March 11th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Money flows freely to fuel anti-coal campaign

CANBERRA OBSERVED People and renewables get on till pay day arrives

EDITORIAL Commission report demonstrates old saying about statistics

ENVIRONMENT Ignore claims that Antarctic ice sheet will melt away

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Taiwan society divides over gay agenda

ECONOMICS Globalisation: a bumpy ride for some

GENDER POLITICS Parliamentary stalemate on same-sex marriage

CULTURE WARS Samizdat and the internet

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Theresa May prepares Britain for post-EU life

HISTORY Christianity and progress in human happiness

MUSIC What's the score? Originality v novelty

CINEMA Silence: Stamping on the face of faith

POETRY AND SOCIETY The modern world and damnation as voyeurism

SOCIETY The working class and globalisation

BOOK REVIEW The man who split the party

It's time to build new water storages in the Basin

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GENDER POLITICS
Parliamentary stalemate on same-sex marriage


by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, March 11, 2017

After a year-long rainbow alliance campaign for a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage, the Federal Government’s policy is still for a plebiscite, while Labor has shifted onto other issues.

Despite the Senate blocking a people’s vote on the issue late last year, Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that a plebiscite remains his Government’s policy.

Mr Turnbull recently told the 60 Minutes program: “We took the plebiscite proposal to the election, that is our policy. We are calling on Bill Shorten to rethink his position and if he supports the plebiscite then it will pass through the Senate and it [the plebiscite] will be held.”

Around the same time, Tony Abbott warned against breaking the Coalition’s election promise of a plebiscite, telling Fairfax Media: “Malcolm Turnbull made a clear election commitment that the marriage law would only change by way of people’s plebiscite, not a free vote of the Parliament.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly also warned that for the Government “to back-track and reverse on such a clear election promise during this parliamentary term would be a betrayal of the voting public.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce warned that the Government should not be distracted. It had to keep its focus on the needs of “the outer suburbs and the regions”, making specific reference to same-sex marriage being a distraction from core issues.

Meanwhile, a Senate inquiry has released its report into the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. It was drafted as the bill that would be put to Parliament in the event of a plebiscite vote in favour of same-sex marriage. The bill was used as an excuse by the Senate to hold yet another inquiry into changing the Marriage Act, and to put pressure on the Government for a parliamentary vote.

A key focus of the Senate Inquiry was to examine how the Draft Exposure Bill would affect freedom of religion. While the inquiry made no recommendations, many same-sex marriage lobby groups made it clear that they opposed any exemptions for civil celebrants or businesses servicing same-sex weddings.

Their opposition comes at a time when people who have conscientiously objected to providing their services for same-sex weddings are being prosecuted in a number of countries where gay marriage has been legalised.

A submission by Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said that his organisation just.equal opposed provisions of the bill that allowed refusal of service to same-sex couples who intend to marry.

Teoh said that ministers of religion already had the right to refuse to marry couples. He said: “Civil celebrants are delegated by the government to perform a government duty, much like justices of the peace.

“They are also private business owners who provide a commercial service. On both counts, they should not be able to refuse service to anyone on the basis of their relationship status, sexual orientation or gender identity …

“Religious organisations provide commercial services that could be relevant to marriages. These commercial services should be subject to the same laws as all commercial services.”

Civil Liberties Australia Inc said it “does not support the exemptions as proposed in the draft bill … We do not accept that the marriage of same-sex couples in any way encroaches upon the religious freedom of another person”.

Another submission from Australians4Equality and Australian Marriage Equality partially supported the bill’s exemption for ministers from performing same-sex marriages, but opposed “in the strongest terms” a “conscientious belief” clause as the grounds for exemption for both ministers of religion and civil celebrants. They opposed any exemptions for civil celebrants.

Rodney Croome, former national convenor of Marriage Equality, said in his submission that he strongly opposed provisions in the bill that would “allow same-sex couples to be refused service by those who provide marriage-related services”.

He said that while “ministers of religion should be able to decide who they will marry … this right should not be extended to other providers of marriage-related services”.

Many same-sex marriage advocacy groups told the inquiry that they supported freedom of religion. This stands in contrast to the large number of rainbow groups, human-rights and legal lobbies that told the 2012 inquiry that there should be no exemptions, or draconian restrictions on exemptions, for religious persons and organisations in a federal plan to consolidate all federal anti-discrimination laws. (see News Weekly, “Push for new laws to attack churches, schools”, May 26, 2012)

Last year’s intensive campaign to have the Government abandon its plebiscite policy has hit a brick wall. There is now a political stalemate on the issue. On the one hand, the serious economic issues driving a voter shift to minority parties is overtaking same-sex marriage, which has been a low-priority issue for most Australians.

On the other hand, the more the same-sex marriage lobby groups reveal their intent of using the law to prosecute those who disagree with them, the greater becomes the case for a people’s vote on same-sex marriage.




























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