Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Marriage rights: homosexual groups lobby for equal rights.

MICHELLE SKENE: I asked her to marry me.

JOANNE HILLIARD: You did too, on the dance floor.

MICHELLE SKENE: That was where it started from.

MAXINE MCKEW: Same sex marriage is the new gay rights issue, but it brings a chill to the heart of many ordinary Australians and to their leaders.

JOHN HOWARD: I believe that sexual preference is a private matter but I do not believe that homosexual relationships should be given the same legal status as a marriage.

MAXINE MCKEW: But while the personal commitment of marriage may not win approval from heterosexuals, gays say what they really want is an end to economic and legal discrimination.

JOANNE HILLIARD: What do I put on a form? As far as they are concerned I am single.

MICHELLE SKENE: I am divorced.

JOANNE HILLIARD: I don't feel single; I haven't felt single for years. Why on earth would I put single on a form? That's a lie. But I can't put that I am married.

MAXINE MCKEW: Gay and lesbian couples are looking for marriage rights - that's our story tonight.

For better or worse, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has become the defining image of the gay community in the '90s - brash, flashy, young men and women happy to outrage and promote overt sexuality.

It may be fun but it seems the absolute antithesis of family values. But that one day of the year masks a profound shift in attitude by many gays promoting long-term relationships and the rights that go with that commitment. Indeed, a growing number of homosexual couples are demanding the opportunity to marry and to have the rights and privileges automatically bestowed on heterosexual couples.

Now, these are not just symbolic rights, they cut to the very heart of our society: The right to be seen as the next of kin; to inherit an estate; to benefit from a partner's superannuation; and to be given custody of their children. Needless to say, these demands have incensed some church leaders, politicians and other people who believe there is something sacred in a marriage of a man and a woman.

In just a few moments we'll hear three very different perspectives on this issue, but first this report from Anne Maria Nicholson.

JOANNE HILLIARD: We danced the night away and kept dancing and the music had stopped - it was wonderful.

MICHELLE SKENE: I asked her to marry me.

JOANNE HILLIARD: You did too, on the dance floor.

MICHELLE SKENE: That was where it started from.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Michelle Skene and Joanne Hilliard have been living together in the Blue Mountains for six years. They share the parenting of Michelle's son, Stuart, from a former marriage.

JOANNE HILLIARD: I can't see how anyone can look at Stuart and say that we are not a good thing for him. We love him dearly and he knows that.

STUART SKENE: I think that if I was living with my dad and my mum at the moment, there would be a whole lot of fighting and I wouldn't be very happy at the moment. At least I am living in a household that loves me and that can give me what I want, the loving that I need.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Michelle and Joanne wanted to make a public commitment. Like many other lesbian and gay couples before them, they went to Sydney's gay ministry - the Metropolitan Community Church, for a holy union ceremony.

UNIDENTIFIED: I wanted a church affair. I have grown up in the Anglican Church. I still have a fairly strong faith.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: So how did you feel during that ceremony, towards each other?

MICHELLE SKENE: A lot of love.

JOANNE HILLIARD: Nervous as hell.

MICHELLE SKENE: Nervous; absolutely terrified.

As far as I am concerned I am legally married. It's just society that's stuffing it up, basically.

JOANNE HILLIARD: There's no space on the forms for us. What do I put on the form? If I open a bank account or if I needed to claim from Social Security, what do I put on a form? As far as they are concerned I am single.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Despite Joanne and Michelle's commitment to each other and Stuart, they're different to heterosexual families. Under Australia's Marriage Act a woman can't marry a woman and a man can't marry a man, yet thousands of gay and lesbian couples cohabit and many raise children, and they want the rights and benefits accorded other families.

What sort of discrimination do you think you face in law?

JOANNE HILLIARD: Superannuation, that's a big thing because I work for the Government. If I were, heaven forbid, to be run over by a bus tomorrow, Michelle and Stuart would not get the same .. basically mullah as my husband would.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Judges have proved powerful supporters of gay relationships.

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: We do have in our community couples who are living in homosexual relationships, some of whom have the care of children, and some of whom breakup those relationships and I don't see why they shouldn't have the same sort of legal protections as other people in the community.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: There are moves to extend legal protection. The Australian Capital Territory has included gay people in a new law covering domestic relationships, and the New South Wales Government may alter the De Facto Act this year to include same-sex couples. Our new Federal leaders, however, are firmly opposed to gay marriages.

JOHN HOWARD: ...but I do not believe that homosexual relationship should be given the same legal status as a marriage.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: The push for gay marriage is on in Hawaii and New Zealand. In Honolulu, three gay couples are suing the Government because it won't give them marriage licences, and in New Zealand, a lesbian couple is suing under anti-discrimination laws, for the right to marry.

Australia's gay community is divided on the issue, most wanting legal rights but shying away from calling for gay marriages.

BRUCE MEAGHER: I do think that there are lots of people that are very uncomfortable about the concept of gay marriage. Now, whether that's a mistaken view or not, that's a sincerely held one in a very large proportion of the population, and it's one where the debate can easily be railroaded into simplistic cliched arguments and getting away from the reality of discrimination.

DAVE ARNOLD: A class of 45....

PETER BROWN: At David's reunion.

DAVE ARNOLD: At a reunion from Hobart High, and Pete came as my partner, and that was great.

PETER BROWN: It almost caused an earthquake....

DAVE ARNOLD: Oh, not quite. I don't think anyone worried too much.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Retired school teachers, Dave Arnold and Peter Brown, have both been married and have adult children and grandchildren. They started living together in Hobart nine years ago and have no wish to marry.

PETER BROWN: I don't think we feel the need.

DAVE ARNOLD: No.

PETER BROWN: I don't think we would if we were in a heterosexual relationship even.

DAVE ARNOLD: Yes, I've got a few problems with trying to ape the so-called straight world. You know, I think an affirmation of a relationship is important and the ways in which you do that should be much more flexible....

PETER BROWN: But that's an individual thing.

DAVE ARNOLD: ...and it's an individual thing.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: But Dave, 67 and Peter, 59, do worry about their lack of standing under law. Like many gay couples they want the right to be able to have a say in each other's health care and, at the end of the day, their funerals.

DAVE ARNOLD: I don't think there'd be any difficulty. I wouldn't anticipate any difficulty at all between my family and you.

PETER BROWN: But there are a lot of people who do have those difficulties....

DAVE ARNOLD: Yes.

PETER BROWN: ...and for them, the situation needs to be clarified.

DAVE ARNOLD: And I think it also makes it easier for the family if they , and for you, if you know exactly which compost heap I want to be put on.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: But these basic changes are some way off. For Dave and Peter, living a gay lifestyle in Tasmania is still outlawed. The State's criminal code includes sex between men as among offences punishable by up to 21 years gaol.

PETER BROWN: I have a very strong personal objection to being perceived as a criminal, in that sense.

DAVE ARNOLD: Well, we're law abiding citizens in every other way. So why should we be considered criminals in that way? We're not hurting anyone.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: The newly elected Tasmanian Government may move to liberalise their laws, but there is another hurdle.

Any move to decriminalise homosexuality is likely to come unstuck here. Most of the all-male members of Tasmania's Upper House are rigidly opposed to recognising any gay rights and that's not a situation that's likely to change quickly.

So the gay lobby has turned to the High Court asking it to overturn the State's criminal code. The Tasmanian situation reflects the extremes of the gay rights debate: one side wanting full legal recognition of same-sex relationships, the other favouring punishment because of sexual preference.

MAXINE MCKEW: That story from Anne Maria Nicholson, and now to our studio guests.

Andrew Sullivan is the editor of the highly respected magazine the New republic. His book, Virtually normal, sets out to discuss how society should deal with its homosexual community. He joins us from Washington.

Robert Knight is Director of Cultural Studies at the conservative lobby group, the Family Research Council, and he too joins us from Washington.

Stevie Clayton is co-convenor of the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. She's worked on a variety of discussion papers, promoting homosexual rights, including the Bride wore pink, and Lesbians and gay men have families too, and she joins us from Sydney.

Welcome to all of you.

Andrew Sullivan, what do you see as the most compelling argument for gay marriage?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Well, I guess the best answer to that question is really, to tell a story, which is that: Imagine, or I suppose, that you are a heterosexual kid and you grow up as most heterosexual kids grow up with the usual friends and then when you get into adolescence you start having crushes, you then start dating people and in you're early 20s you may meet the person that you love, you think the right person for you and you go to your family and your friends and your church and your government and you say: 'I'd like to marry the person that I love' and your church and your family turn around to you and they say: 'Are you kidding, don't be disgusting. Why do you want to get married? Why do you want this for? Why don't you just go away and do your private sexual activities in private.'

I think when you actually think about what society is saying to gay men and women, you realise that the question is not 'Why should we have gay marriage?', it is 'Why should we not have equal marriage rights for everybody who wants them?'

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am afraid you do have that, Andrew.

Homosexuals have the right to marry, they just have to meet the requirements of the office. Marriage is the bringing together of the two sexes; it always has been; it's universal; we didn't just make it up recently to oppress gay people. It's the centre of culture; it's the centre of the family; it's the centre of civilisation in all the continents.

I find it remarkable that a tiny percentage of the population - perhaps one per cent - is asking us to radically redefine, and thereby destroy the definition of marriage, to suit them.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I am not asking .. I am asking....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Yes, you are.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...for the current definition of marriage, which as I understand it is: fidelity, monogamy, commitment, responsibility and love - all the values that I thought....

ROBERT KNIGHT: All that and two sexes coming together. It's a man and a woman. They fit together biologically; they fit together psychologically, complementary. You know, your original premise falls flat because the premise itself is that homosexuality is just sort of the flip side of heterosexuality and they are morally equal, but they are not. Homosexuality is abnormal....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I am saying that the....

ROBERT KNIGHT: ...it's unhealthy and it has been discouraged universally.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: The emotional integrity, the dignity and the respect and the love that gay people have for one another, that we've shown for one another, is as good as any heterosexual relationship.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am sorry, it isn't, Andrew, and you know it.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: And why is that, why is it not in your view?

ROBERT KNIGHT: Well, because....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: What is it that we are not able to do that you can do and how do you know that?

ROBERT KNIGHT: First you can't procreate, okay. There are two people involved to procreate.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: There are many heterosexuals....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Second....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Let me just answer that point first of all. When people say that marriage is for children, they are not consistent.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I didn't say that's all it was fertile.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: There are many infertile heterosexuals who do not, who cannot have children....

ROBERT KNIGHT: But they still have the possibility.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...and they have the right to marry.

ROBERT KNIGHT: They still have that possibility of becoming mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: If they are post-menopausal, if there's absolutely no way they can have children....

ROBERT KNIGHT: They can adopt and give a child a mother and a father. You guys are saying kids don't need a mother or a father.

STEVIE CLAYTON: ...... gay and lesbian couple.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: If you let us adopt, we could do that too.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am sorry, children need both parents.

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, gentlemen, can I just interrupt at this stage. Andrew Sullivan, let me ask you this: Will you still be in favour of gay marriage if homosexual domestic partnerships enjoy the same status as, say, heterosexual de facto relationships?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: No, I wouldn't because it's second-class citizenship. It is saying....

MAXINE MCKEW: Why is it?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...that our relationships are not as good as heterosexuals. Well, take the analogy of inter-racial marriage. Inter-racial marriage was opposed by many of the groups that Robert Knight now is a part of in his time.

ROBERT KNIGHT: That's not true.

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on, hang on, Robert Knight, just a minute. No, Mr Knight, hang on, just a minute if you would.

ROBERT KNIGHT: [...] have to answer.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Let me just finish the analogy....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Bad analogy.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...and if they had gone to the end of that struggle, for their own equal dignity in marriage rights, and then at the end of it said: 'Okay, well let marriage be between two white people or two black people, but we'll call an inter-racial marriage domestic partnership.'

I think you'd see what that was conceding as to the integrity and equality of those citizens.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Andrew, you can't compare race to sexual behaviour, it's two different things. I've never known any former black people. I know a lot of former homosexuals. I know people who have been in and out of the lifestyle, it's totally different and you can't compare the two. It's an absurd proposition.

STEVIE CLAYTON: You can compare the way people are treated.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Between you and me, Robert, who would know more about what a homosexual is and what is the core of our integrity?

ROBERT KNIGHT: Okay, then we ought to leave drug dealers....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Are you saying I am a liar?

ROBERT KNIGHT: ...for the purpose of rating laws about drugs, I suppose....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Are you saying I am a liar? Are you saying that I cannot even tell the truth about who I am?

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am saying that your comparison to race is invalid and Colin Powell, one of the most respected people in this country, General Powell, said the same thing. He said: 'Race is a benign characteristic, telling you nothing about moral character or behaviour or as sexual behaviour is entirely tied up in moral behaviour and the character of the individual.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: This is not sexual behaviour, this is a sexual orientation just as your sexual orientation is an orientation. I don't infer any morality from your heterosexual identity. Why do you have to infer it from my homosexuality?

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, gentlemen, gentlemen, I am sorry, gentlemen....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Because for thousands of years all major religions have done so for a reason....

MAXINE MCKEW: Gentlemen....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Homosexuality hurts individuals, families and societies.

MAXINE MCKEW: Gentlemen, I'd like to bring our Sydney guest....

ROBERT KNIGHT: It's always been discouraged for....

MAXINE MCKEW: ...in at this stage. If you would, Stevie Clayton, just so that you can get a word in here.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Okay.

MAXINE MCKEW: Do gay activists in Australia want marriage?

STEVIE CLAYTON: Certainly marriage is an area of inequality that we would like to see changed at some point in the future, but in most Australian law, heterosexual de facto relationships really have the same standing as legally married couples.

MAXINE MCKEW: In all States?

STEVIE CLAYTON: It's not the case in Queensland, it is in all of the other States, and Queensland has given some power over de facto relationships to the Commonwealth, so there's still laws that regulate de facto relationships. Those sorts of laws affect practical daily things; they are about things like: access to your partner when they are sick in hospital; what happens if your partner dies intestate, all of those sorts of things. And so by having those laws amended to give same-sex relationships the same standing as heterosexual de facto relationships, it would give us those changes that impact on our daily lives and we're much more concerned about those sorts of changes than we are about what we see as really symbolic things like access to marriage.

MAXINE MCKEW: What about Andrew Sullivan's point, though, that this is really second-class?

STEVIE CLAYTON: There certainly is that hierarchy that marriage is seen as being one level about de facto relationships, but we also are seeing a trend where increasingly heterosexual couples aren't legally marrying and, even if we were to get access to marriage, we're convinced that only a small proportion of same-sex couples would take up that option. We're concerned about providing laws which will protect the majority in relationships, not just that minority that might take up marriage.

MAXINE MCKEW: Andrew Sullivan, how many gays in the US would really want marriage?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Well, the polls suggest an overwhelming majority. There was a recent poll in the gay magazine, the Advocate, that showed 81 per cent of gay couples would love the right to be married. We're not arguing, of course, that everybody should get married. We're arguing that we should have the right to get married as any other citizen in this society does.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You do, you have that; you just have to meet the requirements of the office.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: We can't without denying the very integrity of our being and that is what you're asking us to do, and that is a very un-Christian thing to ask anybody to do.

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight, let me ask you this question?

ROBERT KNIGHT: I sorry, if you're going to bring Christianity into it....

MAXINE MCKEW: Essentially, Andrew Sullivan is putting forward a very traditional conservative view of marriage. I mean, would....

ROBERT KNIGHT: No he's not. No, no, it's a perverse turning over of that traditional definition. You can't borrow from traditional morality .. take an unnatural, unhealthy relationship, call it the same and say it's conservative. You can't do that. I am sorry.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Let me say, the difference between Robert and I and our definition of marriage is that: I am defining marriage by what it is, by its content; he's defining it by the people it excludes. That is....

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am defining it the way....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...exactly the difference between us.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Oh, Andrew, you're too much. I am defining it the way it's been defined in Christianity, Islam, Confucianism; it's been defined this way for thousands of years. I find it remarkable that a small group of people is coming along and saying: 'We're going to change the definition and make it so flexible that you don't even need one of the two genders you needed in marriage before. And once you do that there's no stopping point; you can have three or four people get married.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Robert, as you know well, that there have been many things in traditional religion. Islam, for example, the treatment of women in that country, in that religion, is not exactly something that many of us in America or around the world would agree with, but through history we have also come to realise that some people deserve equality and integrity and respect. And certainly, the Catholic Church has come to that conclusion and its gone an enormously....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Not in homosexuality.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: It has .. and it's gone an enormously long way to understanding that. You cannot simply assert these other traditions as if they are an argument. We live in a secular society, we live in....

ROBERT KNIGHT: It's very socialist of you, Andrew.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: It's a distinction between church and State....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Socialists hate the past. They want to wipe out all tradition and make the new man from scratch and if nothing that came before was valid. That is nonsense.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I want us to have the family values you claim to believe in, but you don't believe in them.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Then find a girl and settle down and get married, Andrew.

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, at this point....

ROBERT KNIGHT: You have the same right anybody else does.

MAXINE MCKEW: At this point, Andrew Sullivan, could I ask you this, could I suggest to you, perhaps, there would be many heterosexual liberals who would take the view, of course, that it's proper to extend equal rights to gays, but they would nonetheless baulk at the idea of gay marriage being given the same status as heterosexual marriage. Isn't that a dilemma?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: They would, because I think that it's a very difficult thing for people to accept because most people have not really absorbed the notion that we are exactly the same as heterosexuals.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You are not, sir, I am sorry, not in that regard.

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on, let's get the answer, hang on.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Excuse me, but let me talk about my own emotions and not have them defined by you. And my emotions, Robert, my emotional integrity, Robert....

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on, Mr Knight, hang on, just a minute.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Okay, the reason I've been interrupting is I've only been asked one question, as I recall, so I feel I have to.

MAXINE MCKEW: No, I think it was a few more than that. Andrew, sorry, if you can just finish your point and we'll go back to Mr Knight.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: What I am saying is that when people understand and they know a gay person - you show that in all the polls - people have actually interacted with a gay person; somebody who's their brother or sister or in their family, they come to realise that we are as human as anybody else....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Of course.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...and that our needs and loves are as good as anybody else's and that we should have the same opportunity to express that in committed loving responsible relationships. That is what Mr Knight is opposed to.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am opposed to .. when you bring the law in to it, Andrew, and here's the distinction, you can go right out now and have a marriage ceremony of your own with your own religion, whatever you want to do, but when you bring the State into it, you force everyone to accept it, then you tell businessmen and women: 'You give support to homosexual relationships or we will drag you into court under the Civil Rights laws.'

ANDREW SULLIVAN: No, we don't.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You teach children....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: No, we don't.

ROBERT KNIGHT: ...that homosexuality is as normal as marital love or you'll be in violation of the law. This is tyranny, okay, you cannot take the right conscience away from millions of people to suit yourselves.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Somebody's right to marry affects no one else's. I would not, in any way, dream of taking your right to marry away from you.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You make it law and you will.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I am merely asking the same for myself and it would need not affect you in the slightest.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Oh, come on, Andrew, it's already affecting Christian believers in this country. The Department of Transportation ....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: No one is being forced to marry someone of the same gender....

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, Robert Knight, can I....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Can I just explain to Andrew why it is....

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight, can I come in here with a question, please?

ROBERT KNIGHT: Go ahead.

MAXINE MCKEW: Fundamental to your belief is the notion, of course, that this would undermine traditional families. Does that not suggest, though, that....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Yes.

MAXINE MCKEW: ...there's a certain fragility about traditional families if they can't cope with a wider inclusion, a wider definition of what marriage is?

ROBERT KNIGHT: No, well, families are already under attack economically, socially, culturally; the divorce rate is skyrocketing. The answer is: not more dysfunction; not stretching the envelope even further to totally radically redefine marriage. It is to go back to the original formula and say: 'This worked, let's provide some rules for everybody, even homosexuals....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Let me tell you....

MAXINE MCKEW: Andrew, no, Andrew, please, don't interrupt, hang on.

ROBERT KNIGHT: ...because it stabilises society. You can do without homosexuality in any society; you cannot do without marriage; it is the basis of civilisation. That's why the State has an interest in guarding the definition. You can't base it on feelings of people because if you do that then three or four people who consider themselves married and love each other, have every much as right to marry as two homosexuals do, or a man and a boy or any kind combination.

MAXINE MCKEW: All right.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You cannot radically redefine without destroying the definition.

MAXINE MCKEW: Stevie Clayton, how do you see this?

STEVIE CLAYTON: I just find the argument amazing. We're talking about a basic human right that people have to form relationships, to have families and to have them recognised by the State. What we're now talking about is....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Not everyone. I am sorry.

STEVIE CLAYTON: ...returning to gay and lesbian couples a basic human right which the State has taken away from them and what we have is groups like Robert Knight represents wanting to continue that sort of persecution, wanting to keep those rights away from other people and arguing in the most emotive terms, a whole lot of high-flown rhetoric about how it would destroy the family, the basic unit of our society. I want to know how? How,....

ROBERT KNIGHT: It would destroy....

STEVIE CLAYTON: ...giving me the basic right to be able to have my relationship recognised, the sorts of laws that would let me see my partner when they are in hospital; that would let me claim her body from the morgue if she died; that would let me have my fair share of her estate if she died intestate. They are the laws we are talking about. How will giving me access to those, take anything from you?

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Actually, there are ways to achieve that without wrecking the definition of marriage. But let me tell you how it would affect people....

MAXINE MCKEW: So you believe in the extension of these rights, do you? Sorry, Robert Knight, do you believe in the extension of these fundamental rights?

ROBERT KNIGHT: Hospital visitation - I see no reason why someone in a hospital can't see whoever the heck they want, okay, but I wouldn't redefine marriage. I would refuse that....

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, what about inheritance issues, things like that?

ROBERT KNIGHT: Well, inheritance is different because families are involved and you can write a will and leave something to anybody you want. The only thing homosexuals don't have is protection against contesting family members. The family does have an edge because families have extra protection. The reason they do is because they are a good that the State has recognised. But the way it would affect other people.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: We are - let me say something - we are family.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Wait a minute, I didn't get to answer the question. All right, the way it would affect people would be: when you create a counterfeit marriage, when you cheapen the institution by saying these other relationships are the same, that the State has the same interest in those as it does in these, then you are kicking out the stilts from the support of marriage. You'll find businesses is saying - look, ATT, a major corporation, has said: 'We are being besieged by gay activists to recognise their relationships and it's such a thorny problem we may do away with family benefits altogether.'

When you water it down like that, you jeopardise the special status marriage has because it is so special and specific. So when you broaden the definition, you can destroy it.

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, Stevie Clayton, are the stilts being kicked away from the marriage?

STEVIE CLAYTON: In the example that you're giving, it's not giving rights to gay and lesbian relationships that's impacting on that company, it's groups like your's fighting against it, causing trouble for them and then they decide it's too thorny an issue and they want to back away.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Cause trouble for resisting? I am sorry but we need to resist radical changes [...]. We're not the troublemakers.

STEVIE CLAYTON:That's your example.

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on, hang on, we can't all talk at once, hang on, hang on.

Stevie Clayton, let me just ask you this - surely a lot of these arguments are going to surface over the next couple of months as the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby attempts to have amendments changed, certainly in New South Wales?

STEVIE CLAYTON: Yes, certainly. We'll expect to see a lot of those sorts of arguments coming up but we've largely won the argument around the Government.

MAXINE MCKEW: Are you sure about that? You don't think they might go cold on this one?

STEVIE CLAYTON: Well, we've had an undertaking from the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the Attorney-General, that they will be moving to recognise our relationships in some limited areas. We're not sure how extensive the reforms will be, but certainly they have agreed to cover things like hospital visits, decisions about treatments, the Coroner's Act, issues when people die intestate, and looking at issues of property distribution on the breakdown of relationship; so those sorts of key areas they have guaranteed to cover in the first lot of amendments; further down the track we may see more extensive things. Certainly there is a fear that they might go cold on it given the results of the last Federal election and the strong swing against Labor, but I think that the commitments are very firm and once again, if they were to back down on them, I think that we would see resurgence of activism amongst gays and lesbians in the community that's been missing for a while.

MAXINE MCKEW: Now, might that activism take the form of outing certain prominent gay parliamentarians or those that you assume are gay?

STEVIE CLAYTON: Certainly, we see outing as a valid political tactic but one that we are loathed to use except as a last resort.

MAXINE MCKEW: It's a pretty controversial one, isn't it?

STEVIE CLAYTON: It certainly is. And we accept, I think, in Australia generally, that outing is something that is really reserved for one's self to do and that you don't have the right to out someone else, but if someone .. if we could prove that someone was definitely gay, i.e. having a stat dec from someone who had sex with them, and they actively did things that were detrimental to the community, then we would see it as a valid thing to do, but only in those circumstances and only as an extreme response when everything else had failed.

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay. Andrew Sullivan, how do you see this question of, I suppose, private tolerance, public intolerance, by many legislators?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's beginning to break down - in this country at least - the hypocracy where so many Republicans have gay people in their own families; know so many gay people. When the Dole campaign, for example, has many gay people on its staff, and they have to go out because they are lobbied by Robert Knight and say the gay people are beneath contempt and unworthy and will cheapen....

ROBERT KNIGHT: I've never said that, Andrew.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: You said you will cheapen the institution of marriage by giving to each other. That is an expression of contempt....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Yes, because marriage is a specific thing.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...and I would never dream of saying the same thing about you.

Just a minute, Robert, you've interrupted everything that I have said this entire evening.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I had to.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I want to say something to you about family. Let me tell you what family is: We are the family. We have mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and we want to be part of that and we demand the right not to be thrown out of our own families and our own institutions, and we will stay here and we will fight this until we get the dignity that we deserve.

ROBERT KNIGHT: You're not going to get it by marching in the streets, by trying to jam your views down other Americans' throats, using the power of the law, which is what gay rights is all about. You know, the compassionate....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: We'll gain it by....

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on, hang on, Robert Knight.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...in this country a compassionate view.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Andrew, okay, to me the compassionate response to anybody, in any situation, is to tell the truth about it. We haven't even touched on homosexual behaviour -what it actually is. That's usually not permitted in debates because it is so offensive to so many people, we probably can't even talk about it right here and yet you want to accord that kind of behaviour the same status as a mother and a father in a bedroom.

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight, it's not a question of......

ROBERT KNIGHT: I am sorry, that's unreasonable to ask other people. You can ask for tolerance; you can't ask for forced acceptance.

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight, let me ask this....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Robert, what we're talking about, Robert, is love.

MAXINE MCKEW: Robert Knight, aren't the courts already making judgments in this area? Isn't that what we're seeing in Hawaii? They are already saying....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Well, yes. Well, not yet.

MAXINE MCKEW: ...there's a denial of justice here, not to give gays marriage licences. Aren't the courts already in the vanguard here?

ROBERT KNIGHT: There was a case in Hawaii....

Well, some of the more liberal courts have moved in that direction and that's why many States - up to 25 now - have legislation protecting the definition of marriage. And there is movement about at the Federal level to put the United States Government on record as saying: 'Marriage is between one man and one woman' - simple as that. No hatred of gays; no intolerance. This is what we mean by marriage, folks: accept no substitutes. If you take California wine and stick a New York label on it and say it's the same thing, you've just destroyed the definition of California wine and New York wine. Same with marriage, it is very specific.

STEVIE CLAYTON: The reason you have those laws.

MAXINE MCKEW: All right. Final point, Andrew Sullivan....

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Frankly, I think that most people would accept that a California wine and New York wine is wine and that love is love and the behaviour we're talking about here is loving one another till death us do part.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I love my daughter, should I marry her, Andrew? Where do you draw the line?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: No, of course not, because your daughter is not in a position to voluntarily agree, because she is a minor and because she is in your family, to have a relationship.

ROBERT KNIGHT: Okay, when she's 21? Is there anything wrong with that?

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, sorry, final question: Andrew Sullivan, do you see....

ROBERT KNIGHT: Why not?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: Love.

MAXINE MCKEW: Who do you see winning here, the legislatures in the US or the courts?

ANDREW SULLIVAN: I think we'll see a great battle. I don't think that equal marriage rights are going to happen very soon. I think there will be a massive backlash against us....

ROBERT KNIGHT: It's a mistake.

MAXINE MCKEW: Hang on.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: ...but I think we will continue to make our arguments as morally and as clearly as we can. The civil rights movement took a generation of moral witness to win these rights and moral witness is what we are going to be dealing with.

MAXINE MCKEW: Okay, on that note I'll have to say, thank you all very much. We could go on all night but we can't.

ROBERT KNIGHT: I bet we could.

MAXINE MCKEW: Thank you very much for taking part in our discussion.