December 6th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

SOCIETY The wealth of nations depends on the health of families

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Latest federal push for same-sex 'marriage'

MARRIAGE LAW Can state parliaments legislate for same-sex marriage?

TRIBUTE Famed Australian bioethicist who never sought public honours

CANBERRA OBSERVED Palmer party Senate split stymies government agenda

EDITORIAL Behind Obama's unfriendly behaviour at G20

ENVIRONMENT US-China climate agreement a cynical political ploy

AGRICULTURE Hope Dairies' big export venture to China

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Lesson of Japan's debt-free economic stimulus

EUROPE Will Ireland be the next European nation to ban surrogacy?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Cross-strait ties remain Taiwan's biggest challenge

OPINION Has 'quality' education for girls rally come to this?

CULTURE Visual media crucial for conveying truth

BOOK REVIEW A battle between titans

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Latest federal push for same-sex 'marriage'

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, December 6, 2014

New South Wales libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm was poised to introduce a federal bill to change the Commonwealth Marriage Act, as this issue of News Weekly was going to press last week. 

According to The Australian (November 25, 2014), the bill would replace “husband and wife” with the words “two people” in the Marriage Act, leaving marriage open to any two people regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Leyonhjelm bill appears to be aimed at defining a unique platform for his Liberal Democratic Party, and at pushing Tony Abbott’s Liberals towards supporting a so-called “conscience vote” on marriage. 

Senator Leyonhjelm maintains that his marriage amendment bill would reduce the extent to which the government “interferes” in one’s private life. 

On the contrary, the bill will extend government powers to many relationships otherwise not regulated by government. It will extend marriage and divorce laws to a much wider group of people, namely any two people who decide that they want to “marry”. 

Consider it this way. Governments don’t attempt to interfere in, or regulate, most human relationships, such as friendships or sexual relationships outside marriage. The only relationship which governments regulate is one in which a man and a woman are committed to each other in natural marriage. Marriage law does not exist to affirm the couple’s romantic feelings or to make them happy; it exists because their union can produce children. 

The importance of this understanding of marriage was spelt out by Judge Jeffrey Sutton in his recent U.S. court ruling that upheld referenda results in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, where clear majorities of voters supported laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman. 

He asked the following questions: “May men and women follow their procreative urges wherever they take them? Who is responsible for the children that result? How many mates may an individual have? How does one decide which set of mates is responsible for which set of children? 

“That we rarely think about these questions nowadays shows only how far we have come and how relatively stable our society is….” 

He said that people don’t “need the government’s encouragement to have sex” or “to propagate the species”, but people “may well need the government’s encouragement to create and maintain stable relationships within which children may flourish”. 

This need for marriage policy is based on human nature: “It is not society’s laws, or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative.” 

Marriage policy is necessary as an “incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring”. 

Senator Leyonhjelm has another major flaw in his argument. He seems to think that any human sentiment, feeling or other emotion or reason is sufficient to justify changing the definition of marriage to allow any two people to “marry”. 

The immediate question arises: if three or more people have strong sentiments towards each other, why should they be prevented from being married by his new law? Why not allow polygamy and polyamory? 

After all, if it is irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage between only two people. 

Senator Leyonhjelm also claims that no business or marriage celebrant need fear prosecution for refusing to provide their services for a marriage to which they object under his bill. 

This is hardly reassuring, because once the definition of marriage is changed, there is a host of anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws that can be invoked to prosecute those who would choose not to participate in anything other than a man-woman marriage. 

In the U.S., marriage celebrants, photographers, bakers and wedding reception businesses are being prosecuted under various anti-discrimination laws for declining to provide their services for same-sex weddings. 

Even the Australian Capital Territory’s Labor Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, admitted in a letter to the Australian Christian Lobby last November that his law (had it not been overturned by the High Court) would have made it “unlawful for those who provide goods, services and facilities in the wedding industry to discriminate against another person on the basis of their sexuality or their relationship status”. 

Nor do many federal politicians believe that exceptions and exemptions would prove effective in law for ministers of religion and business people who would conscientiously object to providing their services to a particular form of “marriage”. 

In a dissenting report to the 2012 Senate inquiry into a same-sex marriage bill, six ALP senators pointed to other countries where the right to freedom of conscience has been trampled by same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws. 

They said that the claim that exceptions and exemptions clauses will protect freedom of conscience “is hollow and tactical in nature rather than a matter of substance”. 

Tony Abbott’s Liberals would be foolish to change their policy on marriage for the sake of Senator Leyonhjelm’s bill. 

Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.

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