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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Australia:
Public opinion polls. Proposed bill.
Strategy of the "NO" movement.

Part 29:

Same-sex-marriage 1

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2017-OCT: Public opinion polling results (Continued):

  • OCT-18: Emma Reynolds, writing for News Limited, said:

    "A CLEAR result is looming in the same-sex marriage postal survey, with almost 11 million forms completed and returned. ... The figures have defied the expectations of both opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage, who did not predict such a significant voter turnout in a non-compulsory postal ballot.

The Equality Campaign’s Shirleene Robinson said it showed Australians hadn’t forgotten about LGBTI neighbors. [She said]

'Australians have recognized how important this issue is to their family, friends and colleagues and are doubling down to ensure that when this campaign is over we are left with the fair, equitable and inclusive country that we all want'." 2

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Opposition to the wording of the proposed bill:

Liberal Member of Parliament, Kevin Andrew opposes marriage equality. He is concerned about the wording of the proposed bill that was written by Dean Smith. Andrew agrees with former PM John Howard that it lacks guarantees that would protect the right of individuals to discriminate against the LGBT community on religious grounds. Andrew said:

"It certainly doesn't go anywhere near the gold standard, which is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [1966] ... Any bill that is put to the parliament -- should there be a yes vote -- is one that protects freedom of religion, speech and parental rights. ... At the moment those things are not protected in the draft bill."

Article 18 of the International Covenant states:

"1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions." 3

We assume that MP Kevin Andrew is concerned that if marriage equality becomes the law of the land, that clergy may be required to marry same-sex couples, and that county clerks will be required to issue marriage licenses to such couples.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had said in mid-September:

"I just want to reassure Australians that as strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, even more strongly, if you like, do I believe in religious freedom. Religious freedom is fundamental and it will be protected in any bill that emerges from this Parliament."

He also said that there was a very broad consensus in Parliament that any bill would prevent clergy from being forced to solemnize same-sex marriages. 4

However, some persons who oppose marriage equality want to see a guarantee that schools being operated by some religious organizations will be able to teach their belief that same-sex couples must never marry, even if such marriages become legally available.

Guy Barnett is the Minister for Resources, Building and Construction, and Acting Minister for Corrections. He gave a speech to a group of members of the Coalition For Marriage about the "consequences and casualties" that would result if marriage equality was attained. He was concerned that schools would be required to teach about human sexuality as experienced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons. He noted that in Victoria the "Safe Schools program" has promoted gender fluidity. He said:

"Some of you in the room may not be aware or familiar with those terms. Well, be prepared, it's about to unleash on you and on us, as a community. Gender fluidity, gender neutrality. This is a new world we're about to enter."

Note on being transgenderism and and gender fluid:

About 0.6% of adults are transgender. Their gender identity -- as currently perceived by their brain -- is different from their birth-identified gender. Religious and social conservatives typically believe that this is caused by "gender confusion," and recommend therapy and prayer. However, religious and social liberals typically accept the findings of researchers who have found internal brain structures that come in two forms: male and female. They differ in size and neuron density. Research has shown that a transgender female -- a person identified as a male at birth who now identifies as female -- has female brain structures and male genital structures, & vice-versa.

A minority of this 0.6% are "gender fluid:" That is, sometimes they will feel female or mostly female, and sometimes male, or mostly male.

Karen Dixon, from Coalition for Marriage, said that the push for marriage equality:

"... is not just a simple matter of can two people of the same gender get married. It's being reported as that. The consequences are diabolical, they are far-reaching and they are long-lasting. Once you make changes to marriage you're changing the way that a family unit is structured ... once you legalize something, then you make it okay, you make it right, you make it good." 5

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Strategy of the "NO" movement:

David Marr, of The Guardian's Australian news section, suggests that Australia's conservative religious leaders who are opposing to same-sex marriage have:

"... contempt for homosexuality. Yet that’s been kept under wraps in the equal marriage debate. Sin and damnation have figured little in the arguments of the last months. The deliberate strategy of the no campaigners has been to muffle their profound hostility to the LGBTQI whose lives are in question here." 6

Oscar Wilde made a famous reference at his trial to same-gender sexual behavior as: "The love that dare not speak its name." David Marr:

"... turns Oscar on his head: [For the NO campaigners,] it's the hate that dare not speak its name."

A prominent gay-rights/equality leader in Australia, Rodney Croome, says that religious leaders who oppose marriage equality are engaging in a theological dance, which is a strategy invented in the U.S. It involves the promotion of:

"... a positive vision of the universe based on the idea of a divinely ordained complementarity between the sexes into which homosexuality doesn’t fit and same-sex marriage fundamentally threatens. It has no roots here. I have never seen this as part of a gay rights debate in Australia before." 6

The concept of sexual complementarity is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible's passages on marriage. In biblical times, the Hebrew religion allowed men to marry one or more women. Solomon was the record holding polygamist, with 700 wives and 300 concubines. But there was no provision for same-sex marriage involving gays, lesbians, and/or bisexuals. Many conservative Christians today interpret ancient Hebrew passages about marriage as being God's eternal word on the subject, not subject to a subsequent creation of an additional marriage type like same-sex marriage.

And so, they are not talking about God automatically sending all gays and lesbians to Hell. They are emphasizing their belief that same-sex marriage threatens opposite-sex marriages, and religious freedom. They would damage the emotional health of children raised in those marriages. They would cause same-gender sexual activity and the existence of transgender people to be taught to young children in schools.

Lyle Shelton, head of the Australian Christian Lobby and a main leader of the no campaign, said:

"Our advocacy for a no vote in this campaign is not about coercing others to conform to a Christian world view but to ensure that Christians themselves are permitted to hold one."

There is some evidence that the stance taken by the religious leaders of the "NO" campaign are not supported by rank and file Christians in Australia. 7 A Galaxy Research poll in mid-2017 of 1,000 Australian adults who identify as Christians found that:

  • A majority of 54% supported marriage equality.

  • 49% like the present law that prohibits civil marriage celebrants and public accommodations from refusing their services to same-sex couples based on religious or conscience grounds. [A public accommodation is a company that provides goods and/or services to the general public.] There have been many conflicts in the U.S. involving public accommodations -- like florists, wedding cake bakers, wedding venues, etc. -- who want the religious freedom to be violate state laws and municipal ordinances, in order to discriminate against same-sex couples, and perhaps any other potential customers that they don't want to deal with. A case involving a wedding cake baker in Colorado is testing the constitutionality of his state's human rights legislation in a legal action that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • 61% disapprove of conservative religious groups promoting their beliefs against marriage equality as if they are speaking for all Australian Christians.

  • 77% feel that Parliament should hold a free vote on marriage equality quickly. 86% of millennials (18 to 34 years of age) agree. 7

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Image of a same-sex marriage, by "BhaktiCreative." CC0 Creative Commons Downloaded from
  2. Emma Reynolds, "Poll shows Australians have overwhelmingly voted yes,", 2017-OCT-28, at:
  3. "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," United Nations, 1966-DEC, downloadable at:
  4. Louise Yaxley, "SSM survey: Malcolm Turnbull says churches free to marry who they want, despite John Howard criticism," ABC News, 2017-SEP-15, at:
  5. Aneeta Bhole, "'Gay sex' will be taught in school if SSM vote passes, minister warns," ABC News, 2017-SEP-14, at:
  6. David Marr, "In the same-sex marriage vote, the bishops have soft-pedaled on sin, "The Guardian, 2017-OCT-20, at:
  7. , "Most Christians in Australia support marriage equality and want a free vote," The Guardian, 2017-JUL-21, at:
  8. Emma Teitel, "Gay-marriage win for Australia compromises gay rights worldwide," Toronto Star, 2017-NOV-15, at:

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-NOV-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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