Just days after last month’s historic Irish referendum that voted ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introduced a same-sex marriage bill to the Parliament.
The Australian Christian Lobby’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton believes Mr Shorten fails to consider the consequences of changing the definition of marriage in law.
“It is disappointing that Australia’s alternative prime minister is legislating a family structure which requires a child to miss out on their mum or dad,” said Lyle.
“Many Australians are watching with great concern as florists, photographers and cake makers in other countries are being legally punished simply because they prefer not to participate in a same-sex wedding.”
“I wonder if Mr Shorten has considered the consequences of changing the definition of marriage,” said Lyle.
Both Lyle and local Toowoomba GP and Australian Marriage Forum president David van Gend believe the Australian public should be able to voice their opinion before the Parliament makes a decision.
“The Irish referendum has raised the possibility of a similar public vote in Australia so the public can show their opinion,” Dr van Gend said.
However because there is no reference to marriage rights in the Australian constitution, a plebiscite would be required for a nationwide vote, not a referendum.
Lyle Shelton agrees.
“Changing the definition of marriage in law is a monumental and very divisive issue with big consequences,” he said. “The people should have a say through a plebiscite before it goes back to the Parliament.”
“A plebiscite would allow parliamentarians to then cast their votes in Parliament guided by the will of the Australian community.”
Lyle said despite the result in Ireland, Australia was different and he called on parliamentarians to carefully consider the consequences for children and to freedom of conscience.
“The redefining marriage movement in Ireland made a big effort to downplay the rights and interests of children, which ought to be at centre stage of all public policy,” said Lyle.
“Because marriage confers the right to form a family, it will be very difficult to resist further law changes allowing the exploitation of women through commercial surrogacy.”
Lyle said the only way the benefits of marriage equality can be provided to two men is to reform surrogacy laws so they have open access to donated women’s eggs and through the provision of ‘carrier’ wombs.
“While some same-sex couples are already acquiring children through various means of assisted reproductive technology, this does not make severing the primal bond between a child and their mother or father right.”
“Marriage equality abolishes in law and culture the idea that, wherever possible, children have a right to both their mother and father.”
This was the argument that David van Gend and the Australian Marriage Forum were putting forward in a series of 30-second advertisements, to be broadcast on national television earlier this year.
The ads sparked national controversy, as they were due to broadcast on SBS during the Sydney Mardi Gras in March. However, SBS pulled them at the last minute, despite being a public broadcaster and covering the pro-same-sex marriage Mardi Gras.
David said the move sparked outrage on both sides of the debate, as a number of prominent same-sex marriage activists supported the Forum’s right to campaign, including openly gay Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson.
“A civil society does not censor one side of public debate,” David said. “Apparently today you are not allowed to defend the law of the land. We should have been able to say our bit.”
David said he received significant public backlash from the proposed TV ads, including an online petition calling for them to be removed from Channel 7 and 9.
“My personal Facebook site was hacked and shut down, I had a journalist at the Courier-Mail do a vicious attack piece on me,“ he said.
But he said many people have also contacted him to say they are pleased their point of view is being heard.
The ads have generated significant public interest, the first one racking up more than half a million views on YouTube within the first four days.
Despite the reaction, David said the Australian Marriage Forum will continue to promote their side of the argument.
“We will continue to put the argument into the public square – marriage is primarily about children,” he said. “We are defending near-sacred ground.”
“Timeless - The Facts about Marriage” is an easy-to-read document that you can share. Download it at www.acl.org.au