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Thursday, 17 June 2004
Page: 30717


Mr BALDWIN (9:27 AM) —I rise to speak in support of the changes to the Marriage Act 1961. A marriage is and should be between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. The amendments in the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 include those marriages entered into in other jurisdictions and overseas, measures which are important to ensure legal loopholes are not used to introduce social changes which go against the will of the people. Far be it from me to criticise the courts, but where there is a lawyer and there is a loophole, there is a possibility for social change. The other amendments to the Marriage Act will spell out that overseas adoptions cannot be undertaken by persons not in a marriage which is recognised in Australia. These are consistent amendments, consistent both with the social expectations of the people of Australia and the legal definition of marriage.

From the outset I want to make it very clear that I am a Christian and that I regularly attend church. I get great comfort from the teachings of Christ and the support of my fellow parishioners. As a Christian I have no prejudices against people who are different from me—for the colour of their skin, for the lifestyle choices they make, or for the religions they may or may not practise. I have an acceptance of every individual as an individual. But as a Christian I have to be true to all of my convictions, and that means when issues like same-sex marriages arise I will speak out for what I and the broad majority of Australians believe in.

The changes proposed will entrench in federal laws that a marriage is between a man and a woman. It is important to understand that these amendments do not seek to remove any rights that homosexuals currently have with regard to marriage laws, as same-sex marriages are not currently recognised. There is no doubt that this topic is by its very nature an emotive topic. When we seek to entrench into law who can marry, there will be some people who will be offended that they do not fall within the law.

I received one letter from a woman in a relationship with another woman. She asked if I questioned whether or not she loves her partner. I do not question her love for her partner, nor do I question the time they have spent together. I do not sit in judgment of their partnership or their relationship, but what I am seeking to do is ensure that the Christian values of marriage—being an institution between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation—remain as the cornerstone of the foundation of our society.

This lady's was but one letter compared to the many I have received from my own constituents and those in neighbouring electorates in support of the amendments to the legislation. I have also had discussions with individuals who are homosexual and who have also stated a support for this bill. They have stated to me that they do not want the Marriage Act changed to allow for same-sex marriages; they accept their current arrangements. There is an old saying in politics: you can't please all of the people all of the time; you can please some of the people most of the time and most of the people some of the time. This is one of those times when some people will not be pleased but most will be.

The feedback I have received from my constituents, from those who attend church regularly and those who consider themselves Christian but do not attend church—in fact, from others who do not profess any religious beliefs—is that they overwhelmingly support these changes to ensure that the law specifically states that a marriage is a union between man and woman. Paul, at verse 26 of the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, writes:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.

The time that Paul speaks of is in the years immediately following the death of Christ—the time when Christianity was a secret movement kept alive by true believers in God and the sermons of Jesus. This is the time that the Romans sought to remove Christianity from the world because it challenged the social mores of the Roman Empire. Paul's writings in particular went against the entire Roman social culture—the avarice, the lust, the carnage, the incest. The teachings of Christ taught a new way of living that would force radical change on the Roman Empire. Christianity did not just force change on the powerful leaders but on all of the people.

In allowing same-sex marriages, we jeopardise the core of Christianity, we devalue the sacrifice made by Christ and his disciples and we devalue the very foundations of the Christian faith. Some will argue that true love between two men or two women is just as valid as that between a man and a woman, but in the terms of the Christian faith—that faith which created marriage as we know it today—marriage is not recognised when it is between two men or two women. It was not considered right by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, and today the same is true.

Bit by bit, the church and its teachings are being whittled away by those who do not attend church or practise religion. The perfect example of this is that more people identify Christmas with a Coca-Cola symbol of Santa Claus than they do with a nativity scene. In much the same way, marriage is becoming a symbol of a union between two people—not an institution where lives are built together and children are brought into the world and raised and loved.

Christianity is only alive today because of the teachings of Paul and those enlightened men and women who continued Christ's teachings throughout the years of persecution by the Romans. Paul's teachings represented a minority in his time. He went against what was considered socially acceptable and he taught a different way of thinking. The fact that he knew that Christ himself was crucified and that continuing Christ's teachings would mean sure death gives his words more resonance. And perhaps it gives us greater reason to protect his teachings—that people should be encouraged to enter into unions between men and women; that the natural way is between a man and a woman.

Some argue that the Bible stands in contrast to what is socially accepted today. But it stands as a benchmark of what many people in society believe. In both Genesis 1:28 and Mark 10:6 it is stated that God created humankind in two sexes for the purpose of procreation. God's established law is the basis for marriage. And I can tell you, a lot of people are getting a bit fed up with the boundaries constantly being challenged. Play School should be about Jemima and Big Ted and not include social political messages about what is right or wrong in matters of gender. Television at 7 p.m. should not have to be bleeped over time after time to ensure the timeslot is not compromised by the foul language, discussions of masturbation and boasts of sexual relationships of 12 fake housemates doing nothing. Everyday, the boundaries are being tested. We let one small thing go, then another and then another, and finally Nero is standing on the roof playing his fiddle while the society and city burn.

Many people who argue for allowing marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman argue that there is no place for Christianity in the debate about homosexuality and marriage laws. I have already discussed how vital Christianity was to preserving the institution of marriage in the form that it takes today. The teachings of Christ and his disciples are the only reason we are standing here today discussing marriage between two men or two women. In the first place, if you take Christianity or God out of this marriage debate, you might as well take marriage out of the debate. Without Christianity, there would be no marriage.

The definition of the act of marriage is: the unity of a man and woman under God. The vows of marriage do not talk solely about this mortal life; they talk about eternity. Without God, marriage becomes a piece of paper—easily torn. And maybe this is the reason why 30 per cent of marriages fail: people forget that the vows are taken not just between a man and woman to spend the rest of their lives together but also in front of God. Taking vows in front of God—in front of witnesses who similarly believe in God—holds a couple to account. It makes the promises more solemn and gives them a greater reason to keep them. By the same token, if you take God and the teachings of Christ and Paul out of this equation, then you take away the moral arguments against homosexuality. Even Queen Victoria tolerated homosexuality provided it `didn't frighten the horses'. But we are talking about marriage. If you talk about removing God and Christianity from the debate about marriage you may as well not talk about marriage at all. It is moot.

The democracy we enjoy today is built on Christianity. The Greeks may have had the most perfect form of democracy around 5,000 years ago, but our democracy was exported from England and it started with the Magna Carta in 1215, which begins:

Know that before God, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom...

The very document that lays out our democracy, a copy of which sits out near the cloakroom on level 1 in Parliament House, clearly talks about God and the holy church and that the rights of man were to be set out in front of God. Even when King Henry VIII took the holy church out of the equation, he replaced it with the Church of England. In the preamble to the Australian Constitution of 1901 it reads:

Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God ...

At the very foundation of our laws there is God, and it should be like this because we are a Christian liberal democracy. In 90 per cent of our law making, God and Christianity do not come into the decision-making process; after all, God does not have much to do with road funding—except when it comes to me praying for the funding of the Bucketts Way or Weakley's Drive. But there are times when we have to fall back on our faith to make decisions which will create laws which set the moral and cultural tone of this country.

As much as some want to say that God and Christianity have no place in our law making, they do. We do not sacrifice animals and read their entrails to tell the future, because we are Christians. We do not stone a female adulterer to death, because we are Christians. We do not allow people to have more than one wife, because we are Christians. And, in this instance, we are preserving the institution of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman, because we are Christians. There will be some in the community who will condemn me for being a God botherer, but I have to be true to my faith and beliefs. I am here today to not only serve the people of Paterson in the parliament but also serve God. By supporting this bill today I believe I do both.