Senator breaks down in SSM debate
AN emotional Sarah Hanson-Young has broken down in parliament while speaking on the bill to make gay marriage legal today.
The South Australian Greens senator could not fight her tears, or running mascara, as she issued a heartfelt apology to her former party leader Bob Brown, a gay man and LGBTIQ rights activist, that parliament was not able to make same-sex marriage legal before he retired.
She also blasted former Prime Minister John Howard's move in 2004 to change the Marriage Act to specifically make marriage between a man and a woman, which she called a bid to "single-handedly outlaw love".
"When Bob retired in 2012, I said to him, Bob I'm really sorry that we haven't been able to reverse that awful law before your time was up," Senator Hanson-Young said.
"So today ... today, I stand here with my Greens colleagues finishing the job that Bob Brown started."
Senators have just one week to debate the bill as the government aims to make same-sex marriage legal by Christmas.
The upper house has agreed to suspend all other government business to deal solely with the bill this week.
They face a late-night sitting on Thursday and will return on Friday if the bill has not passed.
Senator Hanson-Young warned any senators who attempted to change or delay the bill, it would be "to their downfall and their peril".
The warning comes as three Turnbull government frontbenchers spoke out about their plan to move a raft of amendments to the bill to change the Marriage Act, which goes before the senate today.
One of the trio told The Australian it would be a "betrayal" of Coalition voters not to move amendments.
Attorney-General George Brandis also issued a pointed warning in Parliament House today before debate began.
"There are some who take the view that this ought to be a broader debate and it ought to extend into broader areas of anti-discrimination law - that's not what the Australian people voted on in the marriage survey," Senator Brandis said.
He said there was some merit in including a statement in the bill that made it clear it would not change the right of people to express their religious beliefs or to worship according to the teachings of their church, particularly given "some of the rather extravagant and erroneous things that were said in that debate by the No case".
"I don't favour, and I'm sure the Australian people don't favour, using the result of the marriage survey as a platform to reopen a broader debate about discrimination law," Senator Brandis said.
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister on Cities, Angus Taylor, and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar were the trio who outlined their concerns to The Australian.
"A failure to support substantial amendments to the Smith bill will be a betrayal of Coalition Yes and No voters," Senator Seselja told the publication.
"Dean Smith and Tim Wilson and others assured Coalition voters that getting same sex-marriage with a Coalition government would deliver much stronger protections, yet the Smith bill has been embraced by the Greens.
"We owe it to our supporters who voted both Yes and No to ensure that we deliver much stronger protections than a Green/Labor bill would."
Mr Taylor said he would be supporting extra protections for free speech, freedom of religion and parents having the right to choose for their childrens' education based on their beliefs.
Mr Sukkar added that the Greens being on a unity ticket with Senator Smith was "all the evidence we need to know that this bill is deeply flawed and the antithesis to Liberal values".
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has employed two major tactics to ensure the bill passes by Christmas.
He delayed the lower house sitting for one week while the Senate dealt with the legislation and moved the debate on religious freedoms to next year by launching a separate review into religious freedom laws in Australia, which will report back to government in March.
Labor has slammed the decision to delay parliament, dubbing it a tactic to avoid embarrassment over the banking inquiry while the government was down two MPs in the lower house over the citizenship fiasco.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and his shadow cabinet flew to Canberra today for a meeting, despite Parliament not sitting.
Other Labor MPs had initially said they would show up to work regardless of the sitting week delay, but the party has since decided against it.