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On Christmas Eve equality advocate, Carl Katter, gave the following address at the Metropolitan Community Church in Sydney. In his address Carl looks at marriage equality from a Christian perspective:

“I am sure you will all agree with me when I say Jesus would much rather hang out at a gathering such as this one tonight than with the people who attended that hate fuelled rally in August…For me, I cannot see anything more unchristian in contemporary society than preventing two people who genuinely love each other from the level of commitment available to everyone else in society. Imagine if people with special needs were legally prevented from marrying.”

For the full address read on…

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Good evening all,

It is a great privilege to be speaking here tonight at the Sydney Metropolitan Community Church’s fabulous annual Christmas Eve event. To follow in the steps of some truly influential speakers from past years is very humbling for me… being an average boy from the bush….

My name is Carl Robert Katter. I am named after my Grand Father who sailed to Cloncurry in North West Queensland from Lebanon early last century. I am 33 years old, raised as a Catholic, un-married and born gay. I grew up in Mt Isa and Charters Towers in Queensland’s North-West and recently moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, Victoria. I am a committee member of Australian Marriage Equality and Victorian spokesperson for “I do Day” to be celebrated on March the 2nd 2012.

I must say 2011 has been an amazing year for me. If I had been asked “what do you think you will be doing in the latter part of 2011,” I definitely would never have imagined I would be here now speaking at such an important event as this. And feeling I have such a place in the fight for respect and equality for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex brothers and sisters, friends and family.

Now to bring those of you up to scratch who are thinking “who is this fella with the big nose?” well, I will give you a quick overview as to why things have changed so greatly for me this year.

My personal experience as being gay in regional Australia is one of the main reasons why I am passionate about equality and, specifically, equality for the GLBTI community in Australia.

I am the son of the late Federal MP, Bob Katter Snr. My father represented the electorate of Kennedy for over 20 years and I am very proud of his contribution to North Queensland and Australian society more broadly. While my father did many great things, what makes me proudest to be his son took place before his involvement in politics. In the 1950s, he purchased the only movie theatre in Cloncurry (a small mining and beef town in North West Queensland). At the time this theatre had a chain wire fence dividing the white fellas’ area from the Aboriginals’ area. The first thing my father did on acquiring this theatre was to remove this fence. In this way, my father fought to break down the walls of segregation in the small, North-Western Queensland town of Cloncurry.

I tell you this story so that you may begin to understand why I felt compelled to respond to the appalling behaviour displayed at the anti-marriage equality rally, in August this year. The aggressive and homophobic language displayed at that rally and reported in national media was enormously offensive to many Australians: gay, straight or otherwise. The fact that this rally took place in the Great Hall of our federal Parliament House added to my personal sense of outrage.

Motivated by feelings of sadness, empathy and moral obligation, unlike anything I have ever experienced before, I decided to make my stand on prime time national television and subsequently had a yarn with George Negus. While I wasn’t surprised to see the story portrayed by the media as a family feud, for me, it was a stand against inequality. It was my personal challenge to those people who apparently felt at liberty to vilify and denigrate the GLBTI community.

In the following weeks and months I received a huge amount of support from across the country and internationally for what I did. In particular, the support that I, and my immediate family, received from regional Australians brought home to me that they are sick and tired of being portrayed as bigots and homophobes.

My experience of speaking out was both very humbling and empowering. None the less, I remain frustrated by the fact that, although the majority of Australians want marriage equality now (or really don’t care one way or another) proposed changes to the Marriage Act seem unlikely to pass through the parliament as soon as we would like. But it is just a matter of time!

Now, I would like to clarify a few things:

• You cannot have some equality – you either have it or you don’t;

• despite what they say, deregulation of the dairy industry is not the primary contributor to youth suicide in Queensland; and

• not all people in regional Australia are bigots, nor should they be portrayed as such.

Equality, freedom from discrimination and the right to marry the person you love are fundamental human rights. The definition of “marriage” in our current Marriage Act, prohibits people of the same gender who are attracted to and love one another from marrying, undermines these human rights.

For me, though, there is a bigger injustice at play. That is the damaging consequences of the hatred peddled by the minority of our political representatives who are too naive to support marriage equality. The damage inflicted by views such as those expressed in the August rallies is, quite frankly, horrific.

The higher rate of youth suicide in regional Australia is something that all Australian’s should be ashamed of. Research has proven for many years now that young people who identify as gay or are perceived as being gay are over-represented in these statistics. I cringe at the hypocrisy of people who attempt to define the marriage debate by reference to “family values”. Little is mentioned of the long-lasting damage done to a family when a son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father, tragically takes their own life. And I know families personally who have experienced this.

I also get extremely upset when people use religion to justify their hatred! From my experiences and the conversations I have had with members of the greater mainstream Christian Church it is clear that they are embarrassed and disappointed by the unfounded vitriolic statements and rhetoric from the Christian far right. I find it baffling that a small minority are happy to inflict hate, discrimination and verbal violence on a group of people, under the banner of Christianity!

I am sure you will all agree with me when I say Jesus would much rather hang out at a gathering such as this one tonight than with the people who attended that hate fuelled rally in August…

The travesty is that these people happily call themselves Disciples of Christ. My strong stance in this regard comes from my Catholic upbringing, from my parents who taught me to follow his example in my life!

The tone of this debate and misrepresentation of the greater mainstream Christian community is an outrageous insult to all genuine Christians such as my friends and immediate family. Marriage is not a religious construct. It is a legal concept appropriated from the Roman Empire. Members of the GLBTI community who wish to marry their partners do so because they have respect for the institution and want to make a legitimate commitment in front of their family and friends. They just want the right to a legally binding marriage and most of all they want equality.

For me, I cannot see anything more unchristian in contemporary society than preventing two people who genuinely love each other from the level of commitment available to everyone else in society. Imagine if people with special needs were legally prevented from marrying.

But, tonight is Christmas Eve, a night of celebration, a night for us all to give thanks for what we have received throughout the year! And celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

So friends remember through adversity, oppression and injustice history has told us that reason, love and justice will always prevail. The steps we have achieved in 2011 have been monumental. It was only less than a month ago now that over 12,000 GLBTI Australians, their friends and family marched for change to send their message to the Australian Government and Labour Party outside the Labour Party conference. The result was a change to the Labour Party’s platform and stance on marriage equality, something all at the front line of this campaign thought several months ago was an unlikely outcome.

We have support from people from all walks of life and political beliefs from across this great land! Other nations who value human rights, compassion and equality are watching our progress intently.

For me personally, standing up and being counted on this issue has been a very self affirming process, I now have a stronger relationship with my Mother, Brother and Sister. They are so proud of what I am doing.

I now have the courage to continue the fight to achieve the outcomes we all are entitled to, to create a better Australia. To continue to be involved, to bring awareness to the inequalities within our community; We need to provide love and support to the likes of Reverend, Matt Glover who was recently sacked from the Baptist Church for supporting Marriage Equality. We will support him and his family whom have also lost their accommodation and livelihood as a consequence of standing up for what was right and compassionate.

I am very lucky. I was provided the opportunity to stand up for my beliefs. What I did was the right thing to do, the Christian thing to do. Jesus stood up for his beliefs in the face of death. We all need to ensure that we stand up to the bullying of people who are not as fortunate as ourselves, people that do not love thy neighbour and cannot respect their fellow humans.

2012 has the potential to achieve enormous progress in our society. If the federal parliament votes in favour of letting all Australians marry their loved ones it will stop us from being treated differently, prevent us from being excluded and oppressed, allow us to be accepted and included in our communities. I ask that we continue to make our voices heard and not to lower our standards. We need to all be heard. I ask that in 2012 we continue the amazing things achieved in 2011. 2012 will be the year Australia achieves equality.

Merry Christmas all and God bless.