Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION, August 7, 2017

AN EMERGENCY meeting of the Liberal Party in Canberra today will discuss whether to support a change to the definition of “marriage” to include same-sex couples. 

Marriage in Australia is defined as, “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” Australian marriage law does not recognise any other forms, including traditional Aboriginal unions, same-sex unions, or polygamous unions. However, since 2009 de facto relationships have been recognised including homosexual relationships.

Same-sex couples therefore have the same legal rights as other de facto couples. Many heterosexual couples live together all of their lives as de facto couples, choosing not to marry. If same-sex couples would like to have official ceremonial recognition of their partnership, then another word - not “marriage” - could be devised, and almost all opposition and debate would disappear. Usurping the word “marriage” is deliberately provocative, and unnecessary.

Already we have learnt that Social Security payments go to Muslim polygamous “marriages”. Sooner or later they will demand “marriage equality” and expect the law to recognise their “marriages”. The term “marriage” could soon become meaningless.

Redefining “marriage” is too important for a simple vote in Parliament. Let us recognise this current debate for what it is - an opportunity to test the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull.

Liberal Warren Ensch appears to be leading the current debate. In 2010 he indicated that he did not consider same-sex marriage an important issue. He voted against The Greens 2010 motion for members of the House to poll their constituents on the issue of same-sex marriage and voted against a 2012 bill legalising same-sex marriage that was sponsored by Stephen Jones!

In 2007 Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said, "I have a pretty basic view on this, as reflected in the position adopted by our party, and that is, that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Julia Gillard took this as Labor’s policy to the 2010 election. She allowed the free vote in 2012 mentioned above, which was defeated. She said her personal view opposed same-sex marriage. 

Kevin Rudd, being Kevin Rudd, said he supported same-sex marriage during the 2013 election. The Australian public voted him out. A stable mum-and-dad family is the basis of any sustainable society. It is the means by which children are conceived and cared for, for life. Many young couples simply “live together”, perhaps believing that marriage really doesn’t matter. It does, particularly for the children.

So should we let Members of Parliament have a free vote, and get the matter over and done with?

Take the case of gay WA Labor Senator, Louise Pratt. Wikipedia quotes that she “has a son, born in October 2014, whom she co-parents with her former partner Aram Hosie, a trans man and LGBTIQ community activist alongside WA state Labor MLC Stephen Dawson and his partner Dennis Liddelow, one of whom is the biological father”.

LGBTIQ politicians are as entitled to be elected as anyone else, but I think the average voter would be surprised by the number in parliament. Google LGBTIQ politicians from Australia. It’s a very long list.

We need to insist on a proper compulsory-voting plebiscite. A “postal vote” will only further divide society. Changing the definition of “marriage” is too important to be left to politicians.