Senator Eric Abetz (Liberal, Tasmania) is opposed to gay marriage in part because it will lead to the slippery slope of recognition of polyamorous relationships:
The Labor Party’s got a clear position about the Marriage Act that is a party position, so you should expect to see the Labor Party voting as a political party, voting in unison if that proposition comes to the parliament.
So spoke the Prime Minister to Radio National on 29 September 2010 in response to the question:
Will you allow a free vote on gay marriage on your side of politics?
So why are we debating this proposition and why is it that Labor has broken yet another promise?
We know why. It is the Green tail yet again wagging the hapless Labor dog. As with the carbon tax, Labor will say one thing and do the exact opposite to placate the Greens. Meanwhile the Greens, anticipating a certain result here, have used their numbers in the Tasmanian parliament to try to effect an outcome there.
It is amazing the way these things are being reported. A federal Labor member has had his branch unanimously condemn his position and his federal electorate council condemn his position. I speak of the Maroubra branch and the Kingsford Smith Federal Electorate Council—Mr Garrett’s seat. That strong stance taken by rank-and-file Labor party members gets no coverage in the media. But an actor who says, ‘I support gay marriage,’ will get the front page of a newspaper to proclaim her particular point of view. It seems that in this debate the media has deliberately cut out certain people.
Some prominence was given to the President of Unions Tasmania, Mr Kevin Harkins, who in effect threatened Labor senators in my home state of Tasmania. He said about Labor senators who might exercise a conscience vote and oppose this bill: ‘They should go and find a job in another state.’ When he drew breath, Mr Harkins told us that this issue is all about tolerance, not in the slightest seeing, let alone being embarrassed by, the hypocrisy in his own intolerance.
My view on this bill is already on the public record by virtue of the speech I gave to the Young Liberals national convention in January this year. I will not therefore repeat all the arguments. It will suffice to direct those who are interested to my website, where that speech is, and to quickly canvass a few issues. Firstly, marriage is not all about love. It is ultimately about the next generation and its socialisation, with the benefit of having, if at all possible, mother and father role models. The social data and studies in this area are simply overwhelming. Children do best with both a mum and dad. Sure, there are circumstances where they are not given that opportunity for a variety of reasons, but we as a society should not embark deliberately on creating situations where that might be the case.
Let me turn to the issue of discrimination, which is so often referred to. Marriage, by its definition and purpose, is highly specific. It has always been heterosexual-specific. That does not make it unequal or discriminatory. To try to make it into something else will change its very definition. The sex of the spouses is determinative of marriage, just as the sex of the person is determinative of motherhood. We blokes can assert discrimination all we like, but—guess what—blokes are not mothers; they never have been and never will be. We could change the definition of motherhood, but then motherhood would no longer mean and be motherhood anymore. Of course, for the record, the same applies to fatherhood. The concepts would then be diminished to something nondescript, such as parenthood, and the important roles of motherhood and fatherhood and their distinct yet complementary roles would be diminished in a sea of meaningless political correctness, to the great detriment of the next generation.
There are many restrictions on marriage: you cannot marry under a certain age, you cannot marry a close relative, you cannot marry a married person, you cannot marry more than one person at a time and, yes, you cannot marry a person of the same sex. If the same-sex disqualification is to be addressed as discriminatory, it begs the question: can it be asserted that the other disqualifications are also inherently discriminatory and indicative of ageism, family phobia or polyamorous phobia? Interestingly, the polyamorous cohort in our community are already celebrating the push for homosexual marriage as they see the breaking of the idea of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual, monogamous institution as their opening to recognition. Don’t say it is not happening, because it has already been in the Australian newspaper. When the Greens put on their website that marriage for all does not actually mean marriage for all, many disgruntled Green members indicated their opposition to that situation. I remind senators that in the country that first initiated homosexual marriage—namely, Holland—we now have, courtesy of the Australian of 10 December 2011, a picture of Victor de Bruijn with his brides Mirjam and Bianca at the Netherlands’ first trio wedding. So don’t say that that is not the next step. I would also invite colleagues to have a close look at the experience in the state of Massachusetts in the United States. It is interesting that in the United States, we are told, there are six states that have legalised homosexual marriage. We are never told that there are in fact 31 states that have specifically outlawed it courtesy of referendums and votes by the people.
Thirdly, let me turn to the assertion of human rights and answer directly that which Senator Faulkner put in his contribution. The Left, which always seems to have recourse to some fantastic interpretation of an obscure international treaty, is strangely silent in quoting treaties in this debate. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deems it necessary to refer to marriage. Why? Because, to quote article 16(3): ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.’ A close examination of the declaration reveals that every single article, apart from article 16, starts with the words ‘everyone’, ‘no-one’ or ‘all’. Article 16 specifically begins with: ‘Men and women’. It distinguishes between the genders—it is the only clause to do so—saying that they have the right to marry and found a family. The meaning and content could not be clearer: marriage is a heterosexual construct and relates to the founding of families. Talking about marrying and founding a family in the same breath, in the same sentence, puts up in lights the universal importance of marriage and the family.
That marriage is between a man and a woman is specifically mentioned in the declaration should not surprise, because marriage has been a fundamental stabilising institution in civilised societies for over 6,000 years. This long-lasting tradition has stood the test of time and for good reason. It has some very cogent rational arguments in its favour. A long-lasting relationship in which children are nurtured, exposing them to the benefits of the unique differences of a father and a mother, provides the best environment in which to raise children. Be it their academic achievements, social skills, individual and social stability, emotional stability, sporting prowess, you name it; the kids from married heterosexual couples win out. Study after study has confirmed this to be the case—yet again, hardly surprising. So to deliberately and unnecessarily deprive a child of the diversity of a mother and a father experience is not in the child’s interests.
Recently, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled emphatically that same-sex marriage is not a human right. Many homosexuals fully agree with this ruling, and to suggest that all homosexuals support this push to change the definition of marriage is simply incorrect. For the sake of our children, I trust common sense will prevail. To change the definition of marriage will have wide and far-reaching ramifications. The experience in the state of Massachusetts is an important cameo, as is the one in Holland to which I have referred previously.
I note many people want to speak on this bill and therefore I have cut my comments this evening to a brief contribution. Suffice to say that for all the reasons outlined in my speech to the Young Liberal movement earlier this year and in my speech this evening, I oppose the bill and encourage all colleagues to reject it, as it would be a highly socially destructive venture if we were to embark upon it.