August 12th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The lessons for euthanasia are there for the learning

EDITORIAL Shorten's agenda will cripple Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED Candidates must polish their paperwork skills

FOREIGN AFFAIRS EU v Poland: disquiet on the eastern front

EUTHANASIA How safe will Victoria's 'locked tin' be?

ASIA-PACIFIC AFFAIRS Pacific likely to focus for Taiwan's Iron Lady

PHILOSOPHY Aristotle and the virtues as products of reason

FEDERAL POLITICS Backbench marriage push angers Coalition colleagues

MUSIC Time and times: Melody is moments gathered for an instant

CINEMA Dunkirk: When survival is victory

BOOK REVIEW Just socialism by another name?

BOOK REVIEW The rightness of goading the left


MARRIAGE The issue, Bill, is transgender marriage

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MARRIAGE The issue, Bill, is transgender marriage

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, August 12, 2017

Following the failure of the Senate to support a plebiscite on marriage, the Federal Government has announced that it will conduct a national ballot on the issue, conducted by the Bureau of Statistics.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those who opposed a plebiscite or referendum on the issue have announced that they will challenge the Government’s decision in the High Court of Australia, to prevent the people having a say. At the time of writing, it was not clear when the matter would come before the court.

The law currently describes marriage as the union of a man and a woman, voluntarily entered into for life.

If the ballot goes ahead, the question on which Australians will be asked to vote is exactly the same one that was to be put to a plebiscite: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

However the plebiscite was to be accompanied by an Exposure Draft Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill which proposed marriage be redefined as the union of “any two people”. Are we to presume the change to the Marriage Act if there were a Yes vote in the ballot would similarly be to redefine marriage as the union of “any two people”? If the exact wording of the proposed amendment to the Marriage Act is not made clear, the Australian people will not know what they are being asked to approve in the ballot.

If the change to the Marriage Act itself, if the ballot is approved, is to redefine marriage as the union of “any two people”, what does marriage between “any two people” mean?

The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department submission to the recent Senate inquiry into the exposure draft same-sex marriage bill spelt it out, saying, it would mean “same-sex couples, and couples including people who are intersex or of a non-binary gender, would be able to marry.” (emphasis added)

What is a person with a “non-binary gender” identity? In 2013, amendments to the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 replaced the definitions of “man” as member of the male sex and “woman” as a member of the female sex, with “gender identity”, which it defined as the “gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the person’s designated sex at birth. Hence, a person can be legally recognised as pangender, gender queer, agender or as one of many other non-binary genders, or on a spectrum of male-to-female, or as genderless.

This defines a person in “transgender” language. This is the underlying principle behind the “Safe Schools” program that, in the guise of anti-bullying, has been used to push transgender ideology to school children, with potentially damaging effects on their psychological and sexual development.

Consequently, redefining marriage to be the union of “two people” can mean marriage of two persons by their legally protected gender identity.

Then, arguably, it will be an offence under the federal Sex Discrimination Act for school authorities to treat transgender marriages “less favourably” than same-sex and hetero­sexual marriages, an offence for teachers not to tell children they can change their gender, and for teachers to refuse boys identifying as girls access to the girls’ showers, change rooms, toilets and sports.

The implications of such a change are profound. When Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous was prosecuted under Tasmania’s Anti-discrimination Act for distributing the Catholic Bishops’ joint statement on marriage, he was able to point out that he was supporting the law of the land.

If the law is changed, will anyone who expresses their view that marriage is, of its nature, the union of a man and a woman, will be at risk of prosecution for discrimination?

Shorten’s vitriol

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament that the Government was proceeding to conduct a postal vote, Bill Shorten subjected him to the most vitriolic attack.

Shorten told Parliament: “Every hateful ideological hobby horse will be saddled up for this vote and it is clear who is responsible.”

He told the Prime Minister: “I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash.”

This is a blatant example of hate speech. The idea that Mr Turnbull – who supports same-sex marriage – would be held responsible for what others might say in the course of a public debate preceding a public vote, is outrageous.

The truth is that Mr Shorten does not want any debate on the issue, and he is emphatically opposed to giving the people of Australia any say on the issue, despite the fact that most Australians want the decision to be made by the people, not by politicians.

Mr Shorten is determined to do everything to discredit the postal vote, giving himself every excuse to ignore the outcome if it goes against him.

The forthcoming poll is shaping as important not only in relation to marriage, but more broadly, in setting the parameters in which freedom of speech and freedom of religion are practised in Australia.

It is only right that the decision should be in the hands of the people.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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