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'Well Done Mate': Australian Lawmaker Proposes During Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Dec 4, 2017
Originally published on December 4, 2017 10:55 am

Australian Member of Parliament Tim Wilson seems to have become the first lawmaker to propose from the House floor, asking his longtime partner Ryan Bolger (who was seated in the gallery) to marry him as the chamber debated legalizing same-sex marriage.

Wilson said Australia's debate over same-sex marriage "has been the soundtrack to our relationship," and that with Parliament moving to codify a change that was approved in a public referendum, "there's only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?"

Bolger — who later said via social media, "Well... That was a surprise!" — nodded his acceptance of the proposal.

After entering the exchange into the official record, the deputy speaker of the House told Wilson, "Congratulations; well done mate."

The Australian House of Representatives says that after looking at its Hansard archives, it can't find a case of another member proposing marriage from the House floor.

Wilson made his proposal toward the end of a speech urging his colleagues to adopt the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill of 2017.

After going over the convoluted political process that has brought the legislation to bear and the social impact it would have, he added, "There's no point pretending that this isn't deeply personal."

In his speech, Wilson spoke of the silence and uncertainty he and thousands of other people have endured as they attempt to live their lives on equal standing, with people they love.

"I suspect many people find understanding these journeys difficult," Wilson said. "It's so paralyzing because you can't seek help from others. The people you should be able to turn to are the ones you fear speaking to the most because the cost of rejection is so high."

We'll include a longer excerpt of that part of Wilson's speech below. But first, here's the government transcript of the proposal:

"Mr TIM WILSON: With the indulgence of the Speaker, the person I have to thank most is my partner, Ryan. You've had to tolerate more than most because you had to put up with me.

"Government members interjecting

"Mr TIM WILSON: Trust me! This debate has been the soundtrack to our relationship. We both know this issue isn't the reason we got involved in politics—give us tax reform any day—but in my first speech I defined our bond by the rings that sit on both of our left hands, and that they are the answer to the question we cannot ask. So there's only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?

"A response having been received from the gallery—

"Mr TIM WILSON: We'll chuck that in the memoirs and Hansard.

"The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): I should note for the Hansard that that was a yes, a resounding yes. Congratulations; well done mate.

"Mr TIM WILSON: Thank you, Speaker."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants the country to have legalized same-sex marriage by Christmas. The bill making that change has already been approved by the Senate; on Monday, Wilson said the legislation "rams a stake into the heart" of the stigma that has surrounded same-sex relationships.

Here's that portion of his speech:

"There's no point pretending that this isn't deeply personal. It is a journey that I started when I was 12-years-old; it was referenced in my first speech. Like so many others at 18, I confronted the choice before me about whether I should live my life honestly or not at all. I still remember my thoughts at that crucial moment: if you give in, they win. That moment followed years of self-inspired haunting doubt that was externally reinforced by the legacy of social, cultural and legal stigmatization. I suspect many people find understanding these journeys difficult. It's so paralyzing because you can't seek help from others. The people you should be able to turn to are the ones you fear speaking to the most because the cost of rejection is so high. As the Attorney-General remarked in another place, it can sometimes overcome. This bill rams a stake into the heart of that stigma and its legacy. If I could go back and tell that scared 18-year-old kid he'd be speaking here — surrounded by Trevor Evans and Trent Zimmerman, and also representing the party of his values with his partner, Ryan, in the gallery — on this bill, he wouldn't have believed me."

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