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Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014
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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Thursday, 21 August 2014)
Senator JACINTA COLLINS
CHAIR (Senator Ian Macdonald)
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator JACINTA COLLINS
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
- Mr Mulcahy
Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 21/08/2014 - Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014
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BENSON, Reverend Rod, Public Issues Consultant, Australian Baptist Ministries
COMBRIDGE, Reverend Daniel, Presbyterian Church of Australia
JOBBERNS, Reverend Keith, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
JOSEPH, Miss Mary, Research and Project Officer, Life, Marriage and Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
MENEY, Mr Christopher, Director, Life, Marriage and Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
MIDDLETON, Reverend Darren, Convener, Church and Nation Committee, Presbyterian Church of Australia
SHELTON, Mr Lyle, Managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby
CHAIR: Welcome, Miss Joseph, and gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming along. I apologise for keeping you later than the appointed time of 2.15. Because we are running a bit late, unfortunately, Senator Hanson-Young has to leave around three o'clock to catch a plane. I should indicate an apology from Senator Collins, who was with us but whose husband is not well and she has had to be there rather than here.
Having said all that, I do not think you were here when I gave these long advices of what this hearing is all about. As you are aware, it is an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee into the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill. It is deemed to be a proceeding of parliament, so parliamentary privilege applies. If, for any reason, there is anything that you want to deal with in camera, you can ask about that at the relevant time and we can perhaps do that if it is required.
When you are first speaking—and there are a large number of us here—would you just make sure for Hansard that you indicate who you are, particularly the first time, and perhaps it would be useful at other times as well, just recognising that, to get it right, Hansard needs to know who is saying what at the right time. When you speak for the first time you might indicate who you are and in what capacity you are here.
We have your written submissions, which are, respectively submission Nos 9, 7, 23 and 8. First of all I would like to ask if anyone wants to correct or amend any of the written submissions. If not, I invite all or any of you to give an opening statement—hopefully, relatively briefly, so there is some time for us to ask questions.
Mr Meney : I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to contribute to the inquiry and to acknowledge, of course, there are people of goodwill on both sides in relation to the issue of marriage. But we believe that this particular bill would make for very bad law. We challenge the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014 on the following grounds. The meaning of 'marriage' continues to endure as the union of a man and a woman entered into for life and open to the possibility of children. The reason the state has recognised marriage and distinguishes it from other types of relationships is because of this unique capacity to generate children and to meet children's deepest need for love, attachment and nurturing by both their father and mother. The bill directly conflicts with section 51 of the Marriage Act. The vast majority of the world's nations share our understanding of 'marriage' as that of the union of a man and a woman entered into for life and open to the possibility of children. It is not unjust discrimination to uphold the law on marriage. The bill is an attempt to circumvent the democratic process. The bill opens up the very real possibility of future demands for the recognition of a variety of alternative unions as marriages in the future. The bill is incompatible with human rights law regarding marriage. The bill fails to serve the common good in the interests of children. We believe that it is an unacceptable undermining of the Marriage Act and the meaning of marriage for the community. We believe the bill reflects a failure to appreciate the social dimension of marriage and to understand why the law must reflect and apply a single definition of 'marriage', given the enormity of the importance of marriage to children, culture and the society. For these reasons, which are expounded upon in our submission to the committee, we believe the committee has a responsibility to reject the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014. Thank you.
CHAIR: Miss Joseph, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Miss Joseph : No, I am fine, thank you.
CHAIR: Reverend Benson?
Rev. Benson : Yes. In one sense, this is not a very significant bill, but because it relates to marriage, which is of significance to the church and to the wider community for various reasons, we do regard it as relevant to have made a submission, and it is a submission No. 8. We make a number of points, mostly that, in our view, the bill seems to be a smokescreen for same-sex marriage by stealth. If this bill is passed then it suggests to me at least that if another bill was to come to the Australian parliament for same-sex marriage in Australian states and territories then it would be easier for that case to be made.
CHAIR: There is no need to elaborate on that, because both the proposer of the bill and certain people speaking spoke of it, clearly acknowledge—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is not a smokescreen; it is way over there!
CHAIR: Yes, it is there, so we accept that argument. It is one that everybody accepts, so there is no need to elaborate on that.
Rev. Benson : I would endorse what has been said by Mr Meney in this session on the common understanding of marriage—marriage being a benefit for the common good not simply for particular groups in Australian society. I draw attention to the fourth paragraph on page 3 of our submission.
The conventions of marriage are deeply embedded in human history and culture. Those who oppose same sex marriage do so because they respect the wisdom of hundreds of generations of human tradition, and care about the common good of future generations. As Sydney University Law Professor Patrick Parkinson has pointed out, 'The question really is whether we value marriage enough to preserve its cultural meaning and distinctiveness.'
It seems to me and to those representing Australian Baptist Ministries that this bill and other bills of a similar nature seek to undermine either intentionally or otherwise the understood cultural meaning and distinctiveness of the institution of marriage, which is not a Christian or a religious institution but a social institution backed up by hundreds of generations of tradition—something very important for the common good of this generation and of future generations.
CHAIR: Reverend Jobberns?
Rev. Jobberns : No, my colleague has spoken there.
Rev. Middleton : Firstly, I would like to thank senators for the opportunity to address you. I will try to be brief and make a summation of our submission. In view of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the current bill does not serve the best interests of children but is oriented towards the best interests of some adults. In revising marriage, we are revising and re-weighting the rights of adults and children, and in fact inversing historical and legal hierarchy, that traditionally has said that the best interests of the child should be paramount. We consider that to be the primary consideration with this bill and all related bills to do with marriage. That is our major concern.
We stated in our submission that the bill undermines the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration. Moreover, article 7 states, 'As far as possible, children should have the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Article 9, 'The child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except where that occurs through relevant authorities ameliorated by the primary consideration of the best interests of the child.'
I realise this bill recognises foreign marriages, but this is a trajectory we are on and it is appropriate to have a wider debate. Homosexual marriages by design will separate a child from one or both of the natural parents. That is an inevitable outcome. When there are rights there are always corresponding duties. If the states enlarge the lines around what is a relationship they recognise as marriage, with that right will come corresponding duties which will have implications for children. We noted in our submission that both state and federal governments in recent years have apologised for forced adoptions, the stolen generation. We believe it could easily be an unintended outcome of a movement away from traditional marriage. Not to mention that we think that both there is this complementary nature of a male and a female, particularly a mother and a father, that should not be easily discarded for the rearing of children.
In addition to that, we have concerns about the effects on children. This bill presupposes a definition of marriage that is obviously incompatible with our current laws. It seems to us that it would make more sense if we addressed the first issue—what is marriage?—and then this would naturally be a corollary that would follow. It seems to me, just by way of process and logic, that this is back to front. Define marriage first, or redefine marriage; then this would naturally follow. But this way we will have this inconsistency and incongruity. You will have some people in our society who have recognition—for example, homosexual couples or polygamous partners—but other Australians who will not. There will be an obvious inequality.
While the talk around this has been about equality—and I do not quite accept that—even if that were true, this creates other inequalities because, as soon as you pass that, you are going to have a bunch of people in Australia who might want to have polygamous marriages that will not be allowed to be married. You will have people who perhaps are of homosexual orientation who would like to be married but will not be able to be married. So I am not quite sure that it does address its stated issue of equality. Moreover, I think the current definition of marriage, which is a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life, is very close to the biblical definition. I realise that may not be its intention, but I think history would say that has been the controlling factor. Jesus said in Matthew 19:
… a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore god has joined together, let no man separate.
I will close with this idea. But both Christ and the state have drawn lines around what sort of relationship is a marriage—we have already defined that—and what sort of relationships are not a marriage. I think what we have done by recognising that you require a male and a female is because, in that bodily union becoming one flesh, it is naturally correlated to the production of children. That is the primary interest of the state. The primary interest of the state in marriage is that it is concerned for the next generation of Australians. The state is concerned with that because it believes that it has the duty to children to protect them and to provide them with the best environment. That is not to say that people in other environments do not love their children or do not even have good outcomes. It is simply saying: what is the best environment? We believe the best environment is a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Thank you.
CHAIR: Thanks very much, Reverend Middleton. Reverend Combridge?
Rev. Combridge : I have nothing further to add.
CHAIR: Mr Shelton?
Mr Shelton : Thank you, Chair, and thank you, senators, for the opportunity. Now that it is all out in the open, I guess, the Recognition of Foreign Same-Sex Marriages Bill is an attempt to further pressure parliamentarians into supporting the same-sex political agenda to change the definition of marriage. There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples, and that is as it should be. But for some reason it is important to some political campaigners to see marriage change from what it is to something else, and in doing so they dismiss concerns about the many consequences that flow from such a change in the legal definition of marriage.
This issue continues to be privileged, with extraordinary amounts of parliamentary time and public resources devoted to it. A bill to recognise foreign same-sex marriages was defeated in the Senate just last year. There have been at least 11 attempts at state or territory level to legislate a new definition of marriage. All have failed. A House of Representatives committee in 2012 declined to support same-sex marriage. There have been three Senate inquiries since 2010. There have been numerous state parliamentary inquiries in the past two years, all followed by votes opposing changing the definition of marriage. The exception was the ACT Legislative Assembly, where nine people voted to set a precedent for the nation, which was obviously later overturned by the High Court as unconstitutional. ACL, in approaching this inquiry, facilitated 42,000 signatures on a submission to this inquiry. There is plenty of grassroots concern about moves to change the definition of marriage.
Such is the politically correct orthodoxy surrounding this issue, few people are willing to stand publicly against the political agenda it represents. No-one wants to be accused of prejudice, but this unfortunately is what Australian Marriage Equality asserts is the basis of opposing their political objectives—I would point you to page eight of their supplementary submission. This of course is deeply offensive to Muslims, to Christians, to Jews and to countless other Australians of no religion or nominal religion, who will always believe the truth about marriage and will want to teach it to their children.
We do not have fear or hate in our hearts. We simply have a view about marriage that we wish to see upheld in public policy. We want to uphold this through the institutions of civil society, such as schools, charities and churches—institutions that we create and participate in.
The recent Crosby Textor poll, which has been commented on at length today, misleads people, if I can say so respectfully, by framing the questions as if no-one but the same-sex couple would be affected, and that there would be no impact on religious freedom. On page 11 of our submission we refer to the wording of the Crosby Textor poll.
Our submission also references the florist in Washington state, the photographer in New Mexico and the baker in Colorado, who have all faced or are currently facing serious legal sanctions because of their conscientious objection into participating in same-sex weddings—and there are many more.
When the ACT was legislating last year, the Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, wrote to me to confirm that this was not just an 'only in America' scenario, but that business people who exercised their conscience in declining to participate in a same-sex wedding would be in breach of the ACT anti-discrimination act. I am happy to provide the committee with a copy of this letter. I have marked the relevant point on the second page. It is also quoted in our submission, for those who might have read our submission. Australians do not want to see their fellow citizens being fined or perhaps even jailed for acting on their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
A child such as baby Rhyley, lying in a Thai hospital ward, featured on page three of yesterday’s The Age, is also affected by same-sex marriage ideology. He is denied both his surrogate mother and his biological mother because the rights of two men to acquire a baby are allowed to trump the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child, which says that all children have the right to be raised, wherever possible, by their biological parents. Sure, James and Steve are capable of showing Rhyley love, and I am sure they will. But neither can be his mum.
Marriage is not just about the emotional needs of adults. The definition of marriage references a biological reality that helps protect the rights of children. That is why governments regulate marriage. Governments have no interest in other forms of romantic relationships. They are simply none of our business. Rhyley is denied his human right to a mother not because of tragedy or desertion but because of a deliberate social engineering decision taken by two men. We have to ask ourselves whether this is ethical. We have to ask ourselves if we want a new definition of marriage to set these practices in cultural cement. The law is of course a teacher.
Our submission references other polling showing that 73 per cent of Australians believe a child should be raised, wherever possible, by a mum and a dad. We can not have it both ways. There is cognitive dissonance in the debate in this country at the moment. I think we desperately need a mature debate about this. On the one hand people say yes to same-sex marriage and on the other hand they say a kid should have a mum and a dad, yet this is hardly even discussed in the debate we have had over the last few years. If we think removing children from their biological parents is fine, then go for same-sex marriage.
'Marriage equality' is a slogan whose meaning should be unpacked. If equality is the principle, how can we deny other definitions of marriage already recognised legally by other foreign jurisdictions? What makes the gay lobby’s definition morally superior to those defined legally in other jurisdictions and cultures? One of the many overseas examples of the legal harassment of dissenters to same-sex marriage is the story of Washington florist Baronelle Stutzman, who is being sued by the state attorney-general. She has been referenced today. I table her story in a seven minute electronic video presentation. With your permission, Chair, I would like to distribute these to the committee members. I challenge anyone to watch her story and continue to uphold the idea that legislating a new definition of marriage has no consequences for freedom. Clearly it does. I challenge anyone who thinks there are no consequences to changing the definition of marriage to look a child in the eye and tell her she is not allowed to be raised by her biological mother or father.
Finally, there has been reference to the Hague convention today and also reference to slippery slopes and the like. When the convention was being debated in the Australian Senate, the slippery slope argument was raised. The then foreign affairs minister, Gareth Evans, made it very clear that this was not a pathway towards recognising homosexual marriage. That was even being speculated about in the press as far back as 1985. I am very happy to table also Senator Evans' words. Thank you very much Chair and thank you, Senators.
CHAIR: I acknowledge that Senator Hanson-Young has to go to catch a plane but wanted to stay until the end of all the speeches.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Obviously I am the proposer of this bill so you know where I stand. The most important thing in this debate, and I have seen many of you across this table on various occasions, is I think the level of debate is becoming more respectful. That is what I wanted to raise with you because I have been doing this for a long time and I think we are becoming more concise on both sides about what it is that we care about and what it is that the law should and should not cover. I wanted to thank you for participating in a good-natured way.
Unidentified speaker: That is very good of you.
CHAIR: A couple of you have mentioned the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am not sure how many of you were here to hear the previous evidence. Can you reiterate or repeat in which way you say this proposal—
Mr Shelton : The proposition of same-sex marriage, in my view, breaches the rights of the child, which says that a child has the right wherever possible to be raised by their mother and father. That is not the exact wording. I believe it is in our submission. Reverend Middleton quoted it exactly. Unfortunately , the previous witnesses were quoting a little bit selectively . They did not mention clause, but it is a key clause.
CHAIR: A child of a divorced couple does not have the right to be with their biological mother and father. Could you not equate that to this?
Mr Shelton : Not at all because this is a statement of aspiration that, all things being equal, wherever possible a child—obviously not in an abusive situation and the like. Of course, that is accepted. As a basic human right, a child has the right to at least start life and wherever possible be raised by a mother and a father.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I will have a look at her story but can you tell me—I do not know her story in full—is her objection a religious objection?
Mr Shelton : Yes, it is. It is a matter of conscience. You will see on the seven-minute clip that the homosexual couple were clients of her florist business from many years. She was friends with one of them. She provided flowers to them.
Senator CAROL BROWN: She provided services to them for other events?
Mr Shelton : Yes, for anniversaries, birthdays and the like, but when it came to the wedding she felt that was a line she had to draw, that she could not participate in same-sex marriage. For reasons of conscience, she declined to provide that service and then was quite shocked when the state Attorney-General stepped in and instigated the first action against her. That has been since followed by the American Civil Liberties Union and then the couple themselves, as I understand it.
Senator CAROL BROWN: In Australia, if someone did not want to provide a service outside marriage ceremonies, there is already legislation about discrimination.
Mr Shelton : That is right and that is the significance of the letter from Simon Corbell—
Senator CAROL BROWN: I read that.
Mr Shelton : And also the previous witnesses, the lawyers Rockow and Brohier, were making the point that this flows through antidiscrimination legislation, and Simon Corbell bears that out. So there is a big threat to freedom of belief and freedom of conscience that flows as a result of a change in the legal definition of marriage. And I must say that this is of major concern to the Christian constituency in this nation. People are well aware of this, and becoming even more aware, as we see members of the same-sex lobby continually chipping away at the protections for religious freedom that exist in antidiscrimination law—Christian schools being able to hire staff who share their ethos, aged-care providers being able to keep that sort of ethos in their Christian aged-care homes et cetera.
CHAIR: There was a case mentioned by some of the lawyers, which was about accommodation at a youth camp, which is currently before the High Court.
Mr Shelton : I think they are seeking leave to go before the High Court. It is not quite there yet.
CHAIR: I guess you would be very concerned if any of your establishments were required to deal with an issue you had a strong philosophical and religious objection to.
Mr Shelton : Yes, I think that is a major concern. This is happening now, even in the absence of same-sex marriage legislation. I think it would be quite reasonable to assume that, should the legal definition of marriage be changed, that would have effects even more far reaching than what we are seeing now.
CHAIR: You spoke about a poll. There are polls and there are polls. As politicians, we are very well aware of them—and it depends on the questions, who is asking them and who commissioned the poll. The only poll we ever take any notice of is the one that says we are ahead in the electoral» race.
Mr Shelton : That poll has been widely ventilated and it has had a lot of media coverage. The wording is quoted in our submission, but I will paraphrase it. It says: 'Given that same-sex marriage affects no-one other than the couple, do you support it?' I would support it on that basis. But I think we have demonstrated that this is not just about a couple; this has massive societal consequences for freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the rights of the child.
CHAIR: I think those points have been made but, as I say, polls are polls.
Rev. Middleton : Chair, you asked a question earlier about the United Nations articles. Article 9 says:
1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.
So, even where separation may occur, the controlling issue is: what is the best interest of a child? And I guess that has been much of the concern of our own submissions.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Are you aware of the literature review prepared for the Australian Psychological Society in 2007? It has been referenced in one of the submissions—I cannot tell you which one. It found that the research indicates that 'the parenting practices and children's outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents despite the reality that significant legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families'. How would you respond to research such as this which shows that children in the care of two parents of the same sex have at least the same health and welfare outcomes as children raised by parents of opposite sex?
Miss Joseph : I am aware of that review. A number of problems with the literature on children raised by same-sex couples have been identified by a number of researchers. The Regnerus study, which we cite in our submission, looked at a quite a lot of data on this, under the new family structures study, with a large number of families in the US. Professor Regnerus found that there were definitely significant differences between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by their biological mother and father. He cites a number of other reports which detail this quite strongly, such as Professor Patrick Parkinson's 2011 report 'For kids' sake'.
Senator CAROL BROWN: We spoke about that this morning.
Miss Joseph : Yes, that is a very good study. More generally, there are significant problems with the literature on children raised by same-sex couples. One problem is that they lack longitudinal research—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Are you now talking about the review that was prepared for the Australian Psychological Society?
Miss Joseph : That is right—the study cited by the APA review. They have significant limitations, such as that they have not studied the children over a long enough period of time to be able to draw really solid conclusions. They also often suffer from a lack of randomisation. Because the number of children is relatively small it is very difficult to randomise. So they rely on self-selection; they recruit families into the study, and parents opt into the study. They are recruited in various ways. It is not controlled, so that does mean that the validity of those findings has to be questioned somewhat. And that has been noted by a number of prominent researchers, such as Professor Judith Stacey, who is very pro same-sex parenting. She herself acknowledges in her work that there are no randomised controlled studies of the children raised by same-sex parents, that research is not available.
We do know further from research that was done on adult children of divorce that the long-term effects of growing up without a relationship with your biological mother or father can sometimes only be fully manifested in adulthood, especially when those children reach the age of forming relationships and starting to have children of their own. The fullness and enormity of that loss becomes clear at that point.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Surely children from divorced parents are different from the children of same-sex couples, Coming from a family that has, unfortunately, split, there are all sorts of reasons why children may carry those issues.
Miss Joseph : Where they are similar is that the child experiences a loss of that day-to-day relationship with the biological parent. The implications of that loss, the research suggests, are often only fully seen as the child reaches adulthood. That is why it is important, when we look at this literature, to keep in mind that the long-term data is not there yet.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I have not read this research, so I would be interested to have a look at it. It was put to the committee that, in Professor Parkinson's work, the best outcomes were for children in stable, caring relationships regardless of whether they are man and woman or same-sex couples.
Miss Joseph : I think it is always better for children to have stability. We certainly do not say that it is not possible for children to receive love and nurturing in those relationships and those family structures. But the evidence, looked at as a whole, very strongly suggests that having that relationship with a biological mother and father and being able to be nurtured by those two people in your own home is very strongly associated with positive outcomes for children, and where children do not get to have that relationship with one or the other of those parents, that is a significant loss to that child. Unfortunately, there are many situations in life where that happens; families break down, and that is very sad. But when we are looking at changing the definition of marriage we need to be concerned that we do not deliberately create a situation where children brought into this world are being denied that chance from the very beginning.
Senator CAROL BROWN: But even where the children have a mother and father they are not always married. You are not separating them from married couples?
Miss Joseph : No. Of course it is always good for a child to be with their biological mother and father, but we would say marriage strengthens the relationship and bonds the couple together in a way that—
Senator CAROL BROWN: That is probably why same-sex couples are so determined to advocate for themselves.
CHAIR: I think Miss Joseph meant marriage in the traditional sense.
Miss Joseph : I can understand that desire, but we would say that marriage between a man and a woman exists for the common good, for the good of children, because that relationship naturally tends to produce children.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand your position. But are you saying that, because there is not enough evidence and research into children reared by same-sex couples, the jury is out on that?
Miss Joseph : If you look at the social science standards, the generally accepted standards for this kind of research, it is acknowledged even by those who are very affirming of same-sex parenting that the current research does not meet that level of randomised controlled trials that would be required to produce really good evidence in favour of children being raised in that family structure.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Nor is there evidence to say that they are not.
Miss Joseph : I would argue that there is evidence that children do suffer from the loss of a relationship with a biological mother or father; and, unfortunately, being raised within a same-sex family structure does involve that loss.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you, Miss Joseph; I appreciate your evidence.
Rev. Middleton : I think as a society we have acknowledged that the biological parents do matter. Victims of the stolen generation were, in the main, placed in loving homes. It was not the love that was the egregious error; it was the removal from the biological setting—and it is the same with the victims of forced adoptions.
CHAIR: I am aware of a situation where a child has a relationship with both the biological mother and father and in fact lives with the biological mother but regularly visits the biological father and his male partner. Does that still maintain the relationship between the biological mother and father?
Mr Meney : Different circumstances evolve in different family relationships; there is no doubt about that. But what we are talking about is: what are we trying to do in terms of the societal norm around marriage? We know that marriages break down. We know that there is infidelity. We know that there is a lot of messiness in human lives. But we still believe that there is something of value in marriage that we think should be protected as a societal consensus and understanding of what marriage means. If we start to kick away selectively at certain things associated with marriage, it is very difficult to say what things will stay and what things will not. We know that things like fidelity and permanence are under pressure. If we start to say that there is no inherent need to even consider procreation at any level whatsoever—that it does not really matter, that it is just any two people—that seems quite an arbitrary basis on which to construct a societal consensus around marriage.
CHAIR: I accept that. It was a comment made about the relationship between the biological mother and father. Relationship is there, in the instance I relate, but in a different sort of way.
Rev. Middleton : If I could add to that, the biological link is important, and that has certainly been reflected in all the comments being made about adoptions, forced adoptions, the stolen generation. But there is also a sociological level, and maybe that is so obvious that we do not pay a lot of attention to it. I have seven children so I have a little bit of experience in this area.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am one of 13.
Rev. Middleton : My parents were from families of 13 and 11, and we are Presbyterians, not even Catholics, so we did better than some Catholics.
CHAIR: That is a discriminatory comment!
Rev. Middleton : I would take that as a bit of loving fun! There is a sociological reality. We have these debates where it is as if we are saying that men do not matter to a relationship, or a mother or a father do not matter, that all that «matters is love. I say that love is important and I know, and you would acknowledge this, that there is a messiness about relationships—I get all of that. But men are significant, fathers are significant. We all know this intuitively because if I were to ask you who was wrestling with my five-year-old and seven-year-old last night you would probably guess it was me. It is not that my wife does not do that or could not do that, but that is the sort of stuff that I tend to do. There have been lots of studies that show that those things that seem almost silly to talk about are how you socialise boys, that is how boys learn how to play and use aggression but be able to manage that in a way that is socially acceptable.
Increasingly there is data and research on the sociological importance and complementary nature of both a male and a female to the healthiness of how a child is raised. There are exceptions, and I grant those, but what we are talking about is: what is the norm, what should we be aiming at? That is what we are arguing, in as generous a way as we can. We are saying the state should make laws for the ideal, not the exceptions. I think the ideal would be to have a husband and a wife, a mother and a father, that are biologically linked to the children. While you have loving homosexual parents they will come out quite well—I am not saying they are doomed or anything like that, of course not—but the ideal would be that they have both a mother and a father who will both contribute something to the rearing of that child.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I think parents, whatever shape or size they come in, will play with their kids and wrestle with the children. I understand what you are saying and where you are coming from. I am just not sure that it helps me, because I do not see how that is any different if it was a same-sex couple playing with their children.
Rev. Middleton : Because females and males are complementary. I do not believe they are just duplicates of each other, not just at a biological but even at a social level, so they would both bring something to the table. If we were to deny that then we might as well say that, apart from just biological reasons, men are useless, that they do not contribute anything other than what a woman can contribute; or, vice versa, we might say that, apart from biological production, women do not contribute anything peculiar to that relationship. We would say that at the sociological level that would not be true, that both men and women bring certain things. These are generalisations, I grant that, but I think the generalisations would stand scrutiny over a period of time. Women generally, not exclusively, tend to be nurturers and carers. Men bring other things to the table. That is the point I am trying to raise. Where, by design, you rule out one or the other—and you would do that in homosexual marriages because there would only be male or female—then that is not the ideal for children.
Miss Joseph : On that point, footnote 16 of our submission references a review by the Institute for American Values—page 4 of our submission. It is called Mother bodies, father bodies: how parenthood changes us from the inside out. It references a number of studies that look at the different ways men and women nurture children—the particular strengths that they each demonstrate.
CHAIR: We have perhaps gone a little bit beyond the time, and also the direct relevance of this bill, which relates to recognition of foreign marriages, although for the reasons we mentioned earlier—where everyone, including Senator Hanson-Young, admits that this is the thin edge of the wedge, if I could say that—the debate has ranged a bit more widely. Before we close, is there anything anyone particularly wants to say about the bill as such? I am not inviting you to do that if you do not, because I guess we have heard most of the arguments on both sides so far. But if there is anything that anyone would like to say about the recognition of foreign marriages—
Rev. Jobberns : My sense is that what we have heard again this afternoon the reality that this bill has really just caused us to talk about the bigger issue, which my colleagues have always reflected on. We are in the process of redefining marriage in Australia. And we would not be helped if this committee was to approve this bill going forward, because that would only continue to confuse the issue. I think really the issue now for us as Australians is to agree that we are in the process of redefining marriage. What is that going to look like in Australia, and how do we do that? So I would just encourage the committee to say, 'While we appreciate the opportunity this bill has raised to raise those broader questions, the reality is that there is not a lot in this bill that merits it going forward on the basis of it really trying to redefine marriage.'
CHAIR: A number of submissions say that this bill being passed would actually set up another discrimination, because those in Australia who want same-sex marriages are discriminated against from those overseas. Perhaps the wider debate needs to be had again, although I take you point that parliament does spend a lot of time on this. But there are a lot of issues that in my opinion are unworthy of any sort of debate that we spend a lot of time on in parliament! That is what we are paid to put up with, I guess.
If there is nothing else, I again thank you all very much, not only for your appearance today but for the submissions that you have obviously put a fair bit of time into. We appreciate that. So, thank you very much.
Committee adjourned at 15 : 32