October 7th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

by Dr Augusto Zimmermann

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

Since same-sex marriage is a contentious issue that the Federal Government wishes the Australian people to decide, there should be a fair and reasonable debate about whether it should be legalised. Unfortunately, however, it appears that everyone who supports the traditional definition of marriage is being called a “bigot” and a “homophobe”. Labor leader Bill Shorten angrily calls them “haters”. This is despite the fact that the law at present states that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Although supporters of same-sex marriage claimed a debate on the topic would unleash the haters, supporters for traditional marriage have managed to keep the tone rational, civilised and polite in general. By contrast, says Tom Switzer, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, “anyone who tries to defend traditional marriage – or even highlights the risks that the campaign poses to religious freedom – is instantly treated with shock and distaste”.

There have been several reports about violence and intimidation. Only a week ago, Sydney University students who tried to hold a stall on campus to promote the “No” campaign were attacked by activists who called them “Nazis” and threw glitter and condoms at them, took their food, and even physically assaulted them.

The event involved around 25 Christian students and the point of their campaign was to say “it’s OK to disagree and it’s OK to agree”. At least one student was kicked in the shins as he resisted repeated attempts to steal his “It’s OK to vote ‘No’” sign. The attacker was led away from the protest by police but has not been charged. Rather, a police spokeswoman said no formal arrests are to be made.

According to journalist Miranda Devine, videos show those students being “subject to vilification, intimidation and threats because of views they hold on [marriage] survey or in religious conviction”, as defined by emergency legislation rushed through Parliament two weeks ago. Despite the recent legislation, “Attorney-General George Brandis’ office did not respond to questions … about whether the legislation should apply” to that instance of anti-Christian bigotry. So it seems that the legislation cannot be applied against the more radical supporters of same-sex marriage.

These threats of violence have already forced Christian groups to cancel their meetings. In September last year, a meeting by four major Christian organisations (Sydney Anglicans, the Sydney Catholics, Marriage Alliance and the Australian Christian Lobby) at the Mercure Hotel at Sydney Airport had to be cancelled “after a social media storm trigged phone calls that ‘rattled’ employers and left the [hotel] concerned about the safety of staff and guests” (David Crowe, “Marriage event off: Threats to hotel staff”, The Weekend Australian, September 17–18, 2016).

These groups simply wished to discuss the campaign to oppose any change to the Marriage Act. This was the mildest of meetings, but same-sex marriage activists phoned the hotel and intimidated staff, including making physical threats. The hotel administration confirmed the threats were real and shut down its Facebook page after more than 160 people left “1 star reviews”. Ironically, the ACCOR Group, which runs the Mercure Hotel, is a corporate supporter of a homosexual group lobbying for change in the definition of marriage.

Similarly, last month another Christian meeting had to be cancelled due to threats of violence. Unware of what was happening, a driver going into St Michael’s Church in Brisbane certainly didn’t expect to be received by an angry mob of same-sex marriage activists who swarmed around his car in an attempt to stop it. Police cleared a path for him but such activists claimed that cars were used as weapons by “No” campaigners. As The Australian later reported, Queensland police said “there was no record of any cars hurtling towards protesters, nor any other assault or injury”.

So it seems that some same-sex marriage activists actually believe that anyone who does not entirely support their cause is to be hated, humiliated and intimidated. Anyone who has heard of any of these instances must surely think “so much for tolerance”. What further events will the same-sex activists close down? As Tom Switzer points out, “what is really disturbing is that these campaigns are justified in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’”.

So here lies a fundamental question. Is the push for legalisation of same-sex marriage really founded in authentic tolerance? Surely the same-sex marriage lobby has revealed itself to be considerably intolerant.

Christian commentator Bill Muehlenberg points out the irony: “The group that shouts the most about tolerance is the least tolerant … The group that shouts the most about bigotry is the most bigoted … The group that shouts the most about hate is the most hateful.” Given the latest developments, it is hard not to agree with him.

Dr Augusto Zimmermann LLB, LLM, PhD (Mon.) is President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA). He is also Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney campus); Former Commissioner, Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017)); Former Associate Dean for Research (2010-2013) and Director of Post Graduate Research, Murdoch University School of Law.

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