Saturday 29 June 2013

Far-sighted policies in Australia are blocking same-sex marriage extremists

John Howard, former
Australian Prime Minister
I am grateful to Father John Fleming, SPUC's bioethics adviser, for his contribution to my blog today. Fr Fleming provides the historical background/explanation as to how the Federal Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia continues to reject legislation aimed at the recognition of same sex relationships as a marriage relationship.

Fr Fleming writes:
Prior to 1961 the states and territories administered marriage laws which could vary from state to state. The Marriage Act 1961 brought marriage law in Australia under the exclusive supervision of the Commonwealth Government.

The Marriage Act did not define marriage but provided in section 46 that a marriage celebrant had to state that “marriage according to the law of Australia is the union between a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life”. Responding to the contemporary agitation for the legal recognition of same sex marriage, the Howard Government in 2004 had the Marriage Act amended in two important ways.

1. Marriage was defined in section 5(1). The amendment says this: “Marriage according to the law of Australia is the union between a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life.” That amendment was passed.
2. Section 88EA was also added to the Marriage Act. This provided that a union solemnised in a foreign country between (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman: must not be recognised in Australia.

So it was that in 2004 the situation vis a vis so-called “same sex marriage” was legally settled. Undeterred, in 2012 the same sex marriage lobby in the Commonwealth Parliament sought to have the amendments passed in 2004 overturned. On 19 September 2012, a bill introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage was debated and clearly defeated 42 to 98 votes.

If such a full frontal attack on the 2004 amendments was politically unattainable at the present moment, same sex marriage promoters then sought to attack only the second of the amendments which provided that such “marriages” solemnised in foreign countries would not and could not be recognised in the Commonwealth of Australia.

Accordingly Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced new legislation into the Senate (the upper house). The Bill was titled Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex couples) Bill 2013 and, if passed, would have successfully repealed the second of the two 2004 amendments. The strategy was to suggest that Australia could at least be "fair" and recognise all of the marriages solemnised legally in foreign jurisdictions.

On the 20th June 2013, the Liberal/National Coalition Parties together with several ALP (Australian Labor Party) Senators rejected the Bill at the second reading Stage, 44-28.

It would appear to be unlikely that there will be changes to Australian law favourable to the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in the next five to six years at least. With the almost certain advent of a conservative (ie Liberal/National Coalition) government in September 2013, such a change is very unlikely.

Australia owes former Prime Minister John Howard, the government, and the Parliament of 2004 a major debt of gratitude. Its pre-emptive strike in 2004, introducing pro-marriage amendments to the Marriage Act, has created a bulwark against moves which would have the effect of redefining the natural institution of marriage to include homosexual partnerships, a move which if successful, is contemptuous of the needs of children, and might well have a significant negative impact on the freedoms of the citizens to act according to his or her religious beliefs and to openly dissent from the recognition of such partnerships, especially in schools, hospitals, universities and the like.
SPUC has published a position paper on same-sex marriage – explaining why SPUC campaigns for real marriage, and a background paper to be read in conjunction with the position paper and which provides some additional references and reflections.

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