriage laws, but I want to tell all of those couples who were married on the weekend and same-sex couples right around the nation that parliamentarians on the side of reform on this question will stay dedicated to the cause until everybody enjoys that right. In closing, I really want to recognise the importance and celebrate the solemn vows that people have taken.