Australia’s first openly gay member of the House of Representatives, Trent Zimmerman, used his debut speech to speak out against those who “peddle prejudice”.
Zimmerman, who replaced former treasurer Joe Hockey in the North Syndey seat last year, today spoke of his support for the legalisation of gay marriage, and added that he had rejected advice not to focus on his sexuality during his speech.
“Some have said to me this is not an issue I need reflect upon, particularly on an occasion such as this,” he told Parliament.
“Surely a person’s sexuality is irrelevant in this day and age, they have asked. I am very conscious that my election to this Parliament represents the first time an openly gay man or woman has entered the House of Representatives,” he said.
“While we have made great strides discrimination remains and too many are prepared to peddle prejudice.
“Our laws still deny access to marriage – our society’s ultimate expression of love and commitment.”
“Young gay men and women are more likely to suffer depression and other mental health issues. They are more likely to be bullied at school. More are likely to attempt to take their own lives and tragically some will succeed.
“Coming out remains hard for many people. And believe me, I know what that’s like.
Zimmerman’s speech – which was the top trending topic nationally on Twitter for 5 hours – follows a week of heated debate over the Safe Schools Coalition program, reports Sydney Morning Herald. The program, which aims to promote acceptance of LGBT young people has been criticised by some, with one coalition senator comparing material associated with the program to paedophile “grooming”.
Still, Zimmerman focused on a putting forward a message of hope to young LGBT Australians. “We will not have reached the end of the journey until no person feels compelled to live a life that is not their own. Until we recognise that a person’s sexuality is not a choice or a preference – it is as innate as the colour of their skin.
“We should regard intolerance in the same way modern Australia regards discrimination based on sex or race – no more and no less.
“But I hope that my election to this place will, in a small way, send a message of hope. That your sexuality should not and need not be a barrier.
“That you can be gay and even be a member of the Australian Parliament.”
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