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Towards a national conversation about marriage

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'We don't want highly regarded community leaders to, um, in fact, um, promote homophobia' was the response the ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs, gave on Radio 666 Breakfast program last Wednesday 18 November, to Archbishop Mark Coleridge's media release of Monday 16 November, a considered reply to the passing of the ACT Same-sex Civil Unions legislation.

The climate for proper debate of the issues around maintaining marriage as between a man and a woman and justice for same-sex attracted people is the responsibility of both sides of the debate. Let us engage in a discussion about the meaning of marriage and what laws are necessary to give justice to those who can marry and justice to those who are in other relationships.

The media release of the ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner and her subsequent interview on radio and an article in The Canberra Times on Monday 23 November contain inferences that anyone presenting an opposing view to gay marriage or same-sex civil unions is already under a cloud of judgement.

'I just think people should pull back and think about what they are saying,' said the Commissioner. 'Of course people have absolute freedom of expression and religion and what their own views are but in terms of public debate people need to be careful they are not getting to the point of inciting hatred or contempt towards gay people.'

Archbishop Coleridge had, in a very clear way, stated in his media release, that 'It is wrong to deny justice to homosexual people', and went on to offer a constructive image for his, and the Catholic Church's opposition to any change in the present Australian Marriage Laws.

'Justice concerns rights and duties; and in this case we are not talking of the right of some to which there corresponds a duty for all. We are talking of a desire — something which some may want but to which they are not necessarily entitled.

'In this case, the kind of civil union desired by some undermines the common good, which is served only where marriage between a man and woman is identified and supported as unique and uniquely important for society.

'For a government to confuse desires and rights is bound to lead to bad law; the same is true when a government focuses upon the individual at the expense of the community as a whole,' wrote the Archbishop. Dr Watchirs needs to explain how this statement 'approaches homophobia'.

In Melbourne's The Age newspaper, an article titled 'Whatever the gender, all marriages should be equal', takes issue with the definition of marriage as we have it in Australian Law.

'Marriage is ... between a man and a woman,' Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a television interview this year. 'This is an issue that we've got to deal with in contemporary society with all of our history, hundreds of years of history in Australia and in Western culture about what marriage means.'

But the journalist persists, 'The question dodged by this sort of comment is what marriage should mean now.'

I cannot accept that marriage is only about the recognition of people who love, however deeply, one another.

The Commonwealth Government should instigate a genuine information campaign about marriage and allow all opinions to be tested against a rigorous criteria. I have every confidence that narrow interests would not be able to hijack the information campaign and our nation would be the better for the conversation on these matters.


Mick MacAndrewFr Mick MacAndrew is parish priest of Bombala-Delegate in south-east NSW.

 

Topic tags: mick macandrew, gay marriage, ACT Same-sex Civil Unions legislation, Dr Helen Watchirs, mark coleridge

 

 

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Existing comments

The Editors' original title for this letter implied that the writer was equivocal on the question of same-sex unions. This is incorrect. Father Mick Mac Andrew openly opposes changes to the laws on marriage to allow for same-sex unions. The Editors would like to apologise for any hurt caused to Father Mick Mac Andrew by this error.
The Editors | 30 November 2009


My wife and still enjoy our marriage now in our 43rd year. In fact it is better now than ever. We have five children legitimately born of our married love.

We have eleven grandchildren who are now the joy of our lives.

I don't see how any relationship that is not between a man and a women (preferably married) can in any way be compared with that of any union between two people of the same sex.


Peter Gleeson | 01 June 2010


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