NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Push to change ALP and Coalition on marriage
, March 30, 2013
The same-sex marriage lobby is planning bills for state and territory legislatures, while pressing both the federal Labor Party and Coalition to change their policies on the issue.
A New South Wales upper-house inquiry is preparing the way for a state bill.
Despite the defeat of such a bill in the Tasmanian upper house, there are plans for an inquiry to find a way around Section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which gives the federal government the “power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to …
A same-sex marriage bill is before the South Australian parliament.
A bill planned for the Australian Capital Territory has the best chance of being passed, given the support expected from Labor members and a Green member of the ACT legislature.
A High Court challenge would be needed to overturn any state or territory same-sex marriage law. Or, in the case of a territory, it could be overturned by a vote of both houses of federal parliament.
Prior to Bob Brown’s Territories Self-Government Legislation Amendment (Disallowance and Amendment of Laws) Bill 2011 being passed in both houses with ALP support, a federal minister had the power to overturn any territory laws.
Federally, the same-sex marriage lobby has adopted a hypocritical stand — they want the ALP to do away with the “conscience vote” for its members, while calling on the Coalition to give their members a so-called “conscience vote”.
The argument is a bit of a ruse. Coalition members already have a conscience vote. They can cross the floor if they choose to do so.
The same-sex marriage lobby actually wants the Coalition to abandon its policy in support of natural marriage, or to have no policy on the issue, giving MPs an open vote. If the Liberals were to allow an open vote, it would mean they had abandoned having any policy in favour of marriage between one man and one woman.
Last year’s defeat of the federal same-sex marriage bill was overwhelming in the House of Representatives — 98 votes to 42.
The ALP may have made itself the party of the same-sex marriage lobby, but the Coalition has stood firm on the issue. The Howard Government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman only.
The Coalition has no reason to now change that long-standing policy of the party.
The pro-same-sex marriage lobby’s pivotal argument to the Coalition is that gay marriage is inevitable and that Australians want it.
But their claims are dubious, for many reasons. While their polling on the loaded question of “marriage equality” is frequently cited as grounds for the Coalition changing its policy, Australians are clearly still wary of re-defining marriage.
If any political cohort could be expected to support change, it would be members of the left-wing activist group, GetUp!
Yet, when GetUp! surveyed 26,487 of its members in the run-up to the 2010 federal election, it found that changing the definition of marriage did not rate in the top 10 issues. It came in at number 11, well behind environmental issues, indigenous affairs, the global financial crisis and youth homelessness.
A major study, conducted in 2011 by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty, found that only 14 per cent of Australians strongly supported legalising same-sex marriage, 18 per cent were strongly opposed and the remaining 68 per cent were not wedded to the issue one way or the other.
The Ambrose Centre study showed politicians had more to lose than to gain from supporting same-sex marriage, and that there is an unease in the electorate about the issue.
Many Australians are still thinking through the issue — they are unsure about it being labelled as a “rights issue” and are uneasy about the consequences.
A recent European Court ruling stated that marriage is not a human rights issue. Rather, marriage is about defining a particular relationship between a man and a woman only, in a way that protects the identity of children and their right to be raised by their biological mother and father, wherever possible.
Natural marriage is still at the core of our culture: it is the foundation of family life and the core of human identity. It has more than symbolic significance, and is about more than just the love and feelings between two (or more) people.
In contrast, same-marriage marriage would strip from the law the idea of marriage as being a union between “a man and a woman” and substitute “two persons”.
This would mean the removal of the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood from law, governance and administration, in favour of “parenthood”.
In the law, this would muddle the identity of children, which has hitherto been clearly defined on their birth certificates as deriving from their biological parents.
If marriage is only about the two “partners”, then the fundamental right of children to know and be raised by their biological mother and father, wherever possible, goes out the window. Children become treated as commodities. A child’s inalienable right to his or her identity is lost.
Also, if marriage is only to be about love, then what is stopping our law-makers from extending our marriage laws to include polygamy and polyamory?
South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi recently pointed out in the Senate that, following last year’s debate and vote on marriage, the Polyamory Action Lobby (PAL) was formed to further re-define marriage to include any combination of multiple partners, such as four women and two men.
Such an outcome would lead to even greater confusion over custody and the identity of children.
After last year’s federal vote, Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor-at-large, warned that same-sex marriage law will bring the church into direct conflict with the state.
He wrote: “Once enshrined in law, the education systems from primary schools upwards will teach your children the ideology of marriage equality, namely equality of homosexual and heterosexual unions, as the foundation for cultural norms, and a philosophy of family that is dictated by constantly evolving social behaviour and fashions.
“This change will institutionalise a new division: the state’s concept of marriage will stand in conflict with the church’s concept of marriage.…
“[R]eligions will come under intense pressure and another campaign based on the further application of marriage equality will begin.
“Looking at the passions of the same-sex movement, can this be doubted? At that point the ideology of marriage equality runs into direct conflict with the idea of religious freedom. Something will have to give.” (The Australian, September 22, 2012).
In 2011 in the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2001, the country’s parliament voted to force Dutch civil servants to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, even though this violated the consciences of many civil servants who say they would not perform such ceremonies.
In November 2011, a Dutch Christian civil servant, Wim Pijl, was sacked from his post in the city of The Hague for refusing, on Biblical grounds, to oversee a same-sex marriage ceremony.
The Danish parliament voted last year to require that where ministers of the state Lutheran church do not want to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, their bishop must find a minister who will conduct the ceremony.
In the United States, President Barack Obama has publicly backed same-sex marriage; but the power to make it legal resides with the states. Only nine of America’s 50 states recognise same-sex marriage, while 30 have specifically prohibited it by law or in their constitutions.
The United Kingdom and France are in the process of legalising same-sex marriage, but that hardly sets a suitable precedent for Australia. The populations of both European countries are far from enthusiastic about this radical move, for which neither country’s government has a mandate.
The social upheaval and conflict that will result from changing the definition of marriage weighs heavily on the minds of many Australians. They still want time and open public debate to consider the issue, and not be subject to harassing propaganda.
As Paul Kelly commented about Australia’s debate on the issue: “It would hardly surprise if the more people focused on the ramifications of the marriage equality ideology, the more they developed doubts and concerns.”
Australians do not see same-sex marriage as being a priority issue and are reluctant to commit to such a profound redefining of the basic institution of all societies, despite the passionate claims of its advocates.
Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.