Posted by: jkirkby8712 | November 17, 2010

The Issue of Same Sex Marriage in Australia

On Monday night, I made a little note on Facebook about a debate that was then starting in Federal Parliament, on the basis of a motion by the ‘Greens’ senator who was recently the first member of his Party to be elected to the House of Representatives – Adam Bandt.  The actual motion proposed by the Greens MP Adam Bandt calls on MPs to consult their constituents on the issue of gay marriage.  I think one of his platforms and aims [as it is of the Greens] was to get the law changed so as to recognise gay marriages in Australia, so that, amongst other things, people living in formal same sex relationships could be given the same legal rights as heterosexual relationships and marriages. I guess I was a little bemused as to why it was necessary for Parliament to devote too much time to the subject. I began my comments, earlier in the afternoon, in anticipation of the debate coming up that night,  with the following view on Facebook.

‘Later today, Federal Parliament will debate a motion in favour of same sex marriage in Australia. While not wishing to denigrate the importance of this issue to many people, I consider there are far more important national issues that our paid politicians should be devoting the brief time they currently actually allocate to ‘work’ in Parliament House’.

Now I realised that by that comment, I would probably attract some responses, which I anticipated would not be too favourable towards my opinion, but I decided to take that on board if it arose. What I did receive initially were a few remarks which I guess you could classify as cynical ‘tongue in cheek’ comments, in preference to directly supporting or attacking my contribution, then followed by one or two more considered but brief responses, while the main form of ‘attack’ [for the want of a better word] came from an unexpected source ‘much closer to home’ than I had anticipated. Now I’m not going to name any of my respondees, except with an initial, but I thought it might be interesting to record their reactions in bulk, on this little contributing blog………………..

[J] When you think about it, we’ve fixed the Boat-People issue, we have close to 100 percent employment, our nation’s economy is back in the black, not to mention the carbon issue, high electricity bills, Street violets, so hey, why not spend valuable time on Gay Marriage? 🙂

[M] Perhaps there are more important issues for our politicians to discuss, but I suspect they will spend precious little time actually debating anything as important as equal rights.

[R] Absolutely Bill- there should be no discussion time wasted over this issue- just immediately allow any combination of people and/or tapirs to get married when and how they please!

[Me] Adam Brand, the Green MP from Melbourne, is now giving his ‘Love knows no bounds’ and ‘the power of love’ speech in Federal Parliament in addressing his Private Members’ Bill. Mmmmmmm!  And first speaker to respond – the ‘grandfather of Parliament’ – Phillip Ruddick!! I wonder what his view will be, no prizes for guessing!

[S] I’m surprised you aren’t getting behind Gay marriage, Bill. Just think of all the marriage celebrants, churches, caterers, tourist spots, lawyers etc that will benefit from the pink dollar.

[Ro]  yeah I’m surprised as well, why shouldn’t Gay people be aloud their piece of paper?

[Me] Well, they will eventually, just let time and society in general take it’s course

[J] Cause it’s not (natural) maybe?  Or is it..

[S] I guess you’re right, Bill. And this debate should be an accurate reflection of how our society currently views this issue.

[Me] I agree with you S, and despite the ‘opinion’ polls, I personally believe the attitude of the two major parties currently reflects society’s views, it’s too early – irrespective of the statistics that Bob Brown, Adam Bandt & others are coming up with!

[S] Fair enough. Let’s see if the debate reflects that.

[Ro]  maybe it’s too early because most of our society is over 50!  or maybe we should just wait until my generation are in power because then it wouldn’t be an issue. what makes me angry is it takes a person over the age of 60 to have a Gay child who is in a long term committed relationship with someone of the same sex to realise that this issue is just as important as the next!   i wonder bill if one of your kids where gay, what would your opinion be then.

[Me]  Hi R, I think I’m regretting even raising the subject, but like everything else that happens in our public lives, I like to take an interest in what in going on! Unlike most people, I’m just stupid enough to open my ‘mouth’, when maybe I should just shut up, and grumble behind closed doors like Mr and Mrs Average does!!

The only opinion I have expressed on the subject to this point, was that I felt there were more important issues that our Parliamentarians should be dealing with, and that I didn’t think society was ready for full acceptance of the idea of a formalising of gay marriages. Everyone seems to be ‘assuming’ my views on the matter are completely one-sided, but I’ve spelt nothing out!! And those who know me, usually will be aware, that I always look at both sides of an issue – sometimes accused of ‘sitting on the fence’ – really, prepared to listen to the various viewpoints [not an attitude that the various lay supporters of our major political parties can generally be credited with!!].

Personally, I have no problem with the concept of gay relationships – [or for such partnerships to be allocated the same legal & financial rights, etc that hetro marriages attract, which seems to rightly be a major cause of grievance] – certainly, some of these relationships come over as far more successful and genuine than a traditional ‘marriage’ – I just have a conservative view, perhaps no doubt influenced by a Christian background for which I don’t apologise [and an environment in which your Mum was also brought up], that on the assumption that Australia is still regarded as a Christian society, [when in reality, we know it’s more secular these days than anything], my interpretation of marriage is based on the way the Christian Bible appears to represent it [between a man and a woman]. Anything else, can be called something else, how others live their lives is their business, I’m simply not comfortable with those relationships being called a ‘marriage’! But I acknowledge that eventually, that’s the way it will go. So be it! The world and our attitudes to a thousand things are changing all the time, and we will all change with them.

I just feel it is a bit hypocritical of our Federal Parliament, where at the beginning of every day’s sitting, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is recited because it is traditional practice [but I’m sure that for 90% of members – and maybe the Speaker himself, although there, I’m assuming what Harry Jenkins believes, but may well be doing him an injustice – doing so, means nothing to them] – so long as that continues, then they in my view have no right to begin espousing interpretations of concepts spelt out in the Bible[ a document that most of them still ‘swear’ by when the need arises] to suit a few personal interests and pressure groups………

It was interesting listening to the various members who spoke on the issue last night – there was no clear denunciation ‘either way’ by anyone other than the initiator of the Bill, lambasting or supporting marriages – their speeches generally referred back to the respective existing policies of the main Parties. I guess the only way you are going to get Federal Parliamentarians to express what they each personally think is to have a ‘conscience’ vote on the matter – and I think that is the aim of some pushing the issue. I personally think such a vote won’t succeed – in 2010 – but it will come, sooner than you express R, before your generation is in power, but through the influence of your generation, no doubt!

[R] gee i hope so! i’m sorry for aiming it directly at you, some of the comments people left really peeved me off. Your right though as long as there is religion this will always take longer. given 15-20 years i really don’t know religion will have as big a hold on the way governments are run. when you think about it 25 years ago the whole family went off to Sunday church, the neighbours where like family and Granny lived with her kids and baby sat when needed, meanwhile the rest of the family never lived that far away. As i was saying to marc, the Gay marriage issue is not an issue in our generation and when we are in power i do wonder what will take its place. i mean what will we be accused of being cynical and taking an old world view of.   lol next time don’t fence sit on such a hot topic, not always a safe move.

[Me[  Advice taken 🙂 – it must have been a picket fence as well, ouch!!!
[For those wondering, R is my lovely artistic niece from the wonderful metropolis of Ballarat]

[R] That makes sense that one of your relatives would have such a well developed social conscience- I completely agree with her 🙂

And what was all that about, you might ask?   Well, this little report summarises what began my little ‘discussion’ on the net  –

“An impressive debate began in the House of Representatives tonight [Monday night]  on a motion by the Greens member, Adam Bandt, calling on parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality. This is part of the draft text of Adam Bandt’s speech on his equal marriage resolution:

“Love knows no boundaries.

Love knows no limits.

And love knows when it has found its partner.

Mr Speaker, there have been many attempts through history to limit love.

And all have failed.

And as we move further into the 21st century I am confident that attempts to limit love will fail again, that full marriage equality will become a reality.

Mr Speaker, this motion before the Parliament does not seek to overturn the Howard government’s change to the Marriage Act which sought to limit marriage to a few.

My colleague Senator Sarah Hanson Young has a bill before Parliament that when passed will amend the Marriage Act to enshrine the right for all Australian’s to marry regardless of their gender or sexuality.

And in time the Greens will move for that bill to be debated.

Instead this motion seeks to provide an opportunity for members of Parliament, the media and most importantly the community to discuss the importance of Marriage Equality.

The motion is not binding on Members of Parliament or the government its passage will not in itself legally endorse or ratify the right to marriage equality. Rather it will acknowledge the reality of community opinion in Australia which has changed.

The motion reads:

That this House:

(1) Notes that:

(a) There is a growing list of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Canada and South Africa; and

(b) there is widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community.

(2) Calls on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

In moving this motion The Greens want Parliament to acknowledge that Australian public opinion is changing.

We also want Parliament to acknowledge that change is happening around the world.

And we want those who are still stuck in the old way of thinking to go out and engage with the people in their electorates to find out where are now at.

And I welcome my colleagues who have chosen to participate in this debate today and I am encouraged by the fact that many more MPs would have spoken today if we had more time for speaking spots rather than the ten we were able to allocate.

I am also encouraged by the number of MPs including Ministers who have indicated their support for Marriage Equality through the media, some of whom have raised the prospect of the bringing forward their Party conference to change policy.

This is welcome.

However, I would say that there is no need for such delay. If the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader were willing to shift direction we could change the law right now.

And it is especially disappointing that the Prime Minister and the government continue to hold on to 20th century thinking on matters of love when the community is so far ahead of them.

Because we know that the community has progressed.

Recent polling shows the majority of Australians support a move to full equality for marriage.

When The Greens Marriage Equality (Amendment) Bill was considered by a Senate Inquiry over 25,000 submissions were received.

We know that there are many small groups who are well-organized and well-resourced and that they will continue speak out very loudly in favour of discrimination. But it is a mistake to think that because they speak loudly that they speak for everyone.

I would ask members concerned about those groups to have a look at today’s analysis of community attitudes appearing in the Fairfax press. What it suggests for those sitting in this house by virtue of a small margin is that the well-organized old-world lobby groups are not engaging the voters in your seats. Instead, what you will find there, as Mark Davis writes, is that “perhaps the marginal seats are not as fussed by gay marriage as the politicians think.” Which means the time is right to make this change.

There are now so many people wanting to marry or friends and family members of those whose love the law says can not be recognised.

And it is these people, Mr Speaker who this debate is ultimately about. The many, many, many people want to marry and can’t because there partner is of the same-sex. And the many, many, many people whose sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandmothers and grandfathers, friends and neighbours who all know someone who wants to be married but can’t because of this archaic legal discrimination.”

Well of course, that is all one man’s opinion, and when the matter eventually comes to be debated in full, as it probably eventually will, we will no doubt see equally ‘emotional’ stuff from various quarters. He makes it sound as though half the country is waiting for the law to change so they can be married!!   In fact we are talking about a minority group – that fact doesn’t mean they have any less claim on the rights enjoyed by  the majority, but let’s get this thing into context, for heaven’s sake.  We still have a population of Indigenous people in desperate need of proper assistance and recognition in this country, we still have thousands of refugees ‘locked up’ because they tried to find a way to save the lives of their families – let’s get back to debating properly, the issues that matter to this nation as a whole!

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