An Australian Aboriginal Member of Parliament has broken down during the debate on marriage equality when remembering her son’s memory who died only weeks earlier.
Linda Burney is an Indigenous Labor Party member, who was the first Aboriginal woman elected to the Australian Parliament. Her 33-year-old son, Binni, who struggled ‘with mental health and with addiction’ died in the family’s Sydney home in October.
Burney took a leave of absence to grieve but returned to parliament as it was debating a proposed Bill on same-sex marriage. The Bill successfully passed the Senate after Australians voted in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry in a postal survey on the issue.
Burney told the parliament she did not think twice about supporting the Bill for marriage equality.
‘I have never had a second thought,’ she said.
‘It seemed to be so obvious.’
But then the tone of her speech took a turn.
‘I support marriage equality as someone who has and has had loved ones who identify as LGBTI,’ she said.
Her use of the past tense ‘had’ gave a clue that she may have been referring to her and she wiped away tears, Burney mentioned Binni.
‘To [LGBTIQ+ people], marriage equality would mean so much. I honour these people, and in particular my late son Binni,’ she said.
“I support marriage equality as someone who has, and has had, loved ones who identify as LGBTIQ. To them, marriage equality would mean so much” pic.twitter.com/UAj4UdqWZt
— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) December 5, 2017
Race and ‘yes’
Burney also used her speech to describe how she could relate to the discrimination LGBTI face as an Indigenous woman.
‘I support marriage equality as someone who is a member of a community that has experienced great discrimination and injustice, [and who] understands what it means to be rejected, and who understands what intergenerational trauma feels like, and what hurt and distress does to you,’ she said.
She also defended her New South Wales seat in Barton, whose multicultural demographic was one of many blamed for majority ‘no’ votes. Some commentators argued that electorates with high numbers of people from religious and/or non-English speakers were more likely to vote no.
‘I would issue great caution against this interpretation or analysis of the postal survey result,’ Burney said.
‘Even if all the voters from non-English speaking backgrounds in my electorate and in Australia voted No, that still wouldn’t account for the entirety of the No vote.’
‘So let’s just get a little bit of perspective on those results. I am proud of my electorate. I am proud of the fact that my electorate is one of the most multi-culturally diverse in the country. And they are proud of me. This diversity did not cause the No vote.
‘Voters want… conviction, they want truth. My conviction, and my life and what it stands for, is equity, and that means Yes to this proposition.’