SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: by Angela ConwayNews Weekly
Ex-Family Court judge defends gay 'marriage'
, June 10, 2006
Former chief justice of the Family Court, Alastair Nicholson, recently argued on SBS television against attempts to restrict marriage to a union of a man and a woman, reports Angela Conway.The timing couldn't have been better for SBS television's recent Insight program on the topic of same-sex marriage. On May 11, the ACT Labor Government's Civil Unions Act had been passed, to the applause of gay activists around the country. The recording of the Insight program had already been scheduled for the next day.
Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has indicated that the new act does not appear to conflict with the federal Marriage Act, but has cautioned that it will need closer study before any decision is made to override the new law.Undermining marriage
Senator Guy Barnett has not been so reticent in taking issue with the constitutionality of the new act, calling it "marriage by another name and a thinly-disguised attempt to undermine both the institution of marriage and the federal Marriage Act".
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope's rhetoric about eradicating all forms of discrimination has arguably been a smokescreen. He has conceded that same-sex couples have been able to access most marital rights under present laws. He has admitted that the legislation is principally about symbolic change and achieving equality of status with marriage. Gay groups have echoed these sentiments.
Peter Furness, national convener of Australian Marriage Equality lauded the passing of the Act as "a very significant step forward in our push towards full legal equality under Australian law".
Rodney Croome, a prominent gay activist from Tasmania, writing the day before the ACT bill was amended and passed, characterised it as an attempt to renovate marriage to accommodate "new" forms of marriage.
The next day, the mood was triumphant among most of the handpicked SBS studio audience participating in the Insight
program on same-sex marriage. (The program subsequently went to air the following Tuesday, May 16). A range of gay activists dominated the audience.
The program was structured around the stories of two couples, Jason McCheyne and Adrian Tuazon and their baby (obtained with the aid of a surrogate mother in the US) and Deb and Lou, and their shared parenting of Lou's son.
Other substantial discussion and comment came from Jon Stanhope, former chief judge of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson; a lesbian woman who shared parenting of the daughter of her former lesbian partner; and federal MP Warren Entch. Various gay couples also participated.
The program's bias can be seen by a simple analysis of word counts. Only four participants, including myself, argued against same-sex marriage, and our contributions were limited to only 1,175 words, or about 20 per cent, of the discussion.
Participants favouring same-sex marriage were afforded 5,371 words, or about 80 per cent of the program. Great hostility was expressed towards any attempt to cite social science evidence supporting the importance of the natural family and traditional marriage.
About half of my comments on this, adoption law and the importance of fathers was cut from the program.
Particularly memorable were the extraordinarily intemperate remarks of former chief justice of the Family Court, Alastair Nicholson. He asserted that, as far as he was concerned: "There's ... not a shred of credible evidence that children brought up in a gay relationship have any significant disadvantage in relation to other children."
He dismissed the widespread understanding that marriage should be restricted to a union of a man and a woman, arguing that "it seems to me that to freeze a concept in time is a mistake". He said: "There's no element of Christian marriage in the Marriage Act at all. It's simply a piece of legislation which permits marriages to take place."
He added: "I don't see why we should discriminate against same-sex people for some mythical reason ... [or] that a child must have a relationship with a biological father."- Angela Conway is vice-president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Family Association.