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SBS audience betrays gays with a kiss

  • Ben
  • 14 August 2013

Ben on SBS InsightMy appearance with my partner Nam on last night's SBS Insight episode about marriage equality was one of the most intense experiences of my life. To speak so publicly about something so personal was harder than I had envisaged. I thought I was strong enough to bear the brunt of bigotry, but the day after the program was filmed I broke down. For the first time, I felt the full force of internalised homophobia and public heterosexism.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex sisters and brothers were not born thinking of themselves as activists. They were born, like all fellow human sisters and brothers, seeking to love and to be loved. Last night I experienced my sexual orientation as a gift to be shared, but also as a curse.

My experience of those in the audience who opposed marriage equality was one of homophobia. Their entrenched position on acceptable identity and behaviour, even to the extent of wanting to criminalise gays having families, is the kind of heteronormativity that LGBTI people experience as prejudice, and is very painful. The notion that people fall strictly into distinct and complementary roles based on gender is the root of heterosexism which may be defined as a prejudice against any non-heterosexual form of behaviour, identity, relationship or community.

When Nam broke down during the program, it shocked me and I didn't know how to react. I wanted to hug and kiss him but I was afraid. I felt vulnerable and frightened for him. The next morning, Nam looked weary in more than a physical sense, but he seemed to hold it together. I felt partly responsible for his distress.

Despite the kindness of those from the television program team, my tummy was churning. I drew strength from having Nam there with me, but apart from that the only way I could convince myself not to run from the stage was to envision those people sitting in the audience not as strangers, but as my fellow family members and friends. Some love us, and some don't.

There were moments of grace and kindness during the forum, but also many wounding moments. What hurt and frightened me most was not the unkind or even ignorant responses and questions from some members of the audience, but the fact that they seemed to not want to hear us: they talked at me, past me, but never with me. We were merely an 'issue'. I felt objectified as a piece of conversation. This hurt. I was transported back to the frightened 16-year-old boy at school, at church or at home who felt diminished and dehumanised.

After the program, many kind souls came to us and embraced us, told us that they have heard us and understand why marriage equality was so important to so many peoples and their families. While passing by the reception on the way back to the car, there was a clique of people, the same ones who had said those rather diminishing things during the forum. One of them stretched out a hand to shake mine and said 'Nothing personal, and no offence.'

That shook me to my core. It felt like the kiss of betrayal. To me, those sentiments are the very seeds of discrimination. Words and thoughts that objectify people as 'issues' have proven in the past to lead to very cruel actions done to already marginalised people. That is how dehumanising heterosexism done in a seemingly 'benign' way becomes a weapon that destroys the lives and families of many here and around the world.

Some questions came to mind. Do we see a bird with wings and tell it not to fly? Do we trim off the flower of a tree that is meant to fruit, simply because the flower does not bloom as and where we see fit? What would the world look like if it were a garden like that? These questions go to the heart of heterosexism. They are questions about how we love one another and build a just and flourishing society, safe and inclusive of all.

Ben is an active member of his Catholic parish. He has worked in the area of cross-cultural development, human rights and international aid. Full name supplied. Visit his blog

Topic tags: SBS, Ben and Nam, Insight, Frank Brennan, marriage equality



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Existing comments

Civil marriages will happen, but what upsets me is religious institutions are being made to feel ashamed of what we beleive. I don't beleive in sanctifying a same sex marriage. Stop abusing me for my belief. If you had no problem with who you are and you shouldn't be feeling so ashamed.

kay ishak | 14 August 2013  

The episode of Insight was one of the most profound I have watched. To see and hear Ben and Nam speak about their relationship was intensely moving To experience the awfulness of our society, its hatred, bigotry and anti Christian attitudes chilled my soul and left me wondering why are we as we are

GAJ | 14 August 2013  

Ben, I cannot express sufficiently my admiration for your and Nam's courage. I also feel shame at the barbs thrown at you by those too ignorant to understand, and sorrow for your pain. Everyone has a right to love and to be loved, and many would envy your beautiful relationship with Nam.

Patricia R | 14 August 2013  

I was shocked last night at some of the audiences inability to feel the pain they were causing to Penny, Nam and Ben.I was angry at Jenny for not protecting her guests. On reflection however I have a sense that this was the way it had to be to show how disgusting and intolerable prejudice is; although it broke my heart knowing that it came at a huge cost to three brave souls. I believe that the truest reflection of God's love last night shone obviously and brilliantly through Penny, Nam and Ben.

Julie Tranfa | 14 August 2013  

'Nothing personal, and no offence'. Ah, but discrimination is personal and it is offensive. I watched SBS Insight last night and I was deeply moved by Ben and Nam's story. It was clear that Nam was struggling with his emotions, and I do wish we had an open enough society that Ben could have responded publicly to his partner's distress. My hope is that, in the near future, Ben and Nam will feel no betrayal, no hurt, no discrimination and will be able to marry. It was good to see a familiar face in the audience too.

Pam | 14 August 2013  

Nam I know what it is like to be derided and mocked at belittled. I am a Catholic who follows the church's teaching on life and that has been enough to marginalise me for many years. I look at you and wonder if pro life Catholics who follow what the church teaches on contraception, abortion and the non possibility of gay marriage (with every respect and care for homosexual persons) would receive positive media attention and be on the podium with the sympathetic media attention you were getting. People like me never get invited. No-one wants to listen to us - especially not on SBS or on the ABC - nor in other media outlets for that matter. I know what it is like to be spat upon and rejected.

Skye | 14 August 2013  

I was sad for you Ben, and for your partner, Nam, as I am sad for our society because what you went through on the Insights program was a spectacle governed only by a media presenter who was probably a victim also of hidden agendas. The arena atmosphere delivered a show fit for the entertainment of voyeurs, not a compassionate and informative discussion about some of the matters concerning the issue. I think the only result from that program is further division among good people. It's sad to say that, instead of becoming more informed about all the issues concerning gender, heterosexuality, homosexuality, marriage etc, we are really becoming more and more ignorant and closed off from a desire to find what unites us as humans rather than divides us into politicised pawns for lobby groups of all ilks.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 14 August 2013  

You, Nam and Penny were beacons of compassion and courage, Ben. Please know that out in viewer-land, that was evident And please know that I was grateful to you for your opening up about your struggles. Change will come. It's as sure as the flight of a bird.

Ailsa | 14 August 2013  

What wonderful honesty and vulnerability - it echoes so powerfully - visible eloquence - thank you so much for your courage

Rod | 14 August 2013  

Ben this is the first time I have ever commented on any article but your appearance on Insight last night moved me greatly. You put a very personal face on what you rightly say people see as an "issue". Your strength (and that of your partner, Nam) deserves to not only be recognised but commended and supported.

Kate | 14 August 2013  

Until last night I didn't understand why this was an issue. Marriage seems to me to be outmoded, but you, Nam and Penny showed me why. Am 100% for marriage equality now that I understand; the personalising of "the issue" by you three did that. But I had to turn off when the trenchant, homophobic, ignorant comments were made.....very distressing that people would actually say those things.

DI | 14 August 2013  

Ben and Nam Do not feel ashamed, dehumanised or diminished. You are a huam being with the same feelings, aspirations and needs as those who have no understanding or love for their fellow human being. I have 3 sons who I love and am very proud of. Your true friends and familiy will feel the same way about you and Nam. The world will change its biased and fractured view of LGBTI's and your courage will be the reason it will.

fred esteban | 14 August 2013  

Ben, I was moved and angry on your behalf last night. What appalls me the most is that those intolerant bigots claim to speak on behalf of God, the source of all love. Because you are a target for bigotry, I'm sure it's easy to believe that the bigots outnumber your supporters, but that's not true. They're just louder. I'm sure you'll get a lot of horrible emails this week, but the world is changing - has changed - and will change more. Stay strong in your belief and your love and know that there are many, many people wishing you well warm regards Pamela Freeman ps I'm Catholic too, and I know my God loves and accepts you as you are

Pamela Freeman | 14 August 2013  

Just two ordinary people who love each other but who are very brave and have beautiful sensitive souls. I envy your courage, I envy you finding each other in this silly old world. Each of you and your sacred marriage is blessed. Hope remains while there are folk you for through your life they will see the truth. You are in my prayers.

Will Hartley | 14 August 2013  

I am a practising Catholic, gay and in a long-term relationship of thirty years. I am an active member of the parish and I have sat on several committees, including the parish council becoming its Chair, a position I held for four years. In our parish, parishioners elect representatives with the approval of the parish priest. I congratulate Ben and Nan for their courageous stance along with all who believe in fairness and I encourage them to continue their church activities. Unfortunately, people who “talk past” Ben and Nan are saying we are not equal and that we do not have the right to love, respect and cherish our partner, family or community. By their comments they say, that because we are gay, we don’t share the same sense of commitment, love and fidelity as they do. Sentiments such are bigoted, arrogant and paranoid. Doesn’t it matter that I bleed exactly in the same way? Thankfully God ways are not our ways, for in my faith community I am not regarded differently. I am treated as an individual and I am not judge because of my sexual orientation. My partner and I have had amazing support from the community. It is they who understand, make us feel valued and give us a place of belonging.

Jeff | 14 August 2013  

Good on you Ben. It's a long road and a heavy load to haul. The Monsignor was representative of entrenched ways of understanding the differentiations of life thorough the now outmoded ancient world views that are troublesomely hitched to divine authority through such at the Bible and the Koran. Sifting out the wisdom from the 'cultural rubbish' of these sacred texts will be a hard call for a long time yet, except for those who just tell the custodians of tradition to buzz off. Rescuing what religious credibility is left to the great faith traditions is in part bound to your own story of struggle.

Paul Goodland | 14 August 2013  

The Old Testament tells us that "man was made in God's image and likeness". Unfortunately it has been reversed and we now have "God made in man's image and likeness".

Vince | 14 August 2013  

I daresay, Skye, that many of us thoroughly reject bigotry and the certitude of others that only they are correct. People are entitled to their opinion, but not to be taken seriously when all of the evidence is against them. Fr Brennan's comments last night were not only rational, they were compassionately in line with the great teaching to "love thy neighbour as thyself".

Patricia R | 14 August 2013  

Ben, I watched last night and could not think more highly of the way that you, Nam, & Penny handled yourselves in the face of such hostility. it sickens me that you all have to deal with such terrble attitudes on a daily basis and then pour your heart out here to have religious zealots come and lay the boot in again. Thank you got standing up to them, so that one day I can attend the marriages of all of my friends, not just the heterosexual ones!

Guy | 14 August 2013  

People like Ben, Nam and Penny are not broken, incomplete or disordered. They are perfectly made by a loving God, who does not intend for them to be alone but to love and be loved in return. That's the God I believe in and have come to know. This other 'God' that opponents of same-sex marriage hold up is thoroughly repellent to me.

Fatima Measham | 14 August 2013  

Oh dear ,I wish I could be so clear on the issue of same sex marriage. I ponder what I do believe and i wrestle with to try to reach a place where it is for the greater good. Ben and Nam and Penny and the other homosexual couples and their children appeared loveable, honest people genuinely committed to their partners and children., and who have suffered by prejudice.. Many couples both homosexual and heterosexual choose civil unions, outside a church. these unions have civil rights and obligations and can be a source of joy for friends and family. Many couples choose to marry in a church , mosque or synagogue asking for the blessing of their God This also satisfies civil law. The big question is then where does this leave the homosexual couple who also want the blessing of God in the place where they worship.? I believe God loves us all . He doesnt like the things that we do where we do not respect people or hurt people, (or that's what i told my children.) I pray to the Holy spirit and read and listen and discuss so that with my God's help I can leave "my door"open .

Celia of Richmond | 14 August 2013  

I can only reiterate the positive responses given to you Ben, Nam and Penny, in the comments to this article. My heart was full of pain after seeing the Insight program last night. My God does not recognise, nor condone the bigoted views of some in the audience, but rejoices at the courage , the honesty, the integrity and inner beauty that the three of you portrayed. Sadly, prophets have always been stoned. Know that there are many who watched the program last night who admire you all and wept along with you in knowing what you have to endure. Please God, hopefully there were also those viewers who, through your honest courage have become more aware of the facts and feelings of those Gay and Lesbian couples in our society.

MAUREN WALSH | 14 August 2013  

Ben, Nam and Penny, thank you for your courage and prophetic voices!!

Tim Collier | 14 August 2013  

Yes, Kay Ishak, you should be ashamed because you place people in a conundrum - if you believe a relationship cannot be sanctified, then it follows on that it must be demonised or condemmed. Simple.

AURELIUS | 14 August 2013  

Celia, In your expressed wish to understand with clarity the issue of same sex marriage perhaps it might help if you consider that the union of man and woman is the singular instrument of God,s means of creating human life. Such is the fundamental function of different sexes. Thus in Christianity, this function of life creation assumes a participation of God's creation of human life within the union of a man and a woman. That is what "marriage" means. It has quite a different connotation from "civil union" which already has equal rights in law in this country. The push for same sex marriage thus has no foundation in a need for equality of the sexes. It is simply, for reasons that escape understanding, a denial of marriage as a sacramental institution expressing God's presence and participation in human creation.

john frawley | 14 August 2013  

Thankyou Ben and Nam for sharing the gift of your love for each other, of who you both are, on Insight. So courageous. What emerged most strongly for me last night were the people who offered to others unconditional love, compassion and empathy. I live with hope when I hear people like you both, Penny Wong, Frank Brennan and others who speak from the heart not head, who speak with love not fear. May you be blessed as you journey on together.

Jo dallimore | 14 August 2013  

According to the transcript, the show as televised was overwhelmingly biased in favour of ssm/anti traditional marriage advocates. 62% of the responses (word count) was from that side (even excluding Fr Brennan's equivocal remarks). Sen. Penny Wong had a huge 18% to herself. Likewise, there were 70 pro-ssm opportunities to respond as opposed to 36 pro-trad marriage. All the interruptions (audience/compere) were in respect of traditional marriage advocates. When the question of the best interests of children was raised, Penny Wong pointed out she would simply not discuss the matter. Yet this is a key point in the whole "debate", as Fr Brennan himself hinted at! She wasn't challenged. Nor was Sen Wong challenged on her opposition to a plebiscite/referendum on ssm on the grounds she & her allies might be hurt by comments! So, we're about to make a fundamental change to a bedrock institution of our society, but Australian society are excluded from a vote on it, because some people might find some arguments offensive! That is nothing short of sinister. Again, not so much as a peep in response. The whole event seemed carefully stage-managed to demonise and ridicule defenders of traditional marriage. What a farce ... that's our SBS.

HH | 14 August 2013  

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I completely agree with your evaluation and felt for you both.

Amadeo | 14 August 2013  

There is a difference Skye; the participants were being mocked because of what THEY are and want to do; if you are mocked it's because of what you say about OTHERS and want OTHERS to do.

Ginger Meggs | 14 August 2013  

I heard a wonderful thing on ABC Radio not long ago. A Sydney Anglican (?) priest, famous for the letters from God he puts up outside his church composed this one. Dear Christian, Some people are gay. Get over it. Love, God. I feel for Ben and his partner.

Joe Castley | 14 August 2013  

If people like Ben and Nam want to marry, who am I as an old white woman to say they can't? If Penny and Sophie and their baby girl want to be a legitimate family why are they different to my grand-daughter and her fiancé who just had a baby girl? People are who they are, why punish innocent behaviour?

Marilyn | 14 August 2013  

Those who belong to a particular religion follow its rules. But why do they wish to impose their rules on others? We live in a culture which has no respect for experts. People form their own views on issues - climate change, taxation laws, health issues, homosexuality and theology without having any knowledge, without having read any of the academic material written by those who have spent years studying the particular fields of science, finance, medicine, sexuality or scripture. A book I would rercommend is "Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation" by Wilson and Rahman, 2005. Last night's program was inspiring and moving because of the obvious goodness and courage of the 3 key participants - Nam, Ben and Penny. The crass commentary from those who criticized gay people was insensitive and completely thoughtless.

Margaret Peoples | 14 August 2013  

HH keeps throwing up the same red herring to justify his ideology - that the institution of marriage will be harmed and children will be harmed. Right now - it is already legal for same sex and opposite sex couples to adopt, to find surrogates and to use IVF etc. So how will ssm change the laws any more? Are you saying children from single parents families should be forcefully adopted?

AURELIUS | 14 August 2013  

Ben and Nam, as a long term gay activist I was very proud to see the future of activism safe in your capable and sensitive hands. I think both of you showed great courage, commitment and restraint. Some people will never talk with you or look at you; to do so would be to allow doubt into their worlds and they are afraid of that. They are not worth your time or energy or your clearly abundant humanity. Do not doubt yourselves. What I saw last night was two men who are truly certain. Who have faced their doubts and quelled them. Most importantly support each other and let others support you right now. Remember and treasure the embraces; store them up against the next time homophobes show themselves as unfortunately they will.Stay strong.

Paul van Reyk | 14 August 2013  

I certainly felt for Ben and Nam during last night's program. But what bothers me about this article is that it seems that if you take an opposing view to Ben's, he takes that as a personal insult. We need to have a public discussion about this issue, but how can we if so much emotional pressure is put on people to take just one side!

CathyT | 14 August 2013  

Come on HH, get a life! Pouring over the statistical entrails of the program only confirms your preconceived faith-based views. Why do you want to make such a big deal about a referendum? Would YOU really accept the results of a referendum if it was in favour of marriage equality? Of course you wouldn't! The cold hard fact that you can't accept is that the clear majority of the community have already accepted the equality and validity of same-sex relationships and they simply want the civil law to catch up with and reflect the reality. And despite Tony Abbott and the socially conservative on both sides of politics who want to deny gay people the rights of every other citizen, it eventually will.

Ginger Meggs | 14 August 2013  

Last nights Insight program was just that an'insight' to me at the discrimination and bigotry that abounds still against minority groups in the community, in this case gay and lesbian people. Ben and Nam your families could only have been proud of you. Penny Wong you are my new hero. The dignity and respect you showed to all the other people present even when they were so narrow in their views was to be admired. As the mother of a gay son I was shocked at the closed views of the young people present. As a woman who worked for the Catholic Church for 20 years I have seen those who are wonderfully open and empathic and those who are bitter and fundmental in their opinions. Unfortunately it is the latter who are most heard these days. I wish Ben, Nam and Penny Wong the best for their lives and relationships. This goes also for those others who were brave enough to speak last night about their lives and the battles they have to be accepted. Again I need to say how shocked I was at the vicious homophobia that was present in that room clouded under the shadow of religious reasoning.

Maria Anderson | 14 August 2013  

Kay Ishak it is secular society that is ashamed of the continued influence of some religious institutions on people's evey day life. Your last sentence lets you and your religion down.

Terry Mac | 14 August 2013  

I know how Ben felt but what did anyone say that was demeaning or discriminatory. Is it enough simply to disagree with his views to be condemned. This attitude makes rational discussion impossible. Only HH has told me how the discussion was conducted and it seems the views in favour of Gay Marriage were treated very sympathetically.

Peter | 14 August 2013  

Where to start? Ben and Nam love one another with the same passionate desire that many heterosexual couples do. The h-s couple by expressing their natural sexual attraction for one another might procreate children. The s-s couple by expressing their natural sexual desire for one another cannot procreate. Many h-s couples cannot procreate and yet they can have their union sanctioned by the state as "marriage" and they can adopt children. What is the basis for this discrimination against s-s couples? It can't be the result of empirical evidence because there has been no long range survey of s-s "marriages" with adopted children. Long range surveys of h-s marriages in Western.(advanced capitalist) indicate that up to 30% of first marriages (with & without children) end in divorce. The discrimination against s-s marriages is based on a pre-judgment i.e. same sex attraction is un-natural and therefore will have dire consequences. Ben & Nam may not be a normal couple but they certainly came across as a natural couple. I wish I was as courageous in living my faith as they are in manifesting their love for one another.

Uncle Pat | 14 August 2013  

The 'equality' argument for same-sex marriage is based on the false premise that there is no difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Moreover, the reduction of marriage exclusively to a matter of equity ignores the social, psychological, moral and spiritual dimensions inherent in marriage. This is not adequate for a real understanding of marriage, Christian or other.

John | 14 August 2013  

As a member of the panel, I find Ben's portrayal of the audience quite unjust. To title it "SBS audience betrays gays with a kiss" is a bizarre way to describe a group of people who showed nothing but respectful attention to his lengthy reflections (watch for yourself). Instead of noting the courtesy of those with whom he might differ, Ben condemns this courtesy as the worst sort of offensiveness! He focuses on a moment which I witnessed, as I was standing next to the pleasant young person Ben frames as a 'Judas'. This friend greets Ben with a spontaneously kind word after the show and Ben declares that to be an act of treachery!

David van Gend | 14 August 2013  

My congratulations to Ben and Nam for their courage and honesty and for their love and commitment. I agree that we have made God in the image of man. We have endowed God with our own prejudices. We take our prejudices as God's 'revelation' and thus ask God to take responsibility for our small-mindedness. In the end, as Jesus said, love trumps the law. Love trumps dogma, doctrine and biology. The lack of love from people of 'faith' in that audience was sadly apparent.

Malcolm McPherson | 14 August 2013  

I especially liked your comment, "I am not an issue. I am a human being."

Patricia | 14 August 2013  

Nam and Ben, I want to thank you for your appearance on the show last night. You are amazing people, courageous, insightful and inspiring. Personally, I found the show upsetting. There was little acknowledgement of the hurtfulness and human impact of the comments made and the prejudice expressed. Also, I do not think the audience was representative of the general population and their views.

Helen | 15 August 2013  

Monsignor John Woods of Canberra was the priest sitting with Ben, Nam and Senator Penny Wong on the said program. I contacted him yesterday and the below was his take on how the issue was handled. Very telling, about the manipulation going on in the media over this issue. "The 'Insight' programme was very biased in its presentation, as evidenced by a number of other comments I and others made all being edited out. My hope is that respectful listening and the obvious bias in not addressing me will be seen for what it was, especially via the audio-visual medium of TV. All I ask for is fair go and last night I was not afforded that. I would always respond to the media but would prefer a live interview. Bring on Q&A!"

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 15 August 2013  

SBS Insight has a track record of promoting polemic over understanding. Readers may find this article of interest: http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse/Our%20Organisation%2FDesign%20and%20Social%20Context%2F;ID=vouqhp88t42w;STATUS=A?QRY=d..

Joshua Roose | 15 August 2013  

Thanks GM. To clarify: I would prefer a referendum/plebiscite to a parliamentary debate, simply because it's such a fundamental issue. A referendum/plebiscite might permit the issue to be debated with less blatant manipulation of the msm by those interests trenchantly opposed to the traditional position as was seen, for example, in the exercise in emotional manipulation that passed for a debate on "Insight". And of course I wouldn't "accept" a pro-ssm marriage result, in the same sense that I wouldn't change my views about legalized slavery were it to get up overwhelmingly via a referendum. But at least I would know that the error lay with the thinking of the Australian people themselves, and not with a media that works furiously to prevent a fair presentation of one side in the debate. Also: congratulations to Dr David Van Gend, Fr John Woods and the other pro-traditional marriage advocates who articulated their case clearly and charitably in a ferociously hostile environment. Justice is giving a man his due, and poor Ben and Nam were owed the truths they received from these good people. "Blessed are they that suffer gladly for justice's sake."

HH | 15 August 2013  

I heard no homophobic remarks, just different opinions. I expected a debate on the emotional, but also the social, psychological and economic issues involved in legalising same-sex marriage, especially the effects upon children. Instead Insight focused on how much so-and-so ardently desires acceptance and compassion. But hurt feelings alone do not justify a change in the law. Of all people, the minister for finance should understand that. Her government is sponsoring full-page advertisements with a picture of an Iranian woman weeping her heart out because she will never get a visa. No acceptance there, Penny. No compassion, either. But Senator Wong argues that her draconian policy on asylum-seekers is “tough but also humane and fair” http://goo.gl/d7J7xu. Taking a leaf from her book, that is what we should say to gays and lesbians who want to redefine marriage. Sorry, we respect you, but the status quo is “tough but also humane and fair”.

Michael Cook | 15 August 2013  

Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so?...some, because they were made so by others?... some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? ... Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." Matthew.. .makes you think...Shalom.

peter bohm | 15 August 2013  

Why is this an issue, particularly an issue with so many religious comments attached? Religion is a personal belief system not proven to be real. Love between 2 people regardless of orientation is a human issue and very real, live and let live.

Davidski | 15 August 2013  

I didn't see the program. "Progressives" who want to change society, make clever use of language. They invented the term "marriage equality" to make us think that not everyone had equal right to be married. If "same-sex marriage"comes in it won't alter the fact that males and females are complementary in their anatomy, and it is this fundamental fact that makes the creation of new life (of all but some of the lower animals) possible. If we who are married lose the word 'marriage' to describe this, then we'll need a new word. Another way our culture has been attacked through language is the use of the term 'partner' to replace 'spouse', 'husband', 'wife'. It originally came in to replace de-facto spouse, etc, and I can accept that, because the 'de-facto' terms terms are ugly. But I refuse to use partner when I mean spouse or husband or wife. It downgrades marriage.

Gavan Breen | 15 August 2013  

Aurelius, your comment to Kay Ishak was nonsense. Don't you believe there can be such a thing as a middle ground, between the extremes you name?

Gavan | 15 August 2013  

I agree with Ben that homophobia (ie. irrational fear) and potentially villifying remarks were allowed to pass as fair comment. It was an unsettling spectacle, not unlike watching a pack of hungry wolves about to be set loose upon two innocent lambs.

Darren | 15 August 2013  

No Gavan - there is no middle ground on this issue. You might be undecided, but once you decide then its has to be that same-sex relationships are either sanctifiable or totally evil.

AURELIUS | 15 August 2013  

Australia is such a wonderful country - and yet continues to shame me. I think you both were incredibly brave and honest and I thank you for your courage.

Andrea | 15 August 2013  

There has been some commentary about the editing of the Insight program. I was a participant in the two hour recorded studio event. I got two bites of the cherry in the final one hour edit. I will leave it for others to judge the editorial bias if any. I made four other interventions which did not get to air. Two out of six ain’t bad when you’re the second stringer Catholic priest on that sort of show. I am not complaining but I thought some readers, especially those who thought I was equivocal, might like to know what the additional four interventions were, as I do see it as a complex issue. I have been a long time proponent of civil unions, being wary about using the term marriage to cover all unions when a couple desire the attribution of the term. As a lawyer I have conceded that the recognition of same sex marriage in the laws of Canada, the UK, New Zealand and now an increasing number of states in the US makes it inevitable that we will need to recognise such “marriages” in Australia when such couples migrate to Australia. (1) I said that I found talk of homosexuality being a disorder unhelpful. Addressing Penny Wong, I said that I thought her homosexuality as natural, complex and mystical as my heterosexuality. (2) I said that the issue of children needed to be addressed separately. I distinguish four different groups of children: (a) those children already in same sex families who would be helped in their development and social acceptance by making available civil marriage to their “parents” (and I admitted my surprise to learn from the US Supreme Court decision that there were already 40,000 such children in California alone); (b) children available for adoption who were related to one of a same sex couple; (c) children available for adoption who were not genetically related to either person in a same sex relationship – and whose best interests must always be considered when it comes to adoption; and (d) children who would be created in the future using the genetic material only of a same sex couple, thereby not having a known biological mother and a known biological father – I surmised that this was a big step for humanity which should not be pre-empted by the same sex marriage debate. (3) I said that I had done three things in preparation for the program: (a) I had asked the congregation at my regular Sunday mass for comment after mass and many older parishioners said that they did not want to see any discrimination against same sex couples but they were not sure that a same sex relationship was the same as their marriage; (b) I asked a young couple whose marriage I had recently performed with a nuptial mass what they thought and they made it very clear to me that for their generation the whole discussion was a bit of a yawn and the answer for civil law was self-evident; and (c) I called a lesbian Catholic I knew who had children with her partner and she told me that she was a lesbian and always would be; that she was Catholic and always would be; that the clergy should get over this idea that they were the gatekeepers to the gospels and the sacraments because the key message was that God is love. (4) I said that the diversity of views expressed during the two hours and the passion and moral certainty and diversity with which those views were expressed highlighted the need for a conscience vote on the issue in our Parliament. As I said in my broadcast comments, “I'm so grateful that we now live in a society where Ben and Nam can now come tonight and speak as they have but I'm ashamed that I live in a society where it still requires courage to do it. Let's hope and I pray to God that we will get to be a society where that sort of courage will no longer be required.” Since the program and reading the comments to this piece, I remain a little bemused by the whole issue but that’s because I went to uni in the 70s when it was very politically incorrect to speak of marriage. Amongst my generation in leftie circles, one, to this day, is almost invariably introduced to a person’s partner and it is very politically incorrect to ask if they’re married. If civil marriage is extended to same sex couples in Australia, I really hope it does help couples like Ben and Nam but I suspect acceptance and endorsement are still some way off regardless of which way the “marriage equality” campaign plays out. I suppose the sign of ultimate social acceptance will be when Ben and Nam can introduce each other as partners, it then being politically incorrect to inquire if they are married. And then we’ll wonder what the whole debate was really about.

Frank Brennan SJ | 15 August 2013  

Kay - I'm sorry that you feel that you're ashamed for what you believe. You shouldn't be - faith is a beautiful thing. We don't ask for sanctifying a same sex marriage, we ask for civil marriage like the other 2/3 of Australians. It's the continued oppression by 'some' churches that tells us we can't have the legal equality that often ignites the belief v fact law. The facts are that people are dying from inequality (suicide rate 3.2 times higher than any other) - faith shouldn't come in to laws that we know have proven to enhance lives. Faith is an individual thing, and so should be the ability to marry the person you wish to commit your life to.

Rick Marton | 15 August 2013  

Fr Frank Brennan, do you ( also ) hope and pray the 40,000 children you mention in California and the others, will one day be baptize into the Catholic faith? Or is this matter not your concern? And if it is not, should it not be? Shalom.

peter bohm | 16 August 2013  

to RICK MARTON - I don't know who the "we" are you are referring to, as I don't accept that all homosexual people have a unified voice on any issue, but I get offended when anyone presumes that homosexuals don't want their churches to sanctify their relationships. Faith is not just an individual thing as we see with this divisive issue here - it's also a social/community issue. The beliefs we hold do affect others, and I believe that it's not just a matter of live and let live. I am a member of a church and it hurts me to the core not to be able to gain not just acceptance, but "sanctify" which means to set free from sin, which is what I in my conscience already know to be the truth.

AURELIUS | 16 August 2013  

I am sorry that you felt that way, but just because someone disagrees with you it does not make it homophobia! And opposing same-sex marriage does not mean you are anti-gay, rather it means you believe you cannot simply change a definition to something that it is not. Maybe you should listen to what they have to say without hiding behind the homophobia defence - if someone has a very real concern about the good of children, it is our duty to consider it. The only confrontational people on the program I found were not the ones opposed same-sex marriage.

Anna | 16 August 2013  

To Peter Bohm: I can't honestly say that I hope and pray that those 40,000 children will be one day baptised in the Catholic Church. If their parents are Christian I would be delighted to learn that the children have been baptised in their own Church. If their parents are Catholic, I would be delighted to learn that they have been baptised in the Catholic Church. Beyond that, I hope and pray they can find God within their family and social contexts regardless of their parents' religious affiliations. In short, I hope and pray for them what I hope and pray for all the kids of the world, whatever the religious context of their parents and whatever their sexual orientation.

Frank Brennan SJ | 16 August 2013  

I was invited to appear on this show. Honestly, I'm glad I did not do so. I am so sorry for your experience. Society has much to learn but I fail to see the point making object lessons out of the very targets of discrimination.

Another Queer Mum | 16 August 2013  

Ben, Thank you for your courage and openness. To challenge the mores of society and the beliefs of childhood is a dangerous thing. Look what happened to Jesus, and still happens today. Nam and yourself, and each of us, are each incarnated words of God birthed to be who you are. God is glorified in you. We are all conditioned by our upbringing, but in life's journey we grow let go of all that blinds us to the reality my "I" is God's gift of self to me. Rejoice and be glad for you are both son's of the Most High, and in communion with all that is,have no existence outside of God.

Terry47 | 16 August 2013  

Fr Frank Brennan: Today's children are tomorrows adults and a lot of people will just tell others exactly what they think they want to hear. But words are not actions... If a MTF transgender 23 year old ( who's parents are both currently living loving same sex-relationships, not dissimilar to Ben and Nam's, who hadn't attended an elite school like Riverview because she was not baptized into the Catholic faith, both her parents being atheists, nor could they have afforded to, had she been ), come to you with an incomplete Bachelors Degree in Computer Programming and asked if you would be kind enough to please consider passing on her CV to any of your friends who may be looking to offer a position to a person with such skills within their company, and even hopefully God through the love and faith that could be shown her by the people you hoped and prayed would help her find the position, would you? Shalom.

peter bohm | 16 August 2013  

"According to the transcript, the show as televised was overwhelmingly biased in favour of ssm/anti traditional marriage advocates. How true and well observed as I did. It was touching to hear the story of Ben & Nam however it is also simply a lie that people who oppose ssm are biased, bigoted or all the other stuff thrown at them. How about some real honest debate/and dare I say vote about the real meaning of marriage.....? "consider that the union of man and woman is the singular instrument of God's means of creating human life".Both HH & John Frawley spoke eloquently points which seems to escape advocates. You cannot call apples pears! Love is only part of the equation.

Name | 17 August 2013  

One day the rainbow of love will take pride of place in the hearts of all humanity -love is the pot of gold we all seek Ben and Nam you have a world to be proud of and stand up to -even the dull and ignorant have a story to tell.

Trish posterino | 18 August 2013  

For all those commenting about supposed SBS bias and being labelled bigots, do you think we should also go back to the 60s and 70s to the White Australia policy? Or back to slavery maybe? Would you complain if your views were disregarded if you believed women shouldn't be allowed to vote?

AURELIUS | 19 August 2013  

1. Fr Brennan finds “unhelpful” the description of homosexuality as a “disorder”. I suppose it depends on what your project is. If you’re trying to convince someone that homosexual acts are acts of “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered” (CCC 2357) as the Church binds all Catholics (even Jesuits) to hold, then describing a deep-seated temptation to such acts as accordingly “disordered” might be very helpful – just as describing an alcoholic’s chronic craving for a bout of binge drinking (also gravely disordered) might likewise be termed. But if, say, you’re trying to convince Sen. Penny Wong that her lesbian partnership is something “mystical”, rather than constituting an occasion of the sin discussed by the Church in CCC 2357, then, yes, “disordered” may well be a word that rather gets in the way. 2. There are far more legal regimes that recognise polygamy (more than 50) than currently recognise same sex marriage. If he were consistent, Fr Brennan would be arguing for the legal recognition of polygamous marriages even more urgently than he argues for secular same-sex marriage. (I also don't understand the basis of Fr Brennan's point that heterosexual/monogamous marriage regimes must routinely defer to alternative-marriage regimes. Must non-slavery regimes also reverse their laws when Ruritania legalizes slavery?)

HH | 19 August 2013  

Fr Frank Brennan: ... Then there are those, who truly believe faith, love and justice go hand in hand. Whose faith predominately means to stand up for the dignity of each and every person, as they inspire others to do also. Simply by not choosing 'no comment', 'silence' and to ignore to answer a good question or a request for help. They go out of their way at every given opportunity, to truly practice what they preach by preaching what they practice. Knowing, one kind 'act' can make all the difference in the world, even to a non believer in Christ Jesus. As Albert Einstein, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, who paid tribute to the moral 'courage' of Pope Pius and the Catholic Church in opposing 'the Hitlerian onslaught' on liberty, knew full well : "Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Catholic Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly". Shalom.

peter bohm | 19 August 2013  

Aurelius SSM undermines social stability itself, given astronomical attrition rates in SSM friendly Scandinavian states [compared with hetero marriages.] Such demographics indicate the utter antithesis of SSM fidelity, let alone SSM adopted/'surrogate' child security. [Lesbian ssm attrition is higher still] While White Australia policy was antisocial so is SSM.

Father John George | 19 August 2013  

I was profoundly moved by Ben and Nam, and feel deeply honoured to have encountered them on this programme. I found their relationship so beautiful I watched them a second time on the internet. In my own work as a pastor, I have discovered that thte witness of GLBT people, their awareness of their God-given beauty and the way they follow their spiritual path has much to teach us.

Ruth Harrison | 19 August 2013  

What are transgender people doing with their lives? Well, if it weren't for one very special lady, Lyn Conway, you would not be reading about Ben and Nam from your screen today. Please scroll down: http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/ Shalom.

peter bohm | 21 August 2013  

Father John George, are you opposing SSM because some will end in divorce? I would like to see statistics for the “astronomical attrition rates in SSM friendly Scandinavian states [compared with hetero marriages.]” I suggest your opening statement is something of an overstatement, but we will have to agree to differ on that point.

SSM deniers have never satisfactorily explained how a committed, stable relationship between two mutually consenting and loving adults could possibly undermine the institute of marriage in general or any individual heterosexual marriage in particular. It is a storm in a teacup and once it happens we will wonder what the fuss was about. But for the folk who do worry, it won’t be compulsory.

Finally, there is no need for a referendum on this. This is not a change to the Constitution. Our elected representatives passed the Marriage Act and they can be trusted to make the decision on amending it. If you aren’t happy with your local member’s vote, you can do something about it at the next election.

Brett | 21 August 2013  

Brett re Norway-Sweden study: "Our population of same-sex couples is defined by their change in civil status to that of a registered partnership. Such an unambiguously defined population of gay and lesbian couples has never been studied before. Nevertheless, we find that many of the various demographic characteristics of our Scandinavian couples resemble those found for other populations of same-sex couples, such as co-residing people of the same sex in the US (Black et al. 2000). Evidently, some aspects of gay and lesbian life styles seem to be of such a common nature that they appear regardless of the type of data at hand. Finally, we provided a divorce-risk study. We found that divorce risks are higher in same-sex partnerships than in opposite-sex marriages, and that unions of lesbians are considerably less stable, or more dynamic, than unions of gay men. In Norway as well as in Sweden, the divorce risk in female partnerships is practically double that of the risk in partnerships of men." short-term same-sex registered partnerships in Norway and Sweden had divorce rates 50-167% higher for same-sex couples than opposite-sex marriages. [The Demographics of Same-Sex „Marriages“ in Norway and Sweden Gunnar Andersson*, Turid Noack**, Ane Seierstad** & Harald Weedon-Fekjær***]

Father John George | 22 August 2013  

Brett! Research on SSM undermining hetero-marriage: https://www.spuc.org.uk/campaigns/ssmsub20130301

Father John George | 22 August 2013  

Do there have to be so many articles in ES on homosexuality versus upholding hetero marital fidelity in a secular society, and educating children in the countercultural Truths of the Catholic Faith:?

Father John George | 22 August 2013  

Fr JG, don't make the mistake of thinking that you have to agree with people and their beliefs to defend them from injustice.

Damaris | 23 August 2013  

ssm legislation gone loco: "In a 5-0 decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld a lower-court determination that it is illegal for a photography business owned by Christians to refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony--even though New Mexico law does not permit same-sex marriage"[CWN]

Father John George | 24 August 2013  

Is the rich scriptural icon of the Church, as the Bride of Christ, to be debauched, by SSM imaging, in 'Gay RSV[ICEL]'?

Father John George | 24 August 2013  

Thanks for the research Father JG, interesting statistical study but it doesn't really go into underlying reasons so it leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. It certainly does not present a case for discrimination against SSMs and I can only raise the point again that same sex marriages do not undermine the institution of marriage. If anything, a stable, loving mutually supportive relationship between two adults reinforces the traditional marriage relationship.

Brett | 26 August 2013  

If the Church appears especially prejudiced against homosexuals because she opposes their same sex marriage, perhaps it’s time remind ourselves of some other prohibitions relating to heterosexuals that the Church (and the natural law) opposes just as trenchantly: same sex marriage between heterosexuals, same sex acts performed by a heterosexual, polygamy, pre-marital intercourse, incest, bestiality, adultery, rape, paedophilic acts, remarriage of validly married heterosexuals, masturbation and all other completed sexual acts by husband and wife which are not natural intercourse, IVF, artificial insemination by husband or donor, surrogacy, directly contracepted heterosexual intercourse, contraceptively-motivated vasectomy or hysterectomy, a refusal to “render the debt” for non-serious reasons, the choice of a married couple for light reasons not to have children, pornography, prostitution, abortion, heavy petting by non-married couples, deliberately lustful glances and thoughts, clothing and gestures intended to arouse someone not one's spouse, failure to attempt to educate one’s children in the Faith, and so on. Moreover, any chronic inclinations to prohibited sexual acts listed above would be referred to as "disorders". All of which raises the question - does Church teaching on heterosexual morality constitute a "hate crime"?

HH | 29 August 2013  

You didn't just build a straw man HH, you built a straw army. Trying to confuse a fairly simple issue doesn't really work.

Brett | 30 August 2013  

Correction re last post: "other prohibitions relating to heterosexuals" should read "other acts relating to heterosexuals"

HH | 30 August 2013  

I don't understand some of the comments that effectively say that they are Catholic but not Catholic. The Catholic Church can't change it's position when it says that homosexual practice is intrinsically a disordered form of sexuality. If somebody thinks that is too old-fashioned or unloving, then that person should not identify with the very clear teaching of the Church.

Jill | 01 September 2013  

Thankyou. I am deeply sorry for your hurt. I support civil (State) marriage being gender irrelevant. Also & separately I hope that the Church community will find a way to grant a sacramental recognition & enable sacred vows for couples such as you. It is often said that certain moral issues go in a group (eg euthanasia, abortion, marriage definition) & people are on one side or another. I'm not. I'm not a supporter of euthanasia, for example. Similarly I see no dissonance between Buddhist & Catholic wheras others tell me this is impossible. But I fail to see a moral problem with yourselves being sacramentally joined before God. I do not expect the Church to follow the orders of the State to conduct ceremony according to the same manner as the State, but I hope that the Church will collectively create an understanding of it's ceremony of marriage that is inclusive & sacred. My understanding of marriage is a couple's commitment before God & their faith community. Not an expectation of procreation, but of creating a relationship in union with the Spirit. Again I am sorry for your pain & suffering.

from exile | 06 September 2013  

Thankyou. I am deeply sorry for your hurt. I support civil (State) marriage being gender irrelevant. Also & separately I hope that the Church community will find a way to grant a sacramental recognition & enable sacred vows for couples such as you. It is often said that certain moral issues go in a group (eg euthanasia, abortion, marriage definition) & people are on one side or another. I'm not. I'm not a supporter of euthanasia, for example. Similarly I see no dissonance between Buddhist & Catholic wheras others tell me this is impossible. But I fail to see a moral problem with yourselves being sacramentally joined before God. I do not expect the Church to follow the orders of the State to conduct ceremony according to the same manner as the State, but I hope that the Church will collectively create an understanding of it's ceremony of marriage that is inclusive & sacred. My understanding of marriage is a couple's commitment before God & their faith community. Not an expectation of procreation, but of creating a relationship in union with the Spirit. Again I am sorry for your pain & suffering.

from exile | 07 September 2013  

Dear Ben, Thank you for your report. Shame on those who made you feel so acutely the lashing of "the weight of their homophobia and heterosexism". We are working for ME in our own patch, slowly and steadily making a difference. Blessings, P

The Reverend Patricia Bouma | 16 September 2013  

Dear Ben, I am saddened that you experienced such pain following your coming out on the SBS programme. My heart goes out to you and your partner. It took great courage for both of you to face the cameras. The negative attitudes you faced following the programme were unwarranted and have no place in a contemporary Australia. Godfrey

Godfrey | 21 September 2013  

Dear HH A referendum or plebiscite is a waste of time for several reasons. Firstly it has no power to change the law. The Constitution clearly states that Commonwealth legislative power is vested in Parliament (section 1) and grants marriage as specific head of power on which the parliament may make law (section 51). In short the question belongs to the politicians. Secondly a referendum would waste a lot of time and money. Both sides of Parliament would have to come up with a question that they can agree on and almost certainly there will be an objection to every different way the question is phrased. Thirdly there is no precedent for this - every other contentious social issue has been decided by Parliament and not put to referendum. There have only been three non-constitutional referendum at the federal level since federation - two over the issue of conscription in WWI and one in 1977 on the National song. Fourthly Penny Wong is correct. The campaign would be unnecessarily divisive and would do more than offend. It gives a public platform to bigots to say demeaning things about gays and will also result in difficulties for opponents.

Tristan | 08 August 2015