ANDREW HASTIE, Herald Sun
Advocates for the Yes campaign want to limit the debate strictly to the question, do you agree with same-sex marriage?
I can understand why: redefining marriage has far greater implications than just extending marriage to same-sex couples. They don’t want to talk about the impact of the change.
But the reality is that redefining marriage poses serious questions for all Australians. What is a marriage? Why is it such an important social institution? And will redefining it have consequences?
We need to think those questions through before casting our vote. I’ll be voting No. Here is why. Marriage is good, true and beautiful. It is a public and societal good. In its ideal form, it brings a man and woman together in a lifelong exclusive union and provides an optimal setting for the raising of children.
That is why the Commonwealth has a direct interest in the regulation of marriage. It is inherently linked to the welfare of children. The home is where self-government begins and future citizens are grown. All governments are poor substitutes for parents, which is why the Commonwealth has an interest in strong, long-lasting marriages. Children are best raised by their biological parents, in loving, happy homes.
And it’s not just Australians who have practised marriage. It’s been at the heart of civilisation throughout history. It has, of course, been expressed differently through the prism of cultural and religious differences, but it has always been between a man and a woman. It is also not just a religious sacrament — as some people suggest — unique to Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Even pagan cultures practised it.
The Romans and Greeks, who had a flourishing gay culture, always recognised marriage as inherently linked to the continuation of the family and strength of the state.
You don’t have to be religious to see the inherent goodness in the traditional definition of marriage. People across cultures and the ages have also acknowledged the truth, beauty and goodness of traditional marriage.
So, you ask: why is change a bad thing? Like all changes in life, nothing happens in isolation. There are repercussions and consequences with any big changes. It’s simply not true to say there are no consequences.
Consider the legislative consequences. If we redefine marriage, the Attorney-General’s Department has advised that there would be approximately 60 consequential changes across 25 Commonwealth Acts. That’s before we even understand how change would impact state and territory law, particularly as the Marriage Act interacts with anti-discrimination, charity and inheritance law.
There are legislative consequences to redefining marriage, both intended and unintended. The duty of the parliamentarian is to understand the consequences before embarking on significant change.
Consider the impact on marriage, itself. If we remove gender from marriage, we obscure its meaning and purpose. If marriage consists only of two people without reference to gender, the only distinct thing about it is romantic desire. But the Commonwealth is not interested in regulating people’s romantic feelings. Instead, it’s interested in marriage because of its direct link to the long-term welfare and health of children.
So, if we obscure the purpose and meaning of marriage, we can expect marriage participation rates to drop. Look at countries that have legislated for same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. All have seen a drop in participation rates.
Marriage, in its ideal form, brings happiness and stability. We should be strengthening marriage so that people partake of its benefits. Redefining it will make it weaker. And where we have fewer marital unions and increased breakdowns, we are likely to see an increase in the size and scale of the welfare state to care for broken families.
Finally, consider the impact on freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
A brief survey of countries like Canada, the UK and the US that have legislated same-sex marriage yields plenty of examples in which people have been bullied by state and judicial power for holding to a traditional view of marriage.
Parents have lost control of the education of their children in accordance with their moral and religious convictions, as schools have embraced radical programs very similar to the Safe Schools’ Coalition.
If gender is removed from marriage, there’s no good reason why gender should remain fixed in other spheres of life. Here, we’ve already had a glimpse of the future: a stifling political correctness has seen Australians pursued by Twitter lynch-mobs and anti-discrimination complaints because of holding to a traditional definition of marriage.
Think of the Coopers’ beer fiasco, where a polite debate about marriage was suppressed by intolerant thought police. Both the Bible Society and Coopers have removed the short clip from the web because of the outrage.
Think about the Dads4Kids Father’s Day advertisement that was not aired on free-to-air TV because it was deemed too “political”. And think about Dr Pansy Lai, a Sydney GP, who appeared in a No campaign advertisement last week warning of radical sexual and gender diversity education in our schools if same-sex marriage is legislated. GetUp! raised a petition to deregister her as a doctor for expressing her views. She even received a death threat.
There will be much more madness if we redefine marriage, especially because there has been no serious attempt to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion in draft legislation.
There is much at stake. That’s why I’m voting No.
Andrew Hastie is the federal Member for Canning and the chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security