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(generated from captions) ? Theme music (Everyone chats) Hello there. I'm Geraldine Doogue. on a social issue Welcome to a Compass dinner despite the best efforts of many that just refuses to go away, on various sides of politics. have very strong opinions. And it's an issue on which people and people against it. There are people pro it same-sex marriage. I'm talking, of course, who run right down the middle, And maybe a whole host of Australians quite what they think. who just don't know who are going to flesh out So with me tonight are people the various nuances of this debate. Nathan Nettleton, Geoff Thomas, Bishop Rob Forsyth, the Rev and Dennis Altman. Father Frank Brennan, Julie McCrossin Thank you all for joining us. I'm going to go around the table And just to kick us off, your case about same-sex marriage. and I would like each of you to make by the way. Geoff. Please do start to eat, Look, I grew up homophobic. family in Richmond in Melbourne. I come from a very working class Everyone around me hated gays. My father hated gays. About six years ago, my dear wife, she passed away from cancer, just before one night and said, handed me the phone to tell you.' 'Your son has got something I want to tell you that I'm gay.' So he told me that, he said, 'Dad, sideline into the game if you like. So I was actually taken from the grew up blokey. Geoff Thomas, by his own admission, The army and later a trade his self-proclaimed homophobia. did nothing to challenge 32-year-old son Nathan But when Geoff's the courage to come out, finally found his attitude towards homosexuality. Geoff was forced to re-evaluate catapulted Geoff into the public eye His recent appearance on Q&A experience to the nation. when he revealed his personal discussion, is the ripple effect. This is one other aspect about this gay people, We're not just talking about their extended families here. we're talking about In essence, for you, metamorphosis - change of mind. it was a very personal Absolutely. simplest form, and I'll say this, And when you look at it in its in this country. religion doesn't own marriage Australia is a secular society. We have a situation in Australia that can't get married where the only people essentially are gays and lesbians. In Australia. It's unbelievable. what's your view on it? OK. Frank Brennan, how would... so I'm not married. Well, I'm a Catholic priest that makes me an expert, I suppose. I don't have a life partner, so (Laughter) often think so? So, does the Catholic Church is Professor of Law Jesuit priest Frank Brennan at the Australian Catholic University of Catholic lawyers. and comes from a long line in the late '80s and '90s He shot to prominence and then Wik native title cases when the landmark Mabo were before the High Court, Aboriginal social justice drawing attention to and land rights issues. from tackling tough social issues Frank Brennan has never shied away for human rights in Australia. and he's an outspoken advocate I'd agree with Geoff But I think, well, in this country. that religion doesn't own marriage I'm a Catholic priest. But I'd say that, I mean, I'm part of a worshipping community notion of marriage. for whom we have a sacramental and woman for life, That it's the union of a man procreation and nurturing open to the bearing of of each other's children. the trouble with You once said to me that as a Catholic priest was that not being able to marry that called you to account. it did not allow you the intimacy I think it's a beautiful phrase. And I've never forgotten it. Why did you come up with that? it in married couples and others I came up with it because I've seen there is the intimacy, the love, who have life partners, where correct each other. but where they can And I've often thought to myself, pontificating around the nation well, I go home at night after the same thing there. and there's just not OK. Nathan? My own view is kind of twofold. I have a strong commitment And as a Baptist of church and state, to the separation and therefore to the State any religious view, even mine. not privileging in terms of justice, of compassion, We actually need to look at it of equality for all people. would need to be made And so I think the case that allowing same-sex marriage to the community in some way would actually be detrimental should legislate against it. before I would argue that the State Reverend Nathan Nettleton his unorthodox career pathway firmly believes for Christian ministry. has been the perfect preparation He's had a failed marriage, and drove a truck for a living was kicked out of Bible college, minister in 1994. before being ordained a Baptist and is the pastor at Many years on he has remarried Baptist Church in Melbourne. the South Yarra Community For myself, I actually support it to conduct a same-sex wedding, and would be willing were such things allowed. Oh, no. No, I didn't. And did you always think this? and quite hostile I began as quite homophobic of gay people in the church. to any form of acceptance Julie. university, it was 1972. When I left school and went to homosexuality was a criminal offence In 1972, homosexuality, male I lived in, NSW, until 1984. and it stayed that way in the state in Tasmania until 1997. It stayed that way a Christian school, So when I left school, it was bad, it was mad, and went to university and it was also against God's will. comedienne and Christian, Journalist, lawyer, for marriage equality Julie McCrossin was advocating as far back as the late '90s, for same-sex couples a headline-grabbing issue. when it wasn't as it does now, What motivated her then, is her experience of family. a lesbian relationship. For 16 years she's been in In that time she's helped raise from a former marriage. her partner's two children So, I look at this discussion about whether we have access to the institution of civil marriage in exactly the same way as I looked at the discussion about whether it was a mental illness or whether it was a crime. Rational, caring, nice people like Rob Forsyth or Frank Brennan... You seem pretty normal to me. ..two men for whom I have the highest respect. It was just those sort of people who said it needs to stay a criminal offence and it needs to stay a mental illness. And you were recognising in yourself at that point, we should say, that you were homosexual. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And it was a terrible burden. My whole adult life, we've been fighting just for equality and fundamentally, access to civil marriage is about equality before the law. What does marriage, actually marriage itself, mean to you Bishop Rob Forsyth? Marriage for a man and a woman is a different order of reality than a committed sanctioned partnership of two men and two women. And to call them by the same name is confusing. And I think the fundamental difference is that marriage as inherited from the past is particularly about preserving the connection between biological parents and children. Not only, but that's its main public good. Robert Forsyth was raised a Methodist, but as a young man, after much soul-searching, became an Anglican. He studied at Moore Theological College in the early 1970s, raised a family and was appointed Anglican Bishop of South Sydney in 2000. He is outspoken in his opposition to same-sex marriage, arguing that marriage has always been and must remain exclusive to a man and a woman. I have certain views as a Christian minister which go beyond that, but I'm thinking that as a public policy question, the State should not be interfering in these matters and if you change it, you're going to be changing, in my view, the whole connection between biological parents and their children. (Frank speaks) Hang on. Can I just let Dennis have his say? Well, in a sense, I agree with everybody. Which is very odd. That's a worry. It is a worry. You're not invited for that. My position is simply that I don't think the State should define the way in which people enter into lifelong partnerships. And we make a clear distinction between what people who believe in certain religious teachings may choose to do according to the precepts of those religions, and what the State regulates. And in response to Julie, I'd say I don't actually feel what you feel. I've had a partner for 20 years. I think our partnership is stronger, precisely because we haven't had to depend upon State and church to legitimise it. I'm very proud of that. I don't feel the need to grovel to bishops or priests or an appallingly bogan Prime Minister to get her approval. Professor Dennis Altman grew up at a time when homosexuality was illegal. As a Fulbright scholar in the '60s he worked with leading gay activists in the United States, and was at the forefront of the gay rights movement back in Australia. Today's he is a professor of politics at Melbourne's Latrobe University. He's spoken, written and published widely on gay liberation but doesn't see marriage equality as central to the fight against homophobia. The first order of business is that at the moment as we talk here tonight, there are young kids out there who are homosexual, who are contemplating suicide because of the ongoing and vicious prejudice. Real... Four times more likely to attempt suicide. Exactly. A huge amount of bullying and huge amount of victimisation, still. And we look at what is going on in many parts, particularly of Africa, and the role the churches are playing in fostering criminal homophobia. Homophobia that leads to people actually being killed, tortured, victimised. That to me is a prime issue. It is a prime issue that people who are religious need to face up to. And this is why I think Julie and I fundamentally disagree. Not about the outcome, not about equality, but about what the really crucial issues about recognition of us as equal people are. That's what we should be talking about. I do want to just quiz the men of faith here a little bit more about why it seems to matter to people of religion so much. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ when asked the question about marriage goes back to the primeval text in Genesis. I think it is the second chapter. 'A man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife and the two become one flesh.' The word marriage is not used there. In fact, the word marriage is not used often in the Bible at all. The notion of one flesh, that God made us male and female, as Jesus said. Personally I believe that it's God's will that men and women form a new kinship in which children are possibly to be born. I think you can be totally pro gay but still believe that marriage is a different order from a gay relationship. In other words, inviting a gay person into a marriage changes marriage irrevocably. It's not like there's a thing which stays the same and you're being excluded from. The thing itself will be changed because it is about men and women. Rob, can I just ask you, why can't you allow the State to change the Commonwealth Marriage Act so that people who wish to have a civil marriage, to go to a civil ceremony... Sure, sure. Just to finish. Because there's 65% of Australians right now don't go to church, synagogue or mosques. And then you can deny a religious ceremony. It's not about ceremony, it's not for us. My own personal view, the view about marriage is for all marriages, not just for Christian marriages. You are one flesh, man and woman, whether you've never heard of God or you are atheists. It's not a special Christian privilege. It's that marriage.... It's struts of society, you're saying. Why... Here's the question we've got to ask. Is... What's at stake in this debate is, what is marriage really about? What is this thing? We've inherited it, we didn't invent it. We all woke up and there it was. And what's it about, and how much can we change it before we change what it really is? I think you're on thin ground there, Bishop. I'd like to say something here. Just let Nathan first, Geoff. I'll come to you. Tell me why I'm on thin ground, Nathan. I think you're on thin ground in arguing that there's been one concept of marriage and it's been unchanging and we've simply inherited it. When you argue that, if we do this we will change the meaning of the word marriage, we've been changing the meaning of the word marriage progressively for generations. You've misheard. That's not my argument. My argument is not that. My argument is, at the heart of what the word marriage points to is a deep reality to do with husband, wife and children which cannot be reproduced in a gay marriage. Not because gay people are bad. Because they're not a man and a woman. This is a very shallow argument. We know that gay people have biological children. We know that gays and lesbians adopt children. We know that they foster children, and we know statistically that they're considered to be good parents. If you go back... The problem I have with the argument that the possibility of procreating is intrinsic to the definition of marriage is that if we were consistent about that, we would actually outlaw marriage of post-menopausal couples or infertile couples and so on. But actually the churches have never been consistent about that. We've pushed that argument and said... I understand that, because you've at least understood the argument. The argument is not literally every couple married. It's structurally. That is, until you've got some clarity on that... It's not something we can just fiddle around with because today we have a new idea. What was it really about? I think it was guaranteeing that husbands were fathers. Biological linking. But that I think is the key in the social function of marriage, and that is destroyed, damaged, when a gay couple cannot have one of the members of that partnership a biological parent. Frank. I just want to ask Frank. You were previously asking why religious people often get hung up about this or whatever. I think part of it is that for a lot of religious people I think they might say, 'Well, we're happy to tolerate, we become more tolerant, we're happy to be more respectful,' but here we're being expected to endorse what they view as a lifestyle or what they view as a mode of relating which they think is different from that in their own marriage relationship. But you see people used to sincerely believe it was a mental illness. They sincerely did. When I was a young woman at university in the early '70s I knew men who went to Macquarie Street and medical specialists gave them electric shocks while they looked at pictures of men. Aversion therapy it was called. This was considered a professional practice. And I just don't see why this isn't just a continuation of prejudice. But, Julie, if you look back through history, as I've done for preparing for this, in all the incredible changes of form of marriage - marriage as property marriage as dynasty, et cetera - there's never been, to the best of my knowledge, man to man or woman to woman. It has always been a man and a woman. So why should that change now? Well, Gerry, why should women be allowed to have an education? Why should women be allowed to use contraception? Why should women be allowed to work? If we go through the history of the world, right now is a tiny fragment of human history. And you... Really, Gerry, why should women be able to be presenters on television? When we were young... Let me finish. How is that relevant? What I'm saying is, fundamental institutions in society change progressively. That's what this is all about. This is about progressive social change. There is now an acknowledgment it is not unlawful, it is normal. Dennis is itching to say something. I'm finding this very difficult actually to say anything. Because historically I think marriage was based upon the subordination of women to men. You see, I find this very strange. I'm sitting at this table, the only feminist, I think. No, no. I think I am. There was a tradition among feminists of saying we want to get away from marriage because precisely of its historical origins. And I think, Rob, you're absolutely right. Yes, it was about men knowing... Frightfully right. ..that they were the biological parents of the children. What worries me about is, let us take the reverse of your position. As increasing numbers of kids grow up with single mothers or in mixed families, or with lesbian and gay parents, or in all sorts of changing family relationships, because the world is changing very rapidly as Julie has been pointing out, what happens to those kids, with people like you constantly saying, 'But really the only acceptable form...' No, I'm not saying that. I'm sorry. You are trying to have it both ways and you can't have it both ways. I've actually given you a solution, which is pull the church out. Which means stop lobbying the government to enforce your views. And in that sense, I'm totally with Geoff. I mean, this is a secular society - a secular country. It is becoming less and less so as we fund more and more school chaplains - which I find distasteful. I'm not asking them to enforce my views because it's religious. You are. I'm not. I'm trying to establish the social utility. I'm not trying to give a religious argument. What is a social... what is a liberal society... But your argument in the end falls back on a Biblical interpretation of a never changing... It falls back to Genesis 2. Not it doesn't. I did not. is always about religion. For men it's a legal issue. But you can have both. They're not mutually exclusive, surely, are they? I'd be the last person, and gay people and lesbian people are the last people to say that the Catholic Church shouldn't be able to marry people or have its own rules about marriage. But what we're talking about is a change in law in Australia that treats, at the end of the day, everybody the same. I really... I just have to make this point. The institution of marriage is a flexible and muscular institution that has changed throughout history. And it can absorb this tiny proportion of the population. Gay and lesbian people... This is a big structural shift, Julie. You think it can cope with that? Oh, I think we really... You've got no doubt about it. I've got no doubt. We're reinforcing the core values. OK. So if we are really saying, who can own the debate around marriage, I would ask you, Dennis Altman, how much can society reinvent marriage? Because in a way that's what I'm hearing here. A confidence about reinventing this very basic institution. Well, let's take the Royal Wedding this year. The Royal Wedding this year took place between two people who were known to have had a long period of sleeping together in a family where the divorce rate was far higher than the national average. (Laughs) His aunt before him, Princess Margaret, was not allowed to marry a divorced man. The nature of marriage is changing radically. The nature of family structures are changing radically. But on gender grounds? Largely on gender grounds. So when marriage is purified, you want to join in? I don't want to join in, no. Gerry... Well just go to Geoff, please, because Geoff... The benefits to gays and lesbians who get married are the same as the benefits to heterosexuals who get married. No, they're not married. They can't be married. Let him finish, Rob. Let him finish. Absolutely. And persisting with this line - the religious line - which simply, in my opinion, perpetuates the discrimination against gays and lesbians and treating them as second class citizens in this country - is appalling, in my opinion. So you're saying then that marriage can be reinvented... Absolutely. ..sufficiently to include everybody who seeks marriage whoever they are. And you know it says - I'm told there's six words to be changed in the Act to treat people in this country equally. One thing that does intrigue me here - and this is a fact. It's, I'm sitting amongst a group of people tonight, some of whom are the very first people - apart from some politicians I met in Canberra a couple of months ago - that are actually opposed to same-sex marriage. Does your son wish to get married, Geoff? My son wants the right to be able to get married. Can I just come to Nathan? Because as I understand your position, it wasn't until you were a divorced man in your faith, and you went as you say into the wilderness. You were forced to the outside in your faith tradition. And you began to look around for who else was on the outside and excluded. And you realised that gays were in a similar position. Yes. Now... I just wonder how, for you, that leads you to believe that bringing them in can best be done by fiddling with marriage. I just would like to hear that argument. Where the argument sometimes goes, and I think - I hope I'm not misrepresenting you, Bishop, in saying this... ..that there is a concept of the ideal marriage and we endorse and legislate for the ideal. There are many people who cannot be the ideal for any number of reasons. Does it mean that all of those positions that don't conform to the ideal have no legitimacy and can be offered no affirmation at all? It runs to the same in the question about parenting. I've never met an ideal marriage that is the absolute perfect environment for bringing up children. We bring up children in a whole range of environments that are less than perfect. There is an argument that people who might want to be in a bigamist relationship or a polygamist relationship, who would say, 'We will do a very good job for children and we love each other. Why can't the law sanction us?' I think that's actually a really important question. One of the interesting things that happened with the Senate debate last year was that actually the proposal didn't only remove the words man and woman. It also removed the words to 'the exclusion of all others', which was a separate issue. And then, for me, I was suddenly, 'No, I don't support the removal of those words'. Why not? Now, Dennis would. Well... I would support removing the State. Yeah. But why don't you support the removal of those words? Because I actually think that - and this is where Dennis and I part company - I actually do think that sexual fidelity is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. Why? Why do you think that? You're not going to use the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible, which I'm happy to move off the table. Who said I'm not? No, but... I am. I'm a Christian minister. But I'm not expecting the State will legislate my view. Exactly. Therefore, why are you troubled... Let the State remove that off. Why do you want it to be exclusive? I just have to make this point. This is not an academic issue to me. It's a personal issue. So at one level I believe the underpinning of marriage actually has great consistency across hundreds of years. But when you come to the legal issue, that has been modifying for hundreds of years. It's been changing. Right now most Australians don't say words about obedience and so on. They write their own vows with a civil celebrant. The law sets down a very minimum form of words that has to be said and people are making all sorts of commitments to each other. The great joy of the Common Law, its strength, is that we change it. It used to be that Aboriginal people had no Common Law right to land. And the High Court created the right of Native Title So we can remember when Aboriginal people had no Common Law right, and now they do. And one day, ladies and gentleman, I will remember when I didn't have a Common Law right to marriage and then I will. We change the Common Law. It is not rigid. But let me just.. In asking you, why then isn't a really aspirational civil union good enough? I don't think you can be a little bit equal. Like I don't think you can be a little bit pregnant, if I could use that old cliche. But can I particularly emphasise I'm not saying, the churches shouldn't and the synagogues and the mosques shouldn't be able to do whatever they wish when it comes to the sacrament of marriage. And there will be debate and diversity. I'm saying, when it comes to equality before the law... Um, Justice Michael Kirby - former High Court Judge. Kerryn Phelps - former head of the AMA. Julie McCrossin - a lesser creature, radio presenter. We should be able to do the same as the other heterosexual people. It's just discrimination. Can I... Dennis gave me the call. I gave Dennis the call. I don't believe that because they could walk down the aisle of your church and you marry them - I know you wouldn't - I don't believe that would fundamentally change anything. I agree with you entirely. I'm with Julie and I'm with Geoff. I'm with all of them in saying, yes, there needs to be legal equality. But I think at the same time let us recognise that for homosexual people there are role models, there are successful models out there of long-lasting couples. In fact that's true of the people you referred to just now Julie - of Karen, of Michael. We should be proud of that. What we're saying is couples matter for our definition of marriage. Would I be right in saying couples? ROB: No. Well, couples. But then you get into the question of whether you can have same sex or otherwise. No. No. No no. Far from it. Far from it. Couples because a man and a woman make a child. Frank? Can I just ask Frank Brennan? I'd like to ruin the argument with a couple of statistics. Almost half the number of people in Australia marry today as used to marry back in the 1970's. Another observation is that back in the 1970's the percentage of people who cohabited before marriage I think was much less than 20%. Now it's 78%. But I think for a lot of people marriage, even civil marriage, has become an institution where it's quite optional. And what is the fundamental thing in moving from cohabitation to getting married? With most of them I think it's about the decision to have kids. Isn't there a strong argument that marriage actually furthers the notion of fidelity and stability in relationships? Why would you use that for it, Frank Brennan? Look, for me there are still two issues which stand out in contradistinction. One is to do with complementarity. What do you mean? The social institution of marriage which brings together men and women. Those of opposite gender who often have quite different and complementary aspects to each other. And the second is in relation to their being open to the bearing and nurturing of each other's children. Now I say to Julie and Melissa, look, I espouse your relationship. I not only tolerate it, I endorse it. I admit not every church person would endorse it. But I do endorse it. And can I say just one quick thing, Gerry, if I may? And I understand of course there is diversity within the Catholic Church on this. I think the current Pope... DENNIS AND FRANK: No... (Laughter) The current Pope described homosexuality, I think... Aren't you completely typical, Frank? If I could make this point. Note the current Pope did describe homosexuality as intrinsically disordered. So there's clearly a different view. But the main point I want to... His language is not helpful. Could I just say this? That I can remember it's not that long ago where a priest in the Catholic Church would not have said, I endorse your relationship. Would you like a church wedding, Julie? Oh. Definitely. But there are clearly religious people right now who would happily marry myself and Melissa. Look, I think if the civil law change comes I think that it would not be long before it would be possible to have a church wedding. Can I also say some synagogues are already offering weddings. And I won't speak obviously for Muslims which I imagine would be a more difficult journey. But I go to a Uniting Church. Same sex couples and gay and lesbian people are welcome. Not only that, you be ordained a minister. Well, I would go back to something I said early on. I am enormously proud of the fact that I am in a relationship that has been all the things you all want from relationships, with the exception of sexual fidelity which I think is crap for most people and doesn't exist by and large. I've been in a relationship for 20 years without depending upon these external legitimations. Dennis, could I ask, do you have children? No. Would your view on the needs of fidelity perhaps be different if children were central to the relationship? No, I don't think it would. And I think the interesting thing about fidelity is that it seems to me it makes sex far more important than it actually is. The thing that maintains a loving long-term commitment to someone as the primary person in your life is not whether you occasionally have sex with somebody else. Spoken like a true man of the '60s. (Uproar) Somebody has to be able to say this on Compass, Geraldine. Can I just come to Nathan? Actually heterosexual marriage is under threat in a number of ways. Just statistically, it's falling apart at a rate that it's never fallen apart before, and so on. But I think that it's actually under threat from within. It's under threat from the commodification of sex and from the treatment of all things as ephemeral, to be replaced as soon as a newer model becomes available. And so we start treating marriage and relationships in that same way. But I think within the churches there's often this fear that we don't know how to cope with that. And so one of the typically human ways of dealing with that level of fear is to find a group to blame. And that some group is undermining heterosexual marriage. It must be the gays. Can I say, I find this ad hominem argument distasteful to me personally. There may be people like that but that's not the serious case - people like myself. I agree. I separated you from it. I said look at the empty chair. So why are you raising it? Because there are some real issues, serious issues. I'll give you one. I don't believe that it's discriminatory at all to say, there's no law preventing you getting married as long as you'll fill the conditions. There's no law stopping me being the captain of the Australian Cricket team if I have the relative qualities. I don't. It's not like an arbitrary law that says gay people can't get married. There's no law that says marriage is man and woman. Now if you can't fulfil that, it's a difficulty, it's why short people can't play basketball. It's not an arbitrary restriction. It's part of a natural law. Exactly. It's part of the way it is, and that's why the notion I'm somehow self-righteously stopping people... Slavery was once, too, wasn't it? And we've changed on a number of things. I was the first divorcee to be ordained by the Baptist Union of Victoria, and I'm not an old man. So it's not that long ago that the churches... Well whether that's a good move or not, we don't know. I may not be the pinup boy for it. I don't mean you personally. I don't mean you personally. It would be very interesting if we do get opening marriage for gay people, how this will look in 100 years time. When children's parents are not automatically the partners of their mother or father. But science already does that. No, it's not. Let's see. Science delivering all manner of permutations. Adultery does exist, Rob. There are children born within marriages that are not... Don't patronise me. Of course I know that. It's called adultery. No, no. You misunderstand my argument. My argument is biological parents have a right to care for their children. That's a basic human right that every society recognises. Marriage nurtures and supports that right. Yes. Not perfectly. I agree entirely, there's adultery and break up. But if you want to say, throw that away, you're actually accelerating what could turn out to be a disastrous outcome because when you separate biological children from parents, when you have two parents, one or three parents. Parent one, parent two, parent three. Once you break with man-woman, why have only two? Don't blame me, blame God. He made us male and female. Frank Brennan, what's your view on it? My own view is that if we move straight to same-sex marriage, that, basically, all of the complex questions about children in the future gets consumed simply under the issue of non-discrimination. What do you mean 'complex questions about children'? For example we know that the breakthroughs that are going on at the moment. With science, you mean? We're within cooee that we will be able to produce children from just two ova or two sperm and I don't think it is discriminatory to say the State has an interest in ensuring when children are created in future that, as far as possible, we maintain that ideal that a child would have a known biological mother and a known biological father. There are two view of marriage at the table, I'll put them out. One is marriage is fundamentally about relationship between the partners. Adults. Adults. I've heard that eloquently put by Julie and I respect that. Another is marriage is that plus, the structure of childbearing whether in fact it happens or not. That's what Frank and I are saying. Frankly those two structures lead to different answers. May I respectfully ask, Julie, if you and Melissa were married tomorrow, do you think there would be any entitlement by the State or interfering do-gooders or whatever to say to you and Melissa, 'No, whatever the developments in technology, you cannot create your own child just by using material from the ovary of each of you.' Look, I don't... Can I just talk about my actual life, not a fantasy life? But he has posed you a question. I think that's important, Julie. Well, why I'm wary of it, Gerry, is that with due respect to Frank, he's representing the Catholic Church, and the current Catholic Church has very passionate views about interference with the creation of children, to the extent that you still don't support contraception. So I don't want to be drawn into an arcane argument about whether two ova... I believe in contraception, I ask... Please let me finish. When I met Melissa just nearly 16 years ago, the children were three and six. It is absolutely clear from research as well as my own direct observation that stability and consistency and repetition is good for children and that the loving partnership between Melissa and myself and their father, Michael... We have worked together as a team, mutually respectful, with the best interests of the children at heart, and there is no question in my mind that fidelity is a positive good for children. It really is. And I do think my views have been influenced by the experience of child rearing. OK, so since we are talking about children, last week on Compass, we interviewed three groups of gay couples who all wanted to get married. And one of them said that her child turned to her and said, 'Why can't you get married?' Now I just wonder, Rob Forsyth, how would you answer that child? Because I'm... not in love with a man. If it was a woman. That's what you would say to a child who's being raised, if you think about it. With two mothers? Yeah, if a child came to you and said, 'I've got two mothers, why can't they get married, Bishop Forsyth?' I'd say because marriage is for a man and woman. It's as simple or difficult as that. But a bright child would say, 'But here I am, Bishop Forsyth. I'm here, I've been born.' And I'd say, 'Who is your biological father?' You would not say that to a child. Don't tell me you'd say that to a child. The question is... That biological father has a stake in that child. He has a right over that child, a care, a responsibility to that child. We recognise that immediately. You can't, it's the one right that the State cannot interfere with. They cannot take children away, except in extreme cases. I'm a conservative. I'll admit that. Wouldn't mind if there was something called gay marriage. Just one thing. One word, a new institution that mimicked marriage and everything else except it wasn't called marriage. But, Rob, it's happening. Julie, I think that if the law was to change so it was still called marriage, the distinction that exists today would still exist in people's minds. That is marriage would become wider to include two kinds of marriage. But that's OK. No, it's not OK. You will never get the situation that you long for that a gay relationship, not full acceptance, is regarded as the same as it. But my feeling is they will still say, 'That's marriage and that's a different kind of marriage.' What do you think will happen if it does occur? What will change or not? Dennis. Look, I have no doubt that same-sex marriage is going to happen. In a sense, it seems this entire conversation will be looked back as a strange piece of early 21st-century nostalgia. There's a study that's been done in the Netherlands, which has had same-sex marriage for a while. One could say not long enough for us to be sure. But I think the reality is not very much changes. The evidence suggests that there's virtually no impact on the larger society. Rob? I don't know the future. It may be that in 100 years time, we look back with horror, I don't know. A friend of mine, I mentioned I was coming to this and he is a very liberal, progressive kind of Christian guy. He said, 'If this is changed, I'll feel my relationship with - his wife - has been changed by the law.' He felt somehow, although happily married, that somehow the change would change and although those who have a grief if this happens. Now, I hope that you are all right. I hope it happens for the best. But I must say I'm not optimistic. OK. Julie? For people of my generation, it would matter deeply to me. I would feel like some form of internal furniture would finally lock in an Ikea sort of a way into place. And I feel deeply about this, Geraldine, and I assume it's because I was traumatised. I believe change will happen and I think it is going to happen reasonably quickly now. And for two fundamental reasons. One is because something in the order of 10 to 14 comparable countries internationally have already done it. Spain, Portugal and so on. They have actual marriage, not civil union. But, fundamentally, the reason I think it will happen is because of Geoff's story. Homosexuality is a bipartisan issue. It turns up in all sorts of families. And often people don't change their views until they know someone they love within their family, and, suddenly, it's not an issue. It's about Jim or Susan, and that's what shifts people. Frank. I remain of the view that the Blair Government got it right in the United Kingdom six years ago with civil unions. I mean, if it comes to pass, yes. People like Julie and Melissa will feel that this is a better country to live in, and Geoff will be happy for his son. And I, for one, will say, well, that's a good thing. But I think there will be ongoing issues for us as a society, particularly in terms of the place of religious communities. Nathan. If we've got people knocking on the door saying, 'We've been excluded from this institution that values fidelity and we want in,' anything that we do that actually says yes to the valuing and endorsing of fidelity has to be something that strengthens fidelity. Geoff. Well, for me, I think the sensibilities of... some religious people will be offended and I don't think it will impact on their lives essentially one bit. I think... a lot of gay couples will finally realise that they're treated the same as everybody else in this society. I think their children will gain the respect that they currently lack. Alright. We could go on and on and on but it's just been a fabulous discussion and I know that some of you have really laid yourself out and I respect that, so thank you all. Dennis Altman, thank you to you. Julie McCrossin. Father Frank Brennan, Geoff Thomas, Rev Nathan Nettleton and Bishop Rob Forsyth. Thank you very much indeed for joining us for Compass, for dinner tonight. Thanks, Gerry. (Applause) That was absolutely... How are you going to edit that? I don't know. Next week on Compass, the story of one of the world's oldest religions thriving here in Australia. It's a family occasion. You go down on Sunday. And you get baptised in the river. WOMAN: We always find it difficult to explain our religion because nobody heard about it. WOMAN 2: Coming here will change everything. Changed the way we used to live - lifestyle. And the way we think. If I was gonna get married to non-Mandean, it would have been really difficult for me. I can't resist being Mandean. Mandeans - the water people. That's next Sunday on Compass. Until then, goodnight. Closed Captions by CSI