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2017: Australia:
More about same-sex marriage.
Survey by mail is underway.

Part 26:

2017-JAN to AUG.

gay-marriage symbols 1

According to multiple public opinion surveys, most adults in
Australia favor all the above forms of love and commitment.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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Quotation by "Mark of SA:"

Mark posted a comment to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's web site (ABC) about the effect that same-sex marriage would have on the majority of persons who have a heterosexual or bisexual orientation. If marriage equality arrives in Australia:

"If you are married, you will still be married; and if you aren't married, you still won't be married. If you don't want to marry a homosexual, you won't have to. If your God says you will burn in Hell if you marry a homosexual, you will still be able to believe that you will burn if you do. In fact, you don't even have to like homosexuals (as long as you don't act that out [violently] in contravention to existing laws)."

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2017-JAN-23: Amnesty International Australia made a submission to a Australian Senate inquiry into same-sex marriage:

Amnesty International supported marriage equality in their submission to a cross-party Senate committee chaired by Senator Fawcett. The Committee was called the "Senate Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill." The purpose of the committee was to consider whether to recommend that Parliament resurrect a dormant bill to legalize same-sex marriage across the entire country and vote on it .

Later, in a supplementary submission to that Committee, Amnesty International (AI) discussed a decision that the UN Human Rights Committee had made in 2002 in the case Joslin v New Zealand. The UN body had ruled that New Zealand's refusal to allow same-sex marriages at the time was not a form of discrimination within the meaning of either Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) or Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). AI commented to the Senate committee that:

"Sometimes human rights bodies are reluctant to make decisions too far ahead of the prevailing attitudes and practices of member states." 2

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2017-AUG: Is Australia the last major English-speaking country that has not made same-sex marriage available to its citizens?

According to ABC News (where "A" stands for "Australian"and "C" stands for Commission), this is a common belief:

  • During 2015, Rodney Croome the director of Australian Marriage Equality said that Australia was: "the last developed English-speaking country not to allow same-sex couples to marry,"

  • During 2016, MP (Member of Parliament) Adam Bandt of the Greens Party said: "We are now the only developed, English-speaking country to not have equal marriage laws."

  • During 2017-AUG, MP Andrew Leigh of the Labor Party said: "We're the last advanced English-speaking country not to allow same-sex marriage."

In reality, there are a number of developed English-speaking nations that have yet to legalize gay marriages. They include: Singapore with a population of 6 million, Northern Ireland, and some small island countries in the Caribbean. In Singapore, consensual same-gender sexual activity are still criminalized.

Fact Check, at ABC News determined that:

"... out of 70 countries and self-governing areas that have English as an official language, only fourteen have legalized same-sex marriage. These are Bermuda, Canada, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Malta, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, parts of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Africa, the United States and most of the United Kingdom." 3

The United Kingdom consists of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. All allow same-sex couples to marry except for Northern Ireland.

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2017-AUG: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) organized a mail-in country-wide plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Misinformation/fear campaigns began:

In the recent past, the Government planned to have a compulsory plebiscite of all Australian adults asking whether they favored legalize same-sex marriages. There have been three plebiscites held in the country in the past: Two were in 1916 and 1917 and concerned conscription of soldiers during World War 1; both failed. A third one was held in 1977 to select a national song. "Advance Australia Fair" won and eventually became the national anthem.

After two failed Senate votes to implement the marriage plebiscite, the Government asked the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to conduct a voluntary survey by mail instead. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann expects that the vote will cost AU$122 million which is equivalent to about $97 million U.S. dollars or £75 million.

Australian adults were given two weeks, ending in AUG-24, to register with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), or to change their existing personal data. The AEC received 765,000 requests including 90,000 new registrations.

Sixteen million ballot papers started to be distributed to registered voters on SEP-12. They are requested -- but not required -- to fill them out and return them by NOV-07. Results are scheduled to be released on NOV-25.

The forms will ask Australians a simple, unambiguous question:

"Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

A number of recent polls have indicated that slightly in excess of 60% of Australian adults favor marriage equality. If most adults vote for marriage equality in the survey, then Prime Minister Turnbull has promised to facilitate introduction of a private member's bill in Parliament to legalized same-sex marriage. The bill will then be voted upon my MPs who would be able to vote freely according to their personal beliefs; they would not be required to vote according to either their party's position or the the results of the public survey.

The Australian LGBT community and their allies have long opposed public votes on same-sex marriage. They feared that those in favor of restricting marriage to one woman and one man would engage in hate-filled appeals to preserve the status quo. This can be a life or death matter. In the U.S. surveys showed that the rate of suicide attempts by LGBT youth dropped significantly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in mid-2015. The rate might well increase among the LGBT community in Australia if the plebiscite is accompanied by severe attacks on marriage equality and LGBT rights.

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Such attacks have already started. An anti-LGBT poster has been distributed in Melbourne. It shows two men, each carrying a rainbow colored belt apparently threatening to beat a boy with his head in his arms. The caption reads:

"92% of children raised by Gay Parents are abused. 51% have depression. 72% are obese."

The source of the data was D. Paul Sullins' 8-page article titled "Invisible Victims. Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with same-sex Parents." 4

Kristen Hilton, the Victorian Human Rights Commissioner said the poster was deeply offensive and inaccurate:

"It looks like [this type of message] is set to continue and I think that's a really disturbing trend. I think that people need to call that out and condemn this type of material. Yes, people are entitled to have different views, but in a debate like this it's really important to convey those views respectfully. ..."

"I think it's really important to have an open mind and to question the evidence and the position that is put forward. The most recent review by Columbia Law School earlier this year looked at 79 different studies into the well-being of children with gay or lesbian parents. That [meta-]study, the most comprehensive of its kind, found kids [with LGBTI parents] do as well [as other children] emotionally, educationally and socially. So in the midst of what is a very heated and passionate debate, because it concerns the rights of people and it concerns their right to marry and a right to equality, I think it's really important to keep a very inquiring mind about positions that are put forward." 5

She said that the numbers quoted on the poster have no scientific basis.

It is important to note that:

  • Rev. Sullins' study was based on only 20 adolescents who were in families led by 17 lesbian couples and 3 gay couples.

  • The author is a sociology professor and priest at the Catholic University of America, which sponsored the study. The Church teaches that same-gender sexual attraction is a disordered state and that same-gender sexual behavior is always a violation of both divine and natural law.

  • Nathaniel Frank, recently headed the above mentioned group at Columbia Law School. He identified 79 scholarly studies dealing with the well being of children with gay or lesbian parents and which met their accuracy criteria. They found that 75 studies concluded that such children fare no worse than other children. Writing for Slate, he said that Rev. Sullins' article was:

    "... published in an Egyptian-based open access journal that requires authors to pay for publication, creating a conflict of interest since publishers who ought to perform quality control have a financial incentive to accept papers, regardless of quality. The journal’s publisher has been criticized for a lax peer-review process that isn't even overseen by a real editor."

Webmaster's comment:

I write and update the essays on this web site and am uncertain how a "real editor" is defined.

Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby which opposes same-sex marriage, said that he was "happy to condemn" the poster.

On another occasion, he said that the vote will be a :

“Referendum on freedoms and radical sex education in schools."

During late August, the "Coalition for Marriage," which also opposes marriage equality, released its first TV ad. It is 30 seconds long and features three women expressing concerns. Curiously, they don't criticize same-sex marriage; they criticize an unrelated topic: discussion of transgender children during sex-education classes in primary and secondary schools. One woman said:

"The school told my son he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it."

Another woman said:

"When same-sex marriage passes as law overseas, this type of program becomes widespread and compulsory."

It concludes with a statement:

"In countries with gay marriage, parents have lost their right to choose."

It is unclear on what topic parents lose their choice.

The fear-based ad can be seen at the Australian Christian Lobby's facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ with the curious subtitle: "Removing gender from our marriage laws means removing gender from the classroom."

A spokesperson for a lobby group The Equality Campaign said that the "No Campaign is:"

"... putting up red herrings. They know a majority of Australians back equality, [and] back a fair go for everybody. So they are trying to distract the nation with dishonest claims."

Bill Shorton, head of the Labor Party, which supports same-sex marriages, said that the ad was:

".. offensive and hurtful. This is not freedom of speech. This is freedom to hurt."

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said:

"It is patently ridiculous to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to marry is somehow going to see some new wave of teaching reform sweep across the country." 6

However, Senator Zed Seselja, who opposes marriage equality disagrees. He said that the commercial was an example of freedom of speech. He said:

"These mothers are clearly putting the case that their ability to object to fairly radical sex education in schools and the like will be much harder if you redefine marriage in the Marriage Act."

In reality, there may be an indirect link between marriage equality and transgender concerns, even though they deal with entirely different matters. In mid-2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across the country, those conservative religious groups which had been opposing marriage equality realized that they had lost a two decade fight. They gave up the battle. Looking around for a new target to fight, most decided to switch their efforts away from attacking lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, and started to attack transgender children. So, if same-sex marriage comes to Australia, it is possible that the same transition may happen there as well. Transgender persons, who form only about 0.6% of the population, may become the main target of religious conservatives. Only time will tell if the U.S. experience will be replicated in Australia.

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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. Symbol of a gay marriage, by Pixaline. CC0 Creative Commons Downloaded from https://pixabay.com/
  2. Amnesty International Australia, Submission is downloadable from https://www.amnesty.org.au in PDF format.
  3. " 'Really Significant Step': Consensus report emboldens push for free vote on same-sex marriage," Sydney Morning Herald,. 2017-FEB-15, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  4. "Australia Just Took A Significant Step Towards Marriage Equality," The Huffington Post, 2017-FEB-20, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/
  5. Matthew Wade, "Australian CEOs to send Turnbull a letter urging marriage equality," Star Observer, 2017-MAR-16, at: http://www.starobserver.com.au/
  6. "Australia same-sex marriage vote: 'No' advert draws criticism," BBC News, 2017-AUG-30, at: http://www.bbc.com/

 

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2017-MAR-26
Latest update: 2017-SEP-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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