A QUEENSLAND Catholic ethicist has hailed the release of the document – Revising Marriage – as a valuable step towards understanding the full impact of same-sex marriage on Australian society.
Queensland Bioethics Centre director Dr Ray Campbell said Catholics and other concerned community members should read this and other documents to gain balance and a broader understanding in what is currently “pretty much a one-sided debate”.
Dr Campbell said he had recently been invited to talk on the subject in parish gatherings around Brisbane, which showed a growing public interest in the issue.
He expected Australia’s broader Church community would endorse the views expressed in the paper.
Revising Marriage, prepared under Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) sponsorship by a group of scholars from different faiths, notes the argument for the rights of same-sex couples to marry claims to be one of justice and inclusion for people of same-sex attraction.
The paper goes on to argue “If the law were to be changed so that marriage included same-sex relationships, then marriage would be no longer about children. It would be about adults only.”
Among other points the paper makes are that “protecting and supporting marriage” (as it currently stands) is of economic advantage to the state “because children fare best on most indicators of health and well-being when reared by their wedded, biological parents”.
Speaking on the issue of same-sex marriage soon after the publication of Revising Marriage, ACL chief-of-staff Lyle Shelton said there was still “a long way to go in the debate” and that “the Gillard Government should not bow to the Greens’ stated priority for the Marriage Act to be changed before the next federal election”.
Dr Campbell agreed and said he wondered whether some members of the ALP supporting the proposal understood its implications if it was to pass into law.
Their comments came as moves towards legalising same-sex marriage in Australia continued to gain what Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described as “unstoppable momentum”.
WA Labor at its June 25 state conference became the latest branch of the party to back same-sex marriage.
The matter is on the agenda for the national ALP conference in December, where it will be debated as to whether support for same-sex marriage should be Labor Party policy.
Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and two territories have already given their backing.
The ALP’s June 19 Queensland conference passed a motion calling on federal Labor MPs and the party’s national conference to support changes to the marriage act to ensure equality regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
At the time, Premier Anna Bligh said she would champion the push to legalise same-sex marriage describing it as “an issue of basic human rights and fairness”.
But Dr Campbell said “just because Anna Bligh says same-sex marriage is a fundamental right for human beings doesn’t make it so”.
“Where would such rights end?” he asked.
“For example, could they then be extended to people who feel it’s their right to have three in a marriage and so on?
“One big question is: Where do the genuine rights of children come into this?”
Mr Shelton said at last year’s Federal election Australians voted for two major parties promising to retain marriage between one man and one woman.
“If Labor’s national conference in December votes to change the party’s platform to redefine marriage, it would be a breach of faith with the electorate if the Government allowed a change to the Marriage Act without first taking such a proposal to an election,” he said.
“Labor’s election commitment, reinforced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s statements that her Government would not change the Marriage Act, means there should be no change at least in the life of this Parliament.
“It would be ironic in the extreme if the party in the Parliament which achieved the least number of votes at the election caused the Government to break its election commitment on marriage.”
Mr Shelton also responded to the US state of New York’s recent decision to permit same-sex marriages.
He said it was wrong of the Greens to compare the vote in the New York Senate to the Australian situation.
In New York, unlike Australia, same-sex couples did not have equality under the law.
This was achieved in Australia in 2008 with amendment of 84 laws giving same-sex couples identical rights as de-facto heterosexual couples.
“Just because same-sex couples in Australia already have legal equality does not mean that marriage should be redefined,” Mr Shelton said.
ACL couriered 13 tonnes of non-party partisan voter information to 5000 churches last year, which included Labor and the Coalition’s commitments on marriage.
“There is a clear expectation in the constituency that both major parties will honour their commitments,” Mr Shelton said.
“Proponents for same-sex marriage argue that the majority of Australians support it.
“But this is inaccurate; the latest poll done by Essential Media in March showed 49 per cent of people supported same-sex marriage, down from 53 per cent in November last year.”
Dr Campbell said the paper Revising Marriage could be accessed at http://australianchristianlobby.org.au/2011/05/revising-marriage/
He said all concerned by the proposed legislation should contact their local members, particularly if they belonged to the ALP.
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