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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3931

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (20:35): I am opposed to this private member's bill. As you would expect, I canvass the views of the Riverina electorate, which I serve, on a daily basis. I receive feedback on a variety of issues. I have received an enormous amount of correspondence on the issue of same-sex marriage, almost all of it from outside the electorate. The correspondence I have received, most of it in email form, has presented a range of different positions.

I recognise that there are passionately held views on both sides of this debate. I have met with members of the national Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and a number of local advocates for same-sex marriages as well as with members of the community who staunchly oppose same-sex marriage. I should add that overwhelmingly in all of the Riverina correspondence I have received, as well as an electorate-wide survey mid-last year, the level of opinion has been in favour of the retention of the Marriage Act in its current form. Indeed, of the 1,700 respondents to the survey collated thus far, the results were: 78.3 per cent against same-sex marriage; 17.7 percentage favour; and 3.9 per cent uncertain. On September 19 last year the lower House of the Australian parliament voted down the member for Throsby's private member's bill regarding sex same-sex marriage, 98 to 42.

Whilst obviously I always consider the views of Riverina constituents expressed in letters, conversations and many other forms of communication, it is my personal view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. As it stands today, I do not support any change to Commonwealth law which would diminish this institution. I believe that people are entitled to freedom of religion, respect, dignity, and the opportunity to participate in society and receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexuality. I remain committed to the Australian tradition of tolerance and respect. I therefore support the recognition of legal rights within same-sex relationships.

In the past, the coalition has supported the passage of the government's same sex reform legislation, which has provided equality to all relationships on the condition that nothing in its terms affected the status and centrality of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. I intend to continue to participate in the public debate in a moderate and respectful manner and I am hopeful that issue will not become unnecessarily divisive in the community. I am certainly not opposed to having a conscience vote. I do feel that it is a pity this issue is not being dealt with by way of a referendum.

I will conclude my remarks with comments by Bill Muehlenberg, who is a commentator of contemporary issues and who lectures on ethics and philosophy. He has reviewed a book by William B May called Getting the Marriage Conversation Right in the National Civic Council's News Weekly edition of 25 May. He writes:

He shows us what the real nature of marriage is, why it is so important for children, and how it fundamentally differs from non-heterosexual relationships.

The most important aspect to this entire debate is to get a proper understanding of just what exactly marriage is. A faulty understanding of marriage will simply provide fodder to those who seek to deconstruct it for their radical purposes.

Marriage is not the mere public recognition of adults who are in a relationship for the sake of personal fulfilment. Any number of combinations could be called marriage if that were the only definition.

He continues:

Marriage, properly understood, has always been about that which unites a man and a woman with each other and any children who may come from this union.