On Monday June 25th, representative of the Australian Federal Parliament’s lower house began to debate proposed amendments to the Marriage Act. We know already that members of the Government party, the ALP, will not be held to voting along Party lines and are permitted to vote ‘according to their conscience’. The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott has refused members of the coalition parties similar freedom.
This is not good news for activists who have been lobbying long and hard for the changes, as several of the ALP reps actually support the status quo. So – even if the independents were to vote in favour of the amendments (which is highly unlikely) – the government’s slim majority would not be enough for the amendments to be passed, unless an equal number of Liberal/National party coalition members were in favour, which is also highly unlikely as speeches made to the House from that side of politics make abundantly clear.
The Hon Deborah O’Neill, who holds the seat of Robertson for the ALP, spoke against the proposed changes, citing Terri Kelleher from the Australian Family Association that “it is uncontroversial to insist that the ideal family environment is that in which children are raised by their own mother and father.”
In reifying the ‘ideal’, the AFA and Ms O’Neill ignore the reality that the ideal is simply not sustained by the facts of diverse family structures that already exist on the ground. Ms O’Neill should consult with case workers from the various Departments of Community Services to ascertain a more accurate reading of the facts. It is simply not true that a couple of straight kids who conceive a child are going to make the best parents. Many same-sex couples are conscientiously raising the cast-off children of heterosexuals.
The Hon Bob Baldwin, who holds the seat of Patterson for the Liberal Party also spoke against the proposed amendments and – like several of the naysayers – expressed hurt that he had been labeled as homophobic for his views. Barry Haase (he holds Durack for the Liberal Party), rose to “fiercely defend the status quo”, calling the debate “a waste of time in this place because there are so many other vitally important issues to be debated.”
Alby Schultz (Hume, for the Liberal Party) defended the “sanctity of marriage” averring that “the Bill is about future muzzling of churches, requiring primary and secondary schools and even kindergartens to indoctrinate children that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual lifestyles, as well as having two mothers and two fathers is no different from having a mother and father.”