June 6th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Cool logic of mercy needed on hot button of euthanasia

CANBERRA OBSERVED Marriage vote likely as ALP follows the leader

SPECIAL REPORT Behind Ireland's vote for 'same-sex marriage'

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Should we fear China and Russia in the global economy?

EDITORIAL Singapore at 50 offers lessons for Australia

ENVIRONMENT NASA presents Antarctic ice-melt conjecture as fact

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS All equally in the dark on Trans-Pacific Partnership

WATER POLICY The nation's main irrigation system is being dismantled

RELIGION Former Soviet spy: we created liberation theology
Ion Mahai Pacepa speaks to the Catholic News Agency

CINEMA Orson Welles. Genius. Conman. Magician. Classicist. Hack.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Union royal commission recommends law changes

CULTURE Pope Francis' message on Dante true of other classics

BOOK REVIEW A universal ethics

BOOK REVIEW The modern face of an age-old impulse

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Behind Ireland's vote for 'same-sex marriage'

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, June 6, 2015

The outcome of the referendum in Ireland to amend the constitution to permit “same-sex marriage” was disappointing, but not a surprise. The huge media coverage of the outcome in the press, on radio and television in Australia reflected the strength of the media campaign to change the law in this country.

The campaign in Ireland had the support of all the major political parties, the media, global celebrities and many international organisations, swamping the opposition.

The Catholic Church, which traditionally has been the most powerful moral force in Ireland, was largely sidelined as a result of the damage to its reputation arising from the impact of sexual and physical abuse of children attending Catholic schools and institutions, which for many years had been covered up by the Irish hierarchy.

What is different about the Irish decision is that it was reached by referendum rather than by either legislative vote or judicial interpretation.

Media reports confirm that many of the churchgoers who voted for the change did so believing that they were acting with compassion for same-sex attracted couples, and that the change would have no effect on the institution of marriage.

Not inevitable

Australian MP Tony Burke, who voted against same-sex marriage in 2012, said recently that Ireland’s decision to vote for same-sex marriage should leave no politician in any doubt that the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia was inevitable.

“We need to get to the next stage of the conversation to explain why those who do not want the change will be unaffected by it,” he said.

However, research by British sociologist Dr Patricia Morgan given in evidence to a UK House of Commons inquiry, shows that amending the law accelerated the erosion of marriage.

Her paper evaluated the claims “that opening up marriage to same-sex couples will actually strengthen the institution ... [and] that same-sex marriage will thus serve the common good as well as promoting equality”.

She found that the opposite was the case. For example, contrary to the mantra that same-sex marriage does not affect your marriage, she found that “opposite sex relationships have to conform to gay norms, rather than vice versa, since matters pertaining to complementary sexes cannot apply to those of the same sex”.

Sweden legalised same-sex marriage in 2009. With its onset came the claim that it would rescue marriage, but this has not been the case. Dr Morgan cited the country’s divorce rates, which have soared since 2005, during which period Sweden moved from civil partnerships to same-sex marriage.

Norway’s experience is much the same. The divorce rate per thousand inhabitants is 54.1 for Sweden and 54.8 for Norway. There is no evidence of any improvement in their figures since the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Dr Morgan’s conclusions are devastating. She wrote: “Same-sex marriage is both an effect and a cause of the evisceration of marriage – especially the separation between [marriage] and parenthood. As rising out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation rates – as well as legal changes – disassociate marriage from parenthood, same-sex marriage becomes conceivable.

“If marriage is only about couple relationships, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why not give the [remnant] to homosexuals?

“As marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, this reinforces the irrelevance of marriage to parenthood. Elsewhere, same-sex marriage is an instigator for the casualisation of heterosexual unions and separation of marriage and parenthood.”

In this context, the Irish referendum merely confirms that Ireland has adopted the dominant secularist and individualist culture of much of the rest of Western Europe.

Ireland is one of only 19 other countries – most in Western Europe – which have redefined marriage. However, the overwhelming majority of countries around the world, including every country in Asia, the countries of the South Pacific and almost all in Africa, still define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, intended for life. If Australia wants to be considered part of the Asia-Pacific region, it must recognise this reality.

The size of the vote in Ireland reflected the relatively small size of the country, with only about 3.5 million adult voters, of whom about 60 per cent cast a ballot.

In contrast, over recent years there have been 39 state referenda on marriage in the United States in which
84.5 million Americans have voted 61:39 for marriage defined as the union of a man and a woman.

The media also ignored the simultaneous election in Poland, where the candidate of the socially conservative Law and Justice Party won the presidency on a policy of opposition to changing the country’s marriage laws, and building the nation’s economic independence. Poland is a country of nearly 40 million people.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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