Australian MP delivers moving speech about gay uncle after government blocks equal marriage

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An Australian MP has delivered a defiant speech in favour of same-sex marriage, after the governing coalition moved to block same-sex marriage.

A number same-sex marriage bills are heading to the Australian Parliament this month – but Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – has banned his MPs from voting in favour.

It was confirmed yesterday that Abbott’s ruling coalition voted by 66 to 33 in favour of banning MPs from voting for equality – ordering them to follow party line and oppose same-sex marriage. The decision means the measure is now nearly impossible to pass, unless large numbers of MPs openly defy their own party.

Following the revelation, Labor MP Tim Watts tossed out his carefully prepared speech to lay into Senate leader Eric Abetz, who reportedly claimed lots of gay men don’t want to get married.

He said: “Reading Senator Abetz’s comments made me wonder whether he had ever met a gay man before.

“So I’m tossing the script and talking about a gay man that I knew, a man I called my uncle Derek, but a man who my uncle Ian was never able to call his husband.

He added: “I knew Derek through a child’s eyes – he was the uncle who did the Christmas planning… he was the life of the party, the kind of person that people just wanted to be around.

“Looking back, I can never remember wondering why they were both men – it just seemed normal to me. Unfortunately, it didn’t to the adults in my family, at least at first.

“Our family took the same journey that so many others have in recent times. A path to acceptance, and then love. Slowly, Derek became part of our family.”

However, Mr Watts revealed that events took a turn for the worse, as the pair struggled with both legal challenges and health.

He said: “It’s a horrific thing to watch someone die from AIDS. To have to do so not just with the horrors of the illness, but the indignities and the lack of recognition from the society around you.

“To have to deal with being beaten by hateful thugs in the street, while  your body was destroying itself from the inside.”

Mr Watts’ uncle died without gaining legal recognition, without gaining equality in the eyes of the law, and in an Australia that still discriminated against him.

The MP continued: “He would have wanted me to say to Senator Abetz: Do not claim to understand what gay Australians want. Do not tell them what they do and don’t want. Do not use the law to deny them the equal right to choose the same recognition for their relationships as heterosexual couples.

“People like Senator Abetz and the Prime Minister are rightly viewed as anachronistic jokes on this issue by the majority of Australians.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact we are dealing with serious issues of human dignity and illegal discrimination in this debate. [LGBT rights] is a cause that all of us in this place should take seriously.