SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Paul RussellNews Weekly
Mixed outcome on same-sex bill
, January 31, 2004
In what has been taken by many as a partial victory for common sense in the same-sex debate in South Australia, the Attorney General, Michael Atkinson MP, announced in November that the Labor Government had dropped amendments to existing legislation that would have given same sex couples access to IVF procedures and adoption.
This announcement comes at a time when the Rann Government is reeling from complaints over a controversial sex education program being trialled in 15 South Australian schools. The lobby against the Shine SA (formerly Family Planning SA) program over the last eight months has registered in recent polls and is no doubt a major reason for the back down.Reform
Earlier in 2003 the Government had flagged its intention to introduce a raft of same-sex reforms in an omnibus bill early in 2004. If prior form is anything to go by, Labor MPs will be constrained to vote along party lines.
The IVF and adoption sections of the proposed legislation, being seen by conservative Labor MPs as the most contentious issues under review, may well have been excised because of the possibility of some MPs crossing the floor against the Government. Better, it seems, to avoid such a conflict for the sake of saving the remaining agenda. If this is the case, then we can be certain that a conscience vote will not be offered on the amended bill.
It must be said that some of the reforms flagged by the Attorney General have merit; in so much as they deal with decisions about domestic relationships.
Our objections stem from the fact that the intended reforms enshrine same-sex relationships in law; whereas a broader terminology (domestic co-dependents, for example) that is inclusive of other relationships not based on sexual preferences or activity would, in fact, deal with the so-called discrimination without the negative consequences of giving same-sex couples a status similar to marriage.
This may be the intention of a further comment by Mr Atkinson wherein he flags "legislative recognition of non-gender specific domestic relationships in all current and future South Australian legislation".
It is, however, difficult not to be cynical at such a statement. It begs the question as to why the proposed legislation mentioned above and an earlier bill regarding superannuation rights were not framed in "non-gender specific" terms? The answer, perhaps, can be found in Labor's official policy of removing discrimination against same-sex couples as enunciated clearly by Simon Crean and reinforced by his successor, Mark Latham in the Sydney Morning Herald
in December:"As a general proposition, the basic ingredient of a loving relationship is love and care. Whether it is a same-sex relationship or different-sex relationship - I don't draw a distinction,"
said Mr. Latham (SMH
December 6, 2003).
His definition is unfortunate and sufficiently vague as to include almost anyone and any combination (or number) of persons. Strange, then, that the rights of domestic co-dependents, that is, people who share a domestic relationship where a sexual relationship is either not present or is not regarded as a defining factor (such as two life-long friends), have been excluded (read: discriminated against) in legislation in many Australian States in recent times.
The inability of Labor MPs to exercise their conscience in voting on such matters as seen recently in both South Australia and the Northern Territory has left many people asking the question about whether or not a vote for a Labor candidate, even a pro-life candidate, would be morally licit if they had no recourse to their conscience on such a significant issue.
This question has been raised before over Labor's pro-choice platform on reproduction. The difference, it must be said, is that Labor has, to date, always allowed (or maintained it would allow) a conscience vote on matters in relation to abortion - not so the same-sex debate. Here they have consistently hidden behind the rhetoric that "Labor is against all forms of discrimination" to force a party line.
The SA Attorney-General has, in his defence, pointed out that the SA Labor Government is not about to redefine marriage. The Marriage Act, after all, is a Federal Act and, therefore, beyond the legislative influence of any State or Territory. Yet the actions of almost every Labor State Government in granting rights to same-sex couples is embarking upon social engineering on a grand scale that not only mortgages our children's future but also attempts to influence social mores to the point where a future Federal Labor Government may well be bold enough to attempt to redefine marriage.
Further changes have been raised in yet another discussion paper released recently by the SA Attorney-General's Department. The review of existing equal opportunity legislation proposes, among other things, to extend anti-vilification/victimisation provisions to sexuality, gender and HIV/AIDS infection in a manner similar to religious vilification legislation in Victoria and New South Wales. Like the Victorian and NSW experience, the onus of proof is reversed.
Another proposal to remove the current exemption for religion that, for example, allows a Christian school to refuse employment to a homosexual, is similar to legislation passed last year in Queensland. The only safeguard proposed is that the institution could insist that an employee adhere to their ethos during working hours.
The right to freedom of association is also under threat. This proposal seeks to stop associations from refusing membership on the grounds of sexuality. Many see the proposal as an open invitation to gay activists to infiltrate and destroy faith based organisations.
Existing equal opportunity legislation already bars discrimination against transgender as a form of sexual expression - along with homosexuality. This paper also proposes to create a "third gender" of "transsexual". This is a radical change. Where previously transsexuality was treated as a form of sexual expression, it will, under this proposal, become an issue of identity.
Whether or not the weight of submissions in this current debate will influence the legislation arising is yet to be seen. If the response to an earlier discussion paper on religious vilification last year is anything to go by then there may be hope. Regardless, the juggernaut that is the same-sex agenda worldwide continues.