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Australia lags as Shorten leads on same sex marriage


Same sex couple being marriedWhatever one’s position on the introduction of same sex marriage certain things are now clear in terms of Australian party politics and Australia’s place in the world.

Although the time span is still relatively short Australia now lags well behind the Western world, including many comparable countries, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and many American states. Unlike 120 years ago around the time of Federation, when Australia was a leader on issues such as votes for women, other democratic reforms such as the secret ballot, and a living wage, our country is now a laggard.

The centre-left of politics, the Greens and Labor, joined recently from the right by Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm, has been the leader in Australia on the issue. Both the Greens and Labor’s Stephen Jones, the Member for Throsby, have already prepared bills for the Parliament. Recently Labor’s Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek signalled that she would ask the next ALP National Conference to make support for gay marriage binding party policy. Now, following the Irish referendum, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken the initiative and will introduce a private members bill for same sex marriage legislation into the Parliament today.

Both Plibersek and Shorten have been criticised by Coalition members for making the granting of a Liberal party conscience vote more difficult. But that is sour grapes as the Liberals have already had plenty of time to move in this direction. Certainly it has given Shorten a political opportunity at a crucial time for him but there is nothing wrong with that.

Remarkably, given the reputation of Ireland and of Irish Catholics in Australia for church-based social conservatism, the Irish referendum has proved to be a catalyst in Australian politics. Why this is so is not clear but momentum for change had been building and perhaps the strength of the Irish Yes vote was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Certainly there is a feeling that if the hitherto conservative Irish can do it where does that leave Australia. This impact may be felt particularly among those Australian politicians of Irish-Catholic heritage.

Now that the issue, which has had majority public support for some time, has been energised it would be best if the social reform was ‘owned’, to use Tony Abbott’s term, by the whole Australian Parliament and the Australian community. But that is not because of anything the Prime Minister has said or done. On this issue he has no credibility. It is now more than 18 months since he assumed office and in that time he has been a dead weight on this particular change. He has a cheek to suggest otherwise. He has refused even to allow that most liberal of mechanisms, a conscience vote, within his party room. Now he is struggling to catch up and to get on the bandwagon.

It looks likely now that the granting of a Liberal party conscience vote will be tied to the private members bill coming not from Shorten but from backbenchers on both sides of major party politics. That makes practical sense though it smells of a stitch-up by the major parties to take the glory of a Yes vote for themselves. One would hope that in the Senate at least Labor and the Coalition will have the grace to allow the Greens and Leyonhjelm to co-sponsor the bill.

Whatever happens from now on Australia remains a laggard, or, if you oppose same sex marriage, a virtuous hold out. Why that has been the case remains unclear. I don’t think either the supposed power of the churches in Australia or the role of a single political leader provides a persuasive answer, though the declining influence of the churches, especially the Irish Catholic Church, is part of the story elsewhere. Perhaps part of the answer lies in our political institutions, including our disciplined two-party system. Perhaps we have just become a more timid and conservative country than in the days when we led the world.

We can debate the reasons till the cows come home. But when the history of this particular social reform comes to be written in 50 years time the record will show that Australia was a straggler.

John WarhurstJohn Warhurst is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University and a Canberra Times columnist.



Topic tags: John Warhurst, marriage equality, politics, Bill Shorten, same sex marriage



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19 countries compared to 177 countries support same sex marriage. Let's keep things in perspective. Argue the merits of the change to the Marriage Act, but let's leave out the 'everybody is doing it, we don't want to be seen to be lagging behind our buddies' argument please.

Cathy R | 29 May 2015  

'But when the history of this particular social reform comes to be written in 50 years time the record will show that Australia was a straggler.'- the loaded language provided by Warhurst, as if it is an incontestable truth that the delay has been a bad thing is extraordinary. Male-Female marriage has been around for millenia since the dawn of humanity and only in 2000 when the Netherlands opted to make marriage gender neutral did any jurisdiction dare question the accepted paradigm. Hence delaying 10, 15, 20 or even 50 years in implementing a redefinition is still miniscule in comparison to the timeless history of marriage. Perhaps Australia could be described as being prudently conservative to canvas the full impact of redefining marriage on children denied their genertic heritage. Who knows, this may be a decision that we will look back on and wonder how we ever allowed this to happen...

Neil | 29 May 2015  

Well done to Bill Shorten for taking the initiative on this very important social justice issue. Our PM has allowed his personal views to determine his party's policy - bad show Tony! A conscience vote will hopefully result in same sex couples being free to marry. No other word should be used but "marry".

Pam | 29 May 2015  

“Marriage equality” is the latest enchanting tune by which the Pied Piper has enthralled Useful Idiots like Bill Shorten. To where are they travelling?
Of the Irish campaign, the self-described ‘atheistic libertarian’ journalist, Brendan O’Neill, wrote: “The most striking thing about the Yes camp has been its intolerance: its hostility to dissent; its demonization of its opponents; the casualness with which it wrote off swathes of Ireland as bigots, cretins, unfit for modern public life." Or, a typical Left-wing agenda.
The hate-filled promoters of same-sex marriage use the language of ‘love’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’, just like Judas Iscariot, because he was a thief, proclaimed a love of the poor.
Once introduced, forget all the assurances about freedom of conscience and religion. In Massachusetts, California and Ontario education policy now mandates teaching the homosexual agenda to kids. The Australian Education Union too is ready, having adopted a ‘gender identity’ education policy back in 2006.
Then there are the threats to employment—for instance, a refusal by three provincial bar associations in Canada to accredit any potential law school graduate of Trinity Western University, which prohibits sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage etc. etc. etc.
The goal is to eliminate real Christian values.

Ross Howard | 29 May 2015  

Did it cross your mind, John Warhurst, that what scripture says on this issue should play some part of what a purportedly Christian person decides? Or do we just go with the flow because the flow must be right?

Marg | 29 May 2015  

While it is claimed that "Shorten leads" and that is the case, to read the politics of the last several months, it is Tanya Plibersek who has convinced Shorten Labor must act. That anyway is my reading of what has been going on inside the shadow cabinet. History in the making. We know what the Greens think. If Foxtel signs a petition today in suppport of this issue, as it has, then the Suppository of All Wisdom will follow suit, as a 'leader' of that kind would.

CLOSE READING | 29 May 2015  

More comments on the Irish vote: the “National Catholic Reporter” editorial of 29 May under the heading “Ireland vote for same-sex marriage a watershed moment for church teaching”: “It is time for church teaching to reflect what social science tells us and what Catholic families have long understood: Catholicism must cast off a theology of sexuality based on a mechanical understanding of natural law that focuses on individual acts, and embrace a theology of sexuality that has grown out of lived experience and is based on relationships and intentionality.” Or from the “Washington Post” opinion headed “Ireland voted and everyone won”: “As if anticipating the Vatican’s response, Fintan O’Toole, the Irish Times columnist and one of his country’s most searching social critics, argued over the weekend that while the referendum result “looks like a defeat for religious conservatives .?.?. nobody has been defeated.” “Nobody has been diminished,” he continued. “Irish people comprehensively rejected the notion that our republic is a zero-sum game, that what is given to one must be taken from another. Everybody gains from equality — even those who didn’t think they wanted it. Over time, those who are in a minority on this issue will come to appreciate the value of living in a pluralist democracy in which minorities are respected.” Hardly intolerant or hate-filled responses, more a recognition of acceptance. If our Parliament votes in favour of marriage equality it will be doing much the same, the sky will not fall in and the world as we know it will not end.

Brett | 30 May 2015  

Marg, this has nothing to do with 'Christian' marriage, or 'Muslim' marriage, or whatever religious marriage. It's all about civil marriage and what your scripture or anybody else's scripture has to say about marriage is irrelevant.

Ginger Meggs | 30 May 2015  

There's something to be said for being 'laggard' on some issues - just ask Fabius Cunctator, Juvenal or General Katsusov; or, for that matter, sociologist Peter Berger, who, in A Rumour of Angels, observes: "He who marries the spirit of the day will soon be tomorrow's widow."

John Kelly | 30 May 2015  

Ross Howard, you are forgetting the inconvenient truth that there are still many Christian/Catholic gay people who see to love out their faith to the best of their ability, according to their conscience - just as every Christian does, despite the soul-destroying attitudes of people who reject them both in the church and the gay community. So please don't equate supporting the right to same-sex marriage as eliminating Christian values. The debates I have with gay atheists in forums in The Guardian are just as fiery as the ones I have here - and in the end, I've realized I don't belong on either side. And as for your comments about the vitriolic campaign - politics is politics and it's always a nasty business but I hope you don't think Irish voters are so gullible that they allowed themselves to be emotionally manipulated/blackmailed. Having faith in God also involves having a certain level of faith in the humanity he created in his image to a certain extent.

AURELIUS | 30 May 2015  

And Marg, if Scriptures influence my values on this issue, it's apparent that male same sex unions maybe be questionable (in the context of non-consensual sex ie Sodom and Gomorrah) and extra-marital gay affairs, but it seems the scriptures had nothing to say at all about lesbian relationships.

AURELIUS | 30 May 2015  

"Everybody gains from equality." said Fintan O'Toole. I see - children "gain" from being denied the right to be raised by their biological mother and father - and never knowing who their father is if they're DI children? Christian bakers, florists, photographers, "gain" from being condemned and fined as hate-filled criminals for conscientiously refusing to co-operate with what they see as immoral relationships, and from having to shut down their business? Christian schools "gain" by being harassed out of existence by authorities because they won't teach their pupils that gay marriage and its associated sexual relations is an acceptable lifestyle? Ah, now I remember - "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." That's how "everybody gains" from this equality.

HH | 30 May 2015  

How strange that the so-called libertarians on this blog who strongly push the laissez faire survival of the fittest, keep Government out of my business economic model are so interfering when it comes to the personal relationships of other people. I don’t see Christian love in most of their economic arguments although I am sure they could quote theology from anyone but Jesus to support their opinions. But on marriage equality they go the other way, wanting the Government to continue the discriminatory double standard against same sex couples. They call ME a typical left-wing agenda, ignorant that community support for ME is growing and political support is bipartisan with two of the key supporters being Warren Entsch and Senator David Leyonhjelm, who is being consistent with his stated libertarian principles. They use stereotypical generalisations and raise all sorts of bogus claims to scare people into supporting the status quo. All this so they can stop mature adults from enjoying the public recognition of their loving relationship on the same terms as other mature adults. So much for live and let live.

Brett | 31 May 2015  

"Perhaps part of the answer lies in our political institutions, including our disciplined two-party system. Perhaps we have just become a more timid and conservative country" - well, the people don't seem to be more conservative, it is the politicians. Perhaps because they are younger and want to have 'careers' in parliament. That makes them susceptible to every poll - does anyone remember us having all these polls 40 years ago? Plus the ALP, once the progressive party, no longer knows what it believes in.

Some commenters mention 'the children' but we are talking about marriage. Thousands of gay couples have children - people will do what they want to do, married or not, that horse has already bolted. The issue is equality, not children, and our proud record as a leader in progressive policy is in tatters: refugees, the unemployed, the environment, foreign aid ... backwards we go.

Russell | 31 May 2015  

Just what is "progressive" and desirable about an inability or refusal to recognise that a male - female committed union is not the same as a same-sex one? "Equality" has relevance to entities that are substantively the same, not different.

John Kelly | 31 May 2015  

When I was young the holy grail of radical feminists was that men might eventually be able to give birth. Their campaign for women to be regarded as identical, as well as equal, to men is now mostly won. Gay marriage provides the final blessing of same-sex adoption, effectively declaring that there is no difference between men and women. Contrary to claims by gay activists, the AIFS states that there is as-yet no scientifically credible evidence as to the effects of same-sex parenting on children’s lives. But our instincts, and statistics of social dysfunction powerfully suggest that, all other things (including love) being equal, having both a father and a mother is best for a child. The Irish voters have effectively prioritised adults’ lifestyle over children who will be caught up in a profound experiment. But perhaps they didn’t think too much about such things: as this article (whose only question is why Australia is ‘lagging’) shows, we can’t depend on our elite to canvass contrary or shaded perspectives. Political opportunists scramble aboard, and the rank-and-file mob label opponents as ‘hate-filled bigots’ (Brendan O’Neill), or simply dismisses them as dinosaurs. The issue is more serious and involved than that - eg: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-trouble-with-gay-marriage/17016#.VWlLHig2VOo

David Moloney | 31 May 2015  

You fail to take into account the rights of the child especially that he shall not be separated from his mother except in exceptional circumstances.why not look at the best interests of the children?

katrina haller | 01 June 2015  

The church should support all things that support love and procreation

Paul Camilleri | 01 June 2015  

Just love fact a Jesuit website is supporting a concept that the Catholic Church doesn't support.

Andrew | 01 June 2015  

Thank God Australia is lagging. Catholics, other Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and many others will be deeply offended if these changes are pushed through and will feel disenfranchised in their own society. A partnership is different from a marriage - a partnership may involve or more people. Marriage has always been a unique relationship between a man and a woman. Take away that uniqueness then you open the door to polygamy, polyandry and every type of social and psychological confusion. Of course the 'pc chatterati don't own this - but the consequences will be clear in the future - as Mark Regnerus' solid study has indicated. Mark Regnerus, 'How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?' Findings from the New Family Structures Study, Social Science Research, Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012: 752–770

Alice Larkin | 01 June 2015  

Platitudes are always dangerous and deceptive: Australia is Australia and dope not need comparisons for a sense of anxiety for not keeping up with the "performance" of a handful of countries. In a tacful manner the author does not mention our frightening record in dealing with ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES.

Tony | 01 June 2015  

Feeling the love....and thanks to Prof Warhurst for this incisive piece and for his ABC radio commentary.

Peter Goers | 01 June 2015  

In the 20th century with the feminist and other social movements there was a complete change of emphasis about the nature of marriage. The emphasis went from the orderly reproduction of children to the "intimacy and affection" of the couple involved.

john ozanne | 01 June 2015  

John Kelly, I don't regard this as a progressive vs conservative issue at all. I know more gay people on the conservative side of politics who certainly didn't just choose to be gay one day, but they're certainly not prepared to live a lie and hide from the truth to avoid offending a small minority of prudish homophobic bigots.

AURELIUS | 01 June 2015  

'Marriage' of any kind has had a short history within Life on Earth. For billions of years, when only single-celled life inhabited Earth, life was reproduced asexually, . Later multi-celled beings profited from the greater diversity of life-forms available from sexual reproduction, and when sex meant offspring, those with a stronger sex urge tended to out produce others and pass on that urge. Until Earth faced over-population, children were seen as insurance against the future, and marriage was introduced by religions and by states,to safe-guard children. Soon, probably, permits will be needed to produce children. In the meantime the powerful sex urge is here and likely to stay and need acceptable outlets. Marriage between a man and a woman needs some encouragement to help couples accept the task of normal child-care. Only same sex couples who adopt children need this same help. Equality means acceptability, but does not mean Identity.

Robert Liddy | 01 June 2015  

Andrew, I'm not sure if you noticed, but the author of this article is not a Jesuit.

AURELIUS | 01 June 2015  

We're going to need a new word. The gender difference between males and females that leads to sexual union that leads to procreation and forms the basis of the family is so fundamental that it has to have a name. If the word 'marriage' is no longer available, we need something else. Maybe 'espousal' could be used?

Gavan Breen | 01 June 2015  

"... when Australia was a leader on issues such as votes for women, other democratic reforms such as the secret ballot and a living wage, ...", it was introducing measures for the betterment of society. Perhaps it is an admirable thing that it lags behind in those societal changes that are destroying Western civilised society.

john frawley | 01 June 2015  

The idea that marriage is about children is very suspect from an historical perspective (as indeed is the whole idea of marriage as the starting point for a nuclear family). Historically ( certainly in the western world) marriage is about property and inheritance. It is dishonest for the Church to ignore this (not to mention unjust to those to whom it has offered marriage when there can be no real possibility of procreation because of disability or age). In the Anglican tradition in which I grew up marriage was seen as having three purposes (which rightly or wrongly) I always took to be equal: procreation, 'remedy for sin' (ie fidelity], and companionship. As Christians are we blind to the truth that same sex marriage fulfils 2 of those 3 purposes?

margaret | 01 June 2015  

Alice Larkin, I'm surprised you didn't add bestiality, necrophilia and paedophila to your list. And Katrina, the debate is about sam-sex marriage - not adoption. surrogacy - a separate issue.

AURELIUS | 01 June 2015  

And Alice, in 2012, 27 scholars signed a response to the Regnerus Controversy in defense of Regnerus' research, stating: "we think much of the public and academic response to Regnerus is misguided for three reasons."[20] They also argue that "it is possible to interpret Regnerus’s findings as evidence for the need for legalized gay marriage, in order to support the social stability of such relationships."

AURELIUS | 01 June 2015  

This article raises some interesting questions. If Plibersek is successful in her quest to make support for same sex marriage "binding party policy" does that not mean she seeks a compulsory non-conscience vote by ALP parliamentarians on the issue? Expulsion from the party is a time honoured response of the ALP to those who vote against or fail to support party policy. Meanwhile, Shorten in a desperate bid for relevance, challenges the Liberal party to grant a conscience vote, the very opposite of his deputy leader's stated intention for compulsory ALP policy, Does not Shorten's opportunistic grasp at elusive relevance smack of a bid to establish himself on this matter before Plibersek gains ascendancy over him should she be successful in her disordered "policy" ambitions, probably also born of her personal ambitions? Mr WARHURST, do you really equate the current ALP with the party that gave us the reforms for a better society? The current rabble can't keep its own house in order. How in the name of reason can they be entrusted to care for society at large?

john frawley | 01 June 2015  

@Brett. You wrote, "All this so they can stop mature adults from enjoying the public recognition of their loving relationship on the same terms as other mature adults. So much for live and let live." Given this is the case, how would you respond to calls for polygamy/polyamory to be given the same legal recognition and status that you want for same-sex relationships? If this is about adults choosing freely, then on what grounds should the definition of marriage be restricted by number any more than gender? I think you make a very good point about the inconsistency of libertarians wanting the government out of economic decisions but then calling for government prohibition of how people want to live their love/sex lives. For me the issue has brought up some fundamental questions about the government and its role (if any) in marriage. At the moment I have more questions than answers. I am reluctant to think that government should dictate how people configure their love/sex lives. I wonder if we really need the government to validate our unions. I will probably have to do some research into the history of marriage and the state before I start reaching some conclusions. Any suggestions for books and articles on the topic by any posters here would be welcome.

John Ryan | 01 June 2015  

If one was looking for evidence of an obsession by Catholics with matters sexual, one needn't look further than the current state of this website. Of the 17 articles currently displayed, only two (12%) deal with sex, yet those two articles have attracted 55 (39%) of the comments. Me thinks that Francis will have a tough task ahead of him in trying to refocus his flock on more important matters.

Ginger Meggs | 01 June 2015  

How come a Jesuit publication sponsors an article that goes against centuries of Church teaching. Eureka Street is just a leftist rag.

Fred Flintstone | 01 June 2015  

John Frawley, interesting that you use ME to try to highlight possible tensions within the ALP. I would be more surprised if there was not a range of views in the ALP on this. A conscience vote reflects the diversity of the ALP and I also would like to see less rigidity in Labor more generally. Turning to the other side ignored in your post, it is funny how the party of “freedom of choice” which never punishes dissenters (at least not publicly) is expected to fall into line behind the Prime Minister (the same PM one third of them wanted out a few months ago) on this. So let’s not get all party political here John – both sides have played politics with ME and your mob is just as inconsistent. Marriage equality will sit gathering dust now and will suffer the same fate under Abbott as the Apology to the Stolen Generation suffered under Howard.

Brett | 01 June 2015  

I support equality, fairness and my God given right to be who I am. I support equality in all things. I support same sex marriage. I am a law abiding citizen. I practice my faith. I am Catholic. I am gay. My partner and I have been together for thirty three years. We are open about our relationship and have been from its beginning. We may or may not decide to marry if the law in Australia changes but that is our choice. And it's a choice that I demand the right to exercise. It is beyond time to end discrimination and the stigma. It is time to end the discrimination that says 'I am more equal than you'. You are not. It is time to end the patronising attitude, which says 'we tolerate you and we'll give you a little of what you want, so be grateful'. I am not grateful as I have an old fashioned belief that I was born equal [to anyone], which means having the same rights and privileges including who I love and who I marry. If the law is amended allowing same sex attracted people the right to marry I will thank God that sense has finally prevailed. I won't thank the politicians and other detractors, while they may mean well, they have no understanding of what it's like to be labelled 'different'. Time to get over it. I am not being disrespectful. I am demanding my equal rights... because it is right and just.

Jeff | 01 June 2015  

I asked a question on Facebook (silly me) of my federal Member, Tim Watts. "Can you tell me the text of the proposed changes to the Marriage Act, because I'd like to know what changes it will make to our society". The answer was "Joan, the only change will be that people who love each other will be able to be married". (Sigh). This from a legislator. I'm for civil rights, but the process by which this change has been accelerated over a very short time is just horrible, with no real conversation or discussion of the implications. If it's so obviously a Good Thing, why the secrecy, the refusal to engage, the polemic undulterated by rational debate?

Joan Seymour | 01 June 2015  

Aurelius, I’ve been drinking with gays since 1965, when, overseas, I became friends with the gay policeman who’d investigated the accidental death of my brother. Here in Australia, I met the journalist, the late Christopher Pearson several times, and was part of a group invited back to his home in Adelaide after a speech he gave. Christopher was a wonderful and gracious host. He had been a homosexual activist until, he said, he realised that the activists pushing the agenda were politically motivated and had no genuine interest in the welfare of homosexuals. Christopher admitted he was not attracted to women, and he became a Catholic, celibate, and a daily mass goer. He was a brave man, of great integrity and kindness. The propagandist, Louis Gibarti, once boasted that if you made a cause morally fashionable, it would spontaneously develop and grow like “rabbit breeding”, especially amongst the pretentious who were eager for moral superiority. So while same-sex marriage may be the end-game for people like yourself or Tony Abbott’s sister, it will be just the beginning for those with a totally different agenda, as the short history of same-sex marriage already attests.

Ross Howard | 01 June 2015  

I am reasonably certain that the "marriage" of two same sex individuals, male or female, will never achieve equality, the stated intent of Shorten's bill, with my marriage to my wife, a female. Why? Simply because no same sex couple can produce a child nor become a genuine parent through their sexual activities. Time to stop this nonsense about equality of the sexes. What really surprises me, however, is that the Jesuits seem to have omitted a major part of Shorten's education. Or perhaps he was simply a dunce at school?

john frawley | 01 June 2015  

Ginger Meggs, you trivialise the issue if you think it is only about sex.

John Kelly | 01 June 2015  

Yes,John Frawley, the politics of the issue are indeed a factor, and an intriguing one at that. In a broader context than the current political one, Bill Shorten's proposed change to marriage seems of a piece with the late Justice Lionel Murphy's resolution to replace the Judeo-Christian value-basis of law in Australia with secular humanism, a project which drew stern repudiation and very strong words about Labor's betrayal of its roots from no less a Labor stalwart than Mr Kim Beazley Snr. Plus ca change . . .?

John Kelly | 01 June 2015  

Commenter Gavin offers a solution to the anti-equality side: get a new word for what you want to do. Because otherwise you are arguing for something that doesn't exist. I read today that nearly half the babies born in the U.K. are to unmarried mothers. It was heterosexuals that wanted the option of easier divorce and re-marriage, then the option to not marry at all. It wasn't gay people who changed marriage to what it is today. But changed it is - fact - so if you want some other type of sacramental marriage, get on with thinking up a new name for your minority view of what marriage is.

Russell | 01 June 2015  

To the person calling themselves Fred Flintstone - the reason for publishing such an article is to generate discussion. For example to Joan who thinks that "this change has been accelerated over a very short time is just horrible" I would say that this has been discussed for at least twenty years, books on it came out 20 years ago, and countries similar to Australia starting changing their laws, one by one. It can't be a surprise unless you just denied to yourself that it was happening. The Irish vote has accelerated things because it paints a stark picture of how far behind we have fallen.

Russell | 01 June 2015  

I don't see what the fuss is about. The church can still marry who they see as suitable, and might I say so many of them are not and fail. And same sex unions will be a civil affair. It is not about our beliefs or God, it is about their personal, private commitment and we should not dictate to those individuals. "Love one another as I have loved you". As I have said over and over, it is not my place to judge or condemn others. We

Kate | 02 June 2015  

continued.... We should be inclusive and not exclusive. That is truly Christian.

Kate | 02 June 2015  

JEFF. You are certainly correct when you say that you were born equal with everyone else. We are all born equal in our humanity, in God's image in Christian belief. We are all, regardless of religious denomination adherence, thus obliged to love (not in the "have sex" sense), respect and care for each other with sensitivity for the differences between us. It is a great shame that the militant homosexual lobby doesn't accede to your belief of born equality, fails to love all peoples and cares only for self. We are all born with our physical and functional sexuality which is directed, like it or lump it, to the continuing propagation of our own kind, something impossible when sexual activity is between same sex people. Some might say that the drive to reproduce is the essence of true love, time honoured in the "I saw her as the mother of my children" and 'I want to have your child" aspirations of human kind. I don't know, but suspect that such a feeling for another person, or an understanding of it, has never been experienced by many adherents of homosexual practice. Our psychological functionality, however, is related in the main to environmental factors, not genetic factors, and in the influence of environment we are certainly not all equally endowed.. Environmental factors are the ultimate determinators of the many and varied aspects of humanity that liberate us from sameness and mark our differences. That being so, however, does not mean that we require legislation to govern all of these variations, nor does it mean that anyone has the right to usurp the societal hallmarks, such as marriage, that serves societal order well and institutionalises the true intent of sexual intercourse - the propagation of children. Time for the radical elements of the homosexual lobby to grow up, show some respect for others rather than themselves, I do not intend these remarks to apply to yourself since I do not see your comment today as consistent with the radical homosexual lobby and, unlike that lobby, considerate of other's sensitivities.

john frawley | 02 June 2015  

"nor does it mean that anyone has the right to usurp the societal hallmarks, such as marriage" - - Did 'anyone' do it? It seems nearly everybody did it - try going back to the family law of the 1950s and see how much support you'd get. Basically, none. The great majority have re-defined marriage, some time ago now.

Russell | 02 June 2015  

Brett, it’s not interfering in other people’s relationships to prevent them from falsely naming their relationship. Suppose Jack is the natural father of Tom. Tom and Jack decide to declare instead that Jack is Tom’s son, and vice versa, and to have the public records so amended. Rebuffed because of medieval, custom-bound blindness to progress, liberalism and modern civilization, they begin a crusade for “Father-son Equality”, pleading the same legal right to represent their relationship as that possessed by natural fathers and sons. I’m not interfering in their relationship in any way by opposing their campaign to change the legal definition of father and son. On the contrary, it is Jack and Tom who are interfering, by forcing or inveigling others into treating them as naturally related in a way they are not. But just as Jack and Tom have no right to portray their natural father/son relationship in reverse, neither do they have the right to reinvent their relationship as mother/daughter, or husband/wife, or to declare themselves as “married”, or to claim the right be parents, thereby suppressing in principle the inalienable right of children to be conceived by natural intercourse (the "marriage act") and brought up in their natural family. A state that heeded Jack and Tom’s call and amended the law thus would be going beyond power, and guilty of interfering in the lives of its citizens and their relations to each other. It’s perfectly consistent for libertarians to oppose the state when, yet again, they see it moving to arrogate power to itself.

HH | 02 June 2015  

John Frawley, Thank you for your comments, which I perceive as genuine. With respect however, they are patronising and I feel I am being lectured to and that you have made up your mind that you are right and nothing I say will change it. The point you make about the "radical homosexual lobby" is something conservative opinion has invented. No such lobby exists. If same sex attracted people are forthright and outspoken we are not being radical but simply stating our case. I don't want to be disrespectful but it does seem to me that when you (perhaps not you personally) don't like the way the conversation is progressing you resort to name calling. Obviously we have a different perspective regarding this issue but I act according to my conscience as, I am sure, you do yours. I am who God made me - I have tried not to be in the past but that proved disastrous. My community (and my priest) accept me and my partner for who we are without judgement. Consequently we are not different but people who contribute to the community in a positive way.

Jeff | 02 June 2015  

So pleased to see that there are many comments here supporting traditional marriage, it's purposes etc. Shorten is an opportunist. Notice how on the media we get no comments on traditional marriage...it will not end up marriage equality if we end up having the importance of gay marriage & the other combinations put on the next generation of children. How on earth are kids going to know whether they are "Arthur or Martha?" Thank goodness for the prudent approach by Abbott to this important social institution. Why on earth can't gay people have their relationships given a different name? It is totally different biologically if nothing else. It is more than just about love which is a simplistic view. Gay marriage has only been fashionable more recently and if their intolerance of any contrary opinion is anything to go by there would be no Equality......God help us all

Penny | 02 June 2015  

" it’s not interfering in other people’s relationships to prevent them from falsely naming their relationship" ... HH, the meaning of words changes - it happens. The word marriage now refers to the formal/legal formal arrangement between two people who have publicly stated their intention to share their lives. There's a marriage law, which is going to be changed to match what most people think marriage now is: two people of the same sex will be able to marry, two siblings not. Penny writes that "Gay marriage has only been fashionable more recently ", yes, like equal pay for women - that didn't exist when I started work. Things do change.

Russell | 02 June 2015  

You're right John Kelly, these two threads are not just about sex, they are also very much about power and control. But you can't challenge the statistics, so here are a few more. 85% of comments on these two threads come from men. On the 17 other articles that don't deal with sex, only 73% of the comments are from men. Perhaps it's not all Catholics who are obsessed with sex, just the men. So instead of telling me I'm 'trivialising' the issue, tell me why the ratio of men's comments to women's comments on these two threads is twice the ratio on the other threads.

Ginger Meggs | 02 June 2015  

Clutching at straws Double H to twist an argument to suit your conclusion. It is definitely interfering in other people’s relationships when you fight to prevent them from legally naming their relationship what it is. Your example has nothing to do with two mature adults in a loving, supportive, committed relationship wanting to be married. John Ryan raises a more valid libertarian point when he ponders whether the state should be involved in marriage at all. But as the state is involved in marriage, there is nothing inconsistent about treating people equally. The status quo is a far greater level of state interference in the lives of its citizens. Looking at it from another point, same sex couples who are going through so many battles to be married can only strengthen the institution of marriage, which itself has hardly been static over the centuries.

Brett | 02 June 2015  

JEFF. Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment above. I was delighted to learn that your Catholic community and your priest accept you and your partner as they should. That is the way it should be and is indeed the way I believe that any Christian should behave. However, it might be expected that that part of the homosexual lobby which raises unbelievable millions of dollars to promote the agenda of "same sex marriage" ( what I call the "radical' and which does indeed exist), might show a little of the acceptance that you have experienced from your community which attaches a far different perspective to marriage. De facto heterosexual unions are accepted without rancour and with legal recognition. Why not also homosexual relationships. I feel that the quest for same sex marriage trashes the beliefs of most Christians and yet the good Christians as you have found in your parish and, as urged by Pope Francis, accept, do not judge and do not condemn. I would welcome the same in some factions of the homosexual community. Sexuality should be treasured as something special, something uniquely private to the individual. I must confess, Jeff, that I do not understand the mind set that screams out its sexual preference for all the world to hear and demands special treatment and discriminatory laws because of that. Again, Jeff, I do not attach that persona to you but to what I call the radical highly financially backed lobby.

john frawley | 02 June 2015  

Well said John Frawley. Your opinions, tact & thoughtful comments always resonate with me. Btw Russell things may change but not always for the better....to argue that all change is good is shortsighted. Christians believe that all 'men' are equal but different.......why not embrace difference & stop trying to colour everything with the same brush. You only have had to experience bringing up a boy and a girl to know how different they are....all capable of being loving but very different. Marriage is about differences coming together but sameness coming together.......give it another name. A rose by another name would smell just as sweet!

Penny | 03 June 2015  

"to argue that all change is good is shortsighted" - which of course I would never do: John Howard's changing of the Marriage Act was a rotten change, for example. "Marriage is about ...." and you are entitled too your thoughts about marriage, but most people don't agree with you - that's why the law will be changed. Marriages won't all be exactly the same, but they never were.

Russell | 03 June 2015  

Russell, it seems to me from what you’ve said here (“the word marriage now refers to…”&c) that in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, many African countries and in a few U.S. states, you would currently oppose the legalization of same sex marriage on the ground that the meaning of marriage as understood by most people in those regimes doesn’t allow for gay marriage. In other words you don’t seem to be so much for or against gay marriage, but rather you see it important that the law matches what the majority of people happen to conceive as marriage at any given point in time in the relevant jurisdiction. That is not my view. I think there is a real, definite relationship called marriage which does not derive from majority opinion, but is based on human nature, is rationally defensible, and that insofar as societies have approximated it and cherished it to a greater or lesser extent over human history, that has been to the benefit or detriment of their common good. In a similar way, I view the sanctity of all innocent human life as an objective reality, again based on human nature, independent of how this or that majority might regard the notion, and that societies which don’t recognize it (cannibalistic societies, those in which women are executed for not wearing head coverings, those practicing suttee, etc) suffer both individually and collectively.

HH | 04 June 2015  

Penny, I don’t think anyone is saying that people are all the same; people are different but entitled to be treated equally under the law. We really are all individuals, even the Monty Python character who said “I’m not” and marriage equality will, to borrow your phrase, embrace the difference. John Frawley wrote “I do not understand the mind set that screams out its sexual preference for all the world to hear and demands special treatment and discriminatory laws because of that”. This is an equally accurate description of every time a heterosexual couple ties the knot. They are celebrating their heterosexual orientation (rather than preference) and love for each other and benefiting from special treatment under the law and in the church. I don’t know that there is a homosexual lobby at work as you fear John. I think it is more the case of a growing community acceptance of individuals and couples who also want to celebrate their love for each other on the same terms. If a rose by any other name smells like a rose and is a rose, then why not just call it a rose?

Brett | 04 June 2015  

HH, I love how you got from gay marriage to cannibalism in four sentences. Of course I can sympathise - first legal abortion, now gay marriage, and coming up, voluntary euthanasia .... " rather you see it important that the law matches what the majority of people happen to conceive as ..." and don't you? It would be a bit odd if the law never changed to reflect changes in society - I think that these changes mostly reflect the progress of good moral principles being worked out. You're right - I would be happy to argue against a majority opinion (capital punishment, for example) but that would be if I thought majority opinion violated the fundamental respect we should have for individual dignity. The Church can maintain it's views on divorce, contraception, abortion and gay marriage, but the overwhelming majority of people raised as Catholics don't support those views.

Russell | 04 June 2015  

Russell, I am not sure where you get your claim from that 'most Catholics agree with you? The militant gay lobby does exist as manifest on TV, media, websites etc and to crown it all once gay marriage is achieved condemns those with fines etc. who do not agree with them for either religious beliefs or any other. If you read widely you will discover for yourself some of the negative consequences for everyone. I have always felt sympathetic/ empathy/ etc towards those of different sexual orientation to the majority, however with the militant voices constantly arguing for recognition they are the 'same' as something so fundamentally different, that my tolerance has decreased rather than increased. Their quiet discretion was worthy of more respect than their clamour for unbridled acceptance by one & all. Children will be only too aware of the differences when biology comes into focus, as it always does in their innocence. The law can give you the right to live with whom you like but can never make it marriage in the true sense of the word.

Penny | 04 June 2015  

Russell, your previous post attempted to correct me solely on the basis of what most people think, and how that’s changed. Now you tell us that your position is based on human dignity, independent of what most people might think! Let me help. Your real argument now seems to be this: “HH, I support gay marriage as better in accord with human dignity, regardless as to whether the majority support gay marriage or not – even though, happily, it now does.” So your first response should have been “HH, I don’t think same sex people are falsely calling their relationship marriage. I think it is marriage and so do lots of people today, and I think the law should change to better promote human dignity.” Now it lines up with the argument of Brett’s. And my reply you both is this: R & B, you don’t think that same sex couples would be falsely naming their relationship as marriage, because you think they can be married. I don’t think they can be married. Regardless of our difference here, my major thesis in the relevant post stands: *if* they *were* to be falsely representing their relationship, it would, even from a libertarian point of view, not be an intrusion into their lives to prevent them from doing so. It’s simply a case of preventing misleading advertising. But, obviously, I do think they are falsely representing their relationship (even if they are doing it in good faith). So it’s not surprising that, even with libertarian sympathies, I do not view it as an intrusion into their personal lives to prevent them from misleadingly passing off their relationship to others. Russell, you further ask me “" rather you [Russell] see it important that the law matches what the majority of people happen to conceive as ..." and don't you?” No, of course I don’t - not if what the majority think is contrary to human dignity! And, er, neither do you, as you say so explicitly indicate further down!

HH | 04 June 2015  

HH, if you studied a bit more of the situation in Iran, there is a huge population of gay men who are pressured to undergo sex change operations as an alternative to the social/religious stigma of being "other". As you may realise, transexualism is usuaully brought on by gender dysphoria, which is as complex and sensitive and mysterious to me in a way that I would reserve my judgment totally and simply accept these people in the same way I would wish to be accepted.

AURELIUS | 04 June 2015  

Penny you're obviously much more in touch with the 'gay militant lobby' than I am, but they must be an extremely tiny group of people - I don't think politicians would take much notice of them. One of the Bills before the Senate specifically says that no one could be forced to marry anyone they don't want to, so that can be easily taken care of. My claim about most people raised as Catholics not agreeing with the Church's stand on the 'sex' issues is that studies show that they don't vote differently to anyone else: they support safe, legal abortion as much as people who weren't raised Catholic.

Russell | 04 June 2015  

No exactly HH. Community expectations / standards are constantly changing (if not yours), and a society wouldn't be viable if it's laws didn't, more or less, reflect the changes. That's why I say the law on marriage should change - to reflect what the community thinks civil marriage is. But it is also possible to have a moral objection to a law and hold to that objection even when the majority thinks differently - which I guess is what you'll be doing.

Russell | 04 June 2015  

Russell, you overlook that if the changes, even if wildly popular, are detrimental to human dignity or the common good, then that society, becomes to that extent, less viable. You also overlook the possibility that unpopular but humane laws can improve the common good and viability of a society - such as, the abolition of suttee and female infanticide in British colonial India.

HH | 05 June 2015  

HH, don't be so binary: I don't overlook such things, I take a balanced view. And change my mind. And wonder if I'm right or not? Or the benefit outweighs the harm? HH, I've just read a book review and hope someone gives you the book for Christmas, it's called Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? Here's a quote from the review: "There are other aspects of humanity that Economic Man lacks, and what is particularly valuable about this book is its emphasis on the essential reality created by the human body, which is born frail, remains vulnerable to harm, and weakens with age. Marçal posits that a “society organized around the shared needs of human bodies would be a very different society than the one we know now.”

Russell | 05 June 2015  

That’s odd … I see myself as taking a balanced view, too, Russell. I think same sex marriage attacks human dignity and the common good, and that, even though its many supporters might be disappointed and frustrated were it not to be given legal recognition, our society probably wouldn’t collapse. Nevertheless, if a society were to self-destruct because a popular law that attacks human dignity is either not passed or repealed, it only would prove that that society is already non-viable. Our difference on this issue is a difference of ethical principle, not one of “balance” versus “binary”. [Thanks for the heads up re. that book, btw - I'll have a look.]

HH | 10 June 2015  

HH, the current situation would probably be more tolerable for people of your views if LGBT Christians simply accepted their lot in life, admitted their heresy, abandoned religious belief and prepared themselves for an eternity of hell and damnation in the afterlife. (Or alternatively, refuse the current mainstream psychological advice of advanced western countries, live a life of total sexual abstinence and become part of a born-again virginity cult)

MIKA | 10 June 2015  

Mika, 1. Everyone is called to chastity. 2. The vast numbers of humanity, homosexual or otherwise, young or old, who are not married, are also called to celibacy - at least until they are married. 3. People with a homosexual orientation are still free to marry someone of the opposite sex. Many have, and their marriages and families have flourished. 4. Married people are barred from sexual relations with everyone else in the world except their spouse. They often face challenges in this area as everyone else. 5. The current mainstream psychological advice you refer to is heavily influenced by the totally dodgy "research" of warped figures such as Alfred Kinsey. 6. I have friends with same sex attractions. Being friends, we support each other through prayer and practical help in facing the particular challenge of chastity that comes to each of us personally, and in general trying to lead a holy life.

HH | 11 June 2015  

To suggest, as your article title does ,that Australia 'lags' is to have already pejoratively decided the outcome of what is a highly contested issue. It may be laggard to simply go along with the party line. Why are there no thinkers to brighten the debate?

Graham Warren | 06 July 2015  

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