SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Josh AlstinNews Weekly
Victory for real marriage in SA
, August 17, 2013
On July 25, a same-sex marriage bill was debated in full and then soundly defeated on the floor of South Australia’s House of Assembly.
The bill, introduced barely a month previously by the Labor MP for Port Adelaide, Susan Close, had clearly been given special priority by the state premier, Jay Weatherill.
Under normal circumstances, a long list of other bills — including some that had already passed SA’s upper house, the Legislative Council — should have ranked ahead of Dr Close’s bill.
Moreover, as many MPs pointed out in the debate, the NSW parliament was on the verge of completing its inquiry into the constitutional question of whether states could legislate on same-sex marriage and was due to publish its conclusions within a few days. Why not wait until then?
Premier Weatherill led the charge, as it were, by rising first to speak in the parliamentary debate. Measured in tone but high on emotion and short on logic, he maintained that same-sex marriage was needed to ensure that the institution of marriage remained relevant in contemporary society. Critics of the premier remarked that his comments constituted a slur upon marriage.
The SA Liberal Opposition party-room adopted a policy to oppose the bill, even though the Opposition leader Stephen Marshall remained tight-lipped about his personal views on the matter.
A key argument of the Opposition’s was that the status of any state-based legislation to redefine marriage would be uncertain, given that marriage comes under Commonwealth law, and that any state attempting to legislate in this area would likely be challenged in the High Court, at considerable expense for the state.
Not all Liberals spoke in the debate; but it was clear from the many who did that their opposition to same-sex marriage was based on their belief in the sanctity of the one-man-one-woman nature of true marriage.
Liberal frontbencher Martin Hamilton-Smith warned about the consequences of changing the definition of marriage.
He said: “I know exactly what will happen — and what has happened with so many bills I have seen in the 17 or 18 years that I have been here — we will pass this one and, in a year’s time, somebody will be introducing an anti-discrimination law that says we should criminalise ministers of religion or celebrants who are refusing to marry same-sex couples because we have accepted that they are completely equal.
“You are either completely equal or you are not. If we are going to consider this measure, we must make same-sex couples completely equal. If we are going to do that, the argument would follow that it would be illegal for anyone to refuse to marry them, it would be illegal for anyone to discriminate against them in any way — in regard to children, in regard to adoptions, in regard to IVF. That is where it will end.
“Ten years ago, we were in here discussing a similar measure to enable property rights and certain other privileges for same-sex relations, and I heard members get up and say that we would never be arguing for same-sex marriage — [and] here we are!
“And that is what will happen: the discrimination laws will come in, we will pick a fight with the churches, with the Islamic community, with various other groups in the community, and it will create more problems for the gay community rather than solve problems, and with the very best of intentions it will simply make things worse.
“I do not think this bill, if it were to be passed, would make our society more cohesive, more cogent, more coordinated, stronger. I think it will only lead to further argument, further dispute and further division….
“I do not think there is a problem that needs fixing, and for that reason I would urge all members to vote against the measure.”
Two of the three independent MPs in the House of Assembly also indicated their opposition to the same-sex marriage bill. So, what with a number of Labor members known to be prepared to cross the floor on the issue, the bill was clearly heading for a solid defeat.
During the debate, Labor MP Tom Kenyon, in opposing the bill, said: “I think it is well within the rights of society to say that this traditional relationship between men and women is of such importance and of such good for our society that it should be recognised as a special relationship in its own right, which is what it currently does.
“I do not think that a refusal to ascribe that status to other relationships is a discrimination. In its pure form it is, but I do not think it is a negative discrimination. I think it actually builds up a relationship and an institution that has improved and contributed to society.”
The outcome of the debate was called “on the voices”.
On the following day, the Adelaide Advertiser ran a report with the headline, “Same-sex bill beaten for now”, turning its attention to SA’s upper house where Greens MLC Tammy Franks is continuing to push the issue.
Josh Alstin is South Australian state officer of the Australian Family Association.