September 9th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Our unsafe schools are putting students at risk

EDITORIAL Turnbull needs a circuit breaker or he's a goner

CANBERRA OBSERVED 'What's the question?' is the crucial question

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Beijing applauds jailing of Hong Kong activists

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The economic agenda Australia needs won't come from Mal or Bill

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY Child-support payments and parental alienation

MARRIAGE AND LAW NSW Law Society spruiks for same-sex marriage

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Germany's energy plan: a disaster in the making

MUSIC Monetising the muse: 'Frugal comfort' would be welcome

CINEMA Logan Lucky: Southern fried robbery

BOOK REVIEW Serious Bioethics salted with humour




CANBERRA OBSERVED Love may be love, but certainly consequences are consequences

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NSW Law Society spruiks for same-sex marriage

by Robin Speed

News Weekly, September 9, 2017

What hope is there for a fair and honest discussion on same-sex marriage when the president of the Law Society of NSW issues a joint press release on the subject that is false and misleading?

According to the press release dated August 19, 2017, the legal and medical professions in NSW have united in support of the introduction of marriage equality laws. That is false.

No survey has been carried out of the views of the legal profession on the issue. Particularly on whether it should be a condition of the introduction that freedom of speech and religious freedoms are not lost. It may be a matter for the state what it chooses to recognise as a marriage, but it is a matter for us that freedom of speech and religious freedom are not lost as a consequence.

The president has no authority to represent me or other members of the profession on the issue. She did not even have the full support of the Law Society Committee.

One only has to have regard to the experience in Canada, Britain and more recently in Ireland to realise that the consequences are much wider than the state simply changing the definition of marriage. A person can vote “No” without being against same-sex marriage. He or she can vote “No” because there are inadequate safeguards for voting “Yes”.

The president was presumably aware at the time of the issue of the press release of the doctors who had called for the withdrawal of the support of the AMA for same-sex marriage. On August 5, 2017, the dissident doctors issued a press release detailing why the AMA statement was medically flawed. It contained a 15-page critique identifying a number of misleading clinical claims by the AMA, particularly the assertion that there was no peer-reviewed evidence of poorer outcomes for children of same-sex parented families.

The critique declares that to be “unequivocally false”. At the time of the joint press release on August 19, 2017, the AMA could not correctly claim that even the medical profession supported the introduction of same-sex marriage. (See News Weekly, August 26, 2017, also, for comment on the AMA statement.)

The joint press release goes on to state that the “rule of law requires that all Australians are treated equally”. This is misleading. Our law is replete with situations where Australians are apparently not treated equally, for example in sentencing. The rule of law requires that all Australians be treated equally where one Australian is in the same position as another. Here the Marriage Act simply recognises that men and women are different and defines “marriage” accordingly. This is not in breach of the rule of law.

The Law Society of NSW president presumably thinks that all the 29,000 members of the legal profession of NSW thinks, or should think, like her. We can expect in the future that to become a member of the Law Society, a person will first need to sign a declaration that he or she supports same-sex marriage without any protection for loss of freedom of speech or loss of religious belief.

No dissent will be allowed.

Robin Speed is President of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia.

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