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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

CATT, Very Reverend Dr Peter Charles, Private capacity

CHAPMAN, Mr Nigel, Secretary, Imagine, Surry Hills Baptist Church

HERCOCK, Pastor Michael, Imagine, Surry Hills Baptist Church

GILMOUR, Reverend Benjamin Ray, Minister, Paddington Uniting Church

PITTAWAY, Mr Alexander, Youth Ministry Leader, Metropolitan Community Church Sydney

SMITH, Reverend Gregory William, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church Sydney

WHELAN, Mr Justin, Mission Development Manager, Paddington Uniting Church

Evidence from the Very Rev. Dr Catt was taken via teleconference—


CHAIR: Do you have anything to say about the capacity in which you appear?

Rev. Smith : I am the pastor of Metropolitan Community Church Sydney, and I am appearing on behalf of the church and also the Metropolitan Community Churches in Australia

Pastor Hercock : I am the senior Baptist pastor in Surry Hills.

Mr Chapman : I am the secretary of Surry Hills Baptist Church. I represent the board and the congregation.

CHAIR: Thanks very much. We have submissions from all of your organisations, which is great. They are on our website and we have read them. We are really short of time, so I am going to give you each an opportunity to provide us with an opening statement. They should really be no more than two minutes each. Sorry, but I think you will see that there is more benefit in asking you questions. Would the witnesses from Paddington Uniting Church like to start?

Rev. Gilmour : Yes, thank you. The Paddington Uniting Church community entered about three months of throwing around the question about same-sex marriage. We are a church that honours faith, justice, creativity and inclusivity. We have a number of same-sex-partnered, as well as heterosexual-partnered, married couples with kids. We have the full mix of an inclusive community. In exploring that, we looked at the theological traditions and the biblical traditions and we also looked at it as an issue of social justice. We drew from a lot of resources—which I cannot really go into because we are very short of time—including from South Africa in terms of having second-class rates of rights and their movement towards same-sex marriage because of the civil rights thing; it was seen as a second-class thing. What does that do to civil society? We looked at the theological issues and the church's movements, particularly in Canada with the rights of same-sex marriage in the Canadian United Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. So there are a lot of precedents out there that it is moving in this direction. We stand in a relatively progressive Christian corner, if you like, with a Christian tradition that says it is right to support same-sex marriage.

CHAIR: Thanks very much. Let's move on.

Mr Whelan : Sorry, could I make a quick statement.

CHAIR: Yes, go on.

Mr Whelan : There are two things. One is we do need to clarify—and this is in our submission—that we are aware that our position at Paddington is not the national position of the Uniting Church. It is also true to say that the Uniting Church is about to debate this issue at its July national assembly and there is a possibility that the Uniting Church view will change, because the Uniting Church holds an openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit in its discerning on these issues. Also, I just wanted to make a quick statement that I am a heterosexual devoutly Christian married father of two children and I support marriage equality, and I think that is an important distinction; my wife and I are married.

My wife and I were married by a woman at Paddington Uniting Church whose love for her lesbian partner over 20 years was a light to many people. In caring for her partner in her final days and months of a terminal illness, my friend displayed the kind of sacrificial love that people of faith could only honour as exemplifying the love of Christ for the world. Indeed, this woman and her faithful partner changed the hearts and minds of many senior people in the Uniting Church about sexuality and the rightful place of non-heterosexual people in the life of the church.

My daughter was recently baptised in Paddington Uniting Church. Her godparents, who are part of our community, are a lesbian couple whose love for each other and for their two children is an equal witness to me. When I observe the way they have navigated the trials of life together, it strengthens the bonds of my marriage. Their love for each other and their children is so strong and so authentic that their respective parents were able to overcome a lifetime of homophobia grounded in a devout Catholic faith.

Compared to many of my friends, I am a social conservative. I believe the institution of marriage is under threat. I believe the porn industry is out of control and damages our sexual health. I am deeply troubled by the corporate sexualisation of our children. but I think marriage is under threat from a consumptive model of relationships in which loved ones are like a shiny object to discard at will. I think marriage is under threat from celebrities who get divorced hours after their weddings and are then still held up as role models. I think it is under threat from reality TV shows which offer marriage as the prize at the end of the shows. But I do not believe that marriage is under threat from people who love each other so much they want to commit to each other for their whole lives—and with the possibility of children—in public and with the support of the community. In fact, I think these people actually strengthen the institution of marriage.

CHAIR: Thanks very much. We will go to Mr Chapman.

Mr Chapman : I will make a brief statement on behalf of both of us and then we will answer questions. Thank you for the opportunity to address you here today, although we think it is possible we have been asked here because of the sheer novelty value of having a Baptist church make a submission of the kind that we did. We would like to read out from the submission that we made to the Baptist Union when we were asked to clarify what was our position.

CHAIR: If you could make it brief that would be great.

Mr Chapman : I have timed it and it runs for two minutes.

CHAIR: You can always provide it to us and we can photocopy it and give it to everybody.

Mr Chapman : I have got 12 copies here.

CHAIR: Maybe just quickly summarise it for us then. That would be easier.

Mr Chapman : Briefly stated, we believe that Christian marriage is not the same thing as civil marriage. It cannot actually be defined by parliament. The Australian government administers practical legal aspects of marriage for couples of all faiths or no faith whatsoever. It does not impose a Christian understanding of marriage on those couples and it should not do so. We therefore do not believe that any distinctive aspect of Christian marriage can be honoured or dishonoured by civil marriage legislation. We believe that Christian theology and theological values should not generally be legislated for non-Christians. Legislation is no substitute for persuasion, conviction or conscience and if anything is generally actively detrimental to the formation of genuine faith. We are concerned that the actions and statements of the Christian lobby in general have been more confrontational than missional or engaging in their approach to these questions, so more combative than persuasive, and that for the majority of our local community their actions have reinforced a perception that Christians look upon them and their gay friends, family and neighbours with ignorance and irrational prejudice. We believe the primary effect of the marriage equality legislation on the everyday life of our community will be to increase the stability of relationships and to allow better access to public services. We believe its primary effect on Christian churches and indeed Christian mission will be that it requires our churches to develop a more compassionate, engaged and personal response to homosexuality and the gay community than has thus far been seen. We believe that both of these effects will be positive. We welcome your questions.

Rev. Smith : I have been an ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church for more than 22 years. The Metropolitan Community Church was founded in 1968 with an outreach to anyone who felt excluded from the mainstream Christian denominations. In particular our outreach was to those in the gay, lesbian and transgender community. MCC now has over 250 churches in 22 countries around the world. Our ministry is based in social justice and we believe that all people should have equality of access to all aspects of society, including marriage. We see marriage as a secular issue, not a religious issue, and as such all Australians, regardless of their sexuality, should have equality of access. We also support the current arrangements that allow faith organisations to decide who they will marry according to their particular requirements.

We strongly oppose all those who, in the name of Christianity or any other faith, deny access to the institution of marriage or any other institution within our country. No person in this wonderful country of ours should be made to feel second-class as a result of the bigotry of others. We believe that exclusion of people of the same sex from marriage continues to perpetuate the myth that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are somehow flawed and that, in doing so, continues to justify the violence against GLBT people by some sections of our community. We also believe that many of the struggles that young people have in coming to terms with their sexuality are made more difficult while the Australian government, through the Marriage Act, intentionally or otherwise, give the impression that GLBT people are of lesser importance than the rest of the community. We pray that our government will amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples and, in doing so, address a serious issue of social inequality in our country.

Mr Pittaway : I am here today as a Christian who supports marriage equality for two reasons: (1) because of family values and (2) because of Christian values. Those two words are often used against the LGBT community by people who think that they are less than because of their sexuality. Today I want to turn those words around and reclaim them in support of marriage equality.

I see the young gay people who come through the doors of Metropolitan Community Church and every day I see their struggle to reconcile faith and sexuality. You could have a debate about what the Bible says about same-sex marriage, but that debate ignores the fact that there is a human being standing in front of you who is struggling. The support networks that many people, heterosexual people, take for granted—family, marriage, church, community—are thrown up in the air for the simple reason of a young gay person being honest and open about who they are. As a Christian my value system cannot look at those people in the eye and deny them one of the greatest support networks of all—a fully recognised legal marriage. Christian values of love, acceptance and devotion I cannot ignore by telling the young people at my church that, because they are same-sex attracted, they are barred from this institution. One of the first things that God did when he had his interactions with Adam was to recognise the deep-seated need for companionship.

As a Christian I believe it takes a special kind of indifference, completely alien to the spirit of Jesus's teachings, to see the love and devotion in the eyes of same-sex partners and then to deny them a fully ordained, fully recognised, God ordained marriage. Jesus did not die on the cross for me so that modern Christians could be known for persecuting the most consistently marginalised subsection of society.

Lastly, I am here to support marriage equality because I believe in the family values of unconditional love. The institution of marriage can only be strengthened when as many people are brought into the tent as possible. Marriage, I do believe—and I agree with some of the previous members—is the bedrock of family, and for too long the concept of family has been denied to LGBT Australians. Despite many in our communities who believe that marriage is an outdated institution, it cannot be doing that badly if gays and lesbians want to get in on the act as well. We strengthen the cultural bonds of our society by allowing marriage to be accessible to all Australians. We give especially young gay and lesbian people who are struggling to recognise their faith and sexuality one of the most beautiful, one of the most spiritual and one of the best gifts of all—one of the best support networks of all—by giving them access to fully recognised marriage.

CHAIR: Reverend Catt, would you like to say a few opening words.

Very Rev. Dr Catt : Thank you. I just wanted to note that my submission is a personal one; it is not endorsed by the Anglican Church. But it was offered from where I sit as the dean of a large metropolitical cathedral and it is the product of the view of life one gets from sitting in such a position through interacting with large numbers of people, both church members and people from the wider community. Simply, it is my view that the bill provides a good way forward for a pluralistic society: religious sensitivities are honoured and a liberty is extended to a greater number of people without impinging on the liberty of others. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you for that.

Senator PRATT: Mr Chapman, what you have put forward I think is quite compelling from the point of view that, if we were to argue that marriage needs to be legislated for entirely within a religious and Christian context, there is no way that it could actually keep up with the complexities of the modern world and doing what our marriage law actually has to do, which is to assist people in negotiating what are complex legal and family environments and a range of other legal requirements that the Marriage Act has. I found the distinction that you have drawn quite important. I really just wanted to ask you about that.

Pastor Hercock : I might answer that just as a minister of the church. It is fully important to acknowledge that we are one of 365 churches in the Baptist Union and we are the only one that I am aware that is heading in this direction. That conviction is not because we have changed our conservative values. But the question that you affirm and what we are writing is that actually the complexity of family values in our communities is significant and real. We have been quite concerned by the rhetoric that the conservative side of our churches have presented—that if you are gay or lesbian then you are somehow less or more immoral. The arguments are basically around morality and immorality and that the scriptures that they teach and that they propose should come from the basis of marriage teach very clearly that that person is illegitimate and immoral—and not only that person but literally large percentages of our community who are not fitting under that category. I would be really concerned that we would make a prejudgment on that group—gay or lesbian or otherwise—because we have a Christian value that says inside our churches that this is a moral value that is not right. Therefore, the flowing arguments come out about illegitimacy all the way along.

Senator PRATT: I am not sure if anyone else would like to comment on that issue.

Mr Chapman : I think it probably responds directly to your question. I do not think what we have said about the distinction between civil marriage and then Christian marriage on the other hand—or, say, Hindu marriage or Muslim marriage or any other particular understanding of marriage which exists in society—is anything particularly new or unusual; it is just quite a normal aspect of secularity. But there is a common idea that Australian marriage law, rather than being simply a convenient consensus for managing what most people in society agree on, somehow reinforces any particular understanding of marriage that individuals may enter into under that law.

Senator PRATT: So our current Marriage Act is something of a hybrid—it is secular, but it kind of recognises religious marriage. But it is certainly not a Christian equivalent of sharia law, where you take a particular biblical doctrine; it has to keep up with the complex needs of our society. So to take the step to gender-neutralise access to that institution, and make it operate regardless of gender, would be a natural thing for the parliament and the nation to do, to be keep up with the complexities of people's lives in this country?

Rev. Gilmour : I think one of the complexities is that you have religious practitioners who are acting as agents of the state as celebrants, so you have conflicting ideologies right there. And I think that, because marriage is a voluntary union, religious practitioners can then refuse it, if it does not meet the extra criterion in terms of the civil argument. I think that is a really important point to make.

Senator PRATT: Thank you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The submissions of the witnesses represented here today have a theme running through them. Dr Catt, you comment in your submission:

I support the proposed Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 because it removes discrimination … and recognises the pluralistic nature of our society.

And I think you say, Reverend Smith, that no person should be made to feel second-class by their exclusion from the institution of marriage. That is the sort of theme I detect in the other submissions as well. Why would then one not argue—perhaps I am assuming you do—that the inclusiveness of marriage should extend to other kinds of relationships? What about a bisexual person who is in a demonstrably loving relationship with a man and a woman? Why should they be made to feel second-class by their exclusion from the institution of marriage?

Rev. Smith : In some ways this is one of the furphies that has been put out there. We heard a little bit of that earlier: 'The next thing they will want two, three, four or five partners', or whatever, and, 'They'll want to marry their sisters' et cetera. When you are talking about bisexuals in particular, at the moment there is a difficulty for them about how they define their relationships. But what we are talking about is taking the current Marriage Act as it stands, which I believe says 'between a man and a woman', and changing it to simply read 'between two persons'. When we are starting to talk about three or four persons, or all these other dynamics, it is clouding the waters. Our call, in particular, is not to do anything other than to make the Marriage Act open to all people under the same guidelines and standards that exist today—and that includes between two people. It also allows religious bodies to make their own decisions about who they will or will not marry within the confines of their religious organisations. But it clearly says to people that marriage is something that is accessible to all of the Australian society, regardless of their sexuality.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Well, not quite all—as you have made clear, there are limits. But your definition seems to rest on ensuring nobody feels excluded, making sure that if people come to the church in the embrace of a loving relationship they should be acknowledged and affirmed as a person and so forth. So why shouldn't they have that affirmation in the institution of marriage if they are in an arrangement with three people?

Rev. Smith : The best I can give you is an example: we have had in our church, from its beginnings in 1968, the right of holy union—which is the spiritual joining together of two people of the same sex. This was brought into place because, across the world at that time—and now in Australia and other places, of course—people could not get married, but many people yearned to have some sort of spiritual recognition. And in our denomination it quite clearly states that that holy union is between two people of the same sex. We do not even allow people of the opposite sex to have a holy union, because marriage is open to them. I think this comes down to, first of all, the guidelines of the Marriage Act itself and the integrity of the organisations that will empower people to come into a relationship and seek marriage as their affirmation of their relationship.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you can change one part of the Marriage Act—with respect to it being between a man and a woman—surely you can change the part of the Marriage Act that relates to it being between one person and another person.

Rev. Smith : But we are not asking for that to be changed—

Senator HUMPHRIES: I know you are not asking for it but—

Rev. Smith : We are simply asking for two people—

Senator HUMPHRIES: You said the test ought to be that it does not deny anybody a chance to affirm that nobody is a second-class citizen. What you are now saying to us is that there are certain people who can be considered second-class citizens on the basis of the nature of their relationship.

Rev. Smith : I do not agree with that. I am saying that there would be guidelines, as there are guidelines in place at the moment. We are not asking for open slather. That goes down the same path as those who say, 'Next thing you'll want to be able to do is marry a dog.' Those are the types of arguments we hear out there. There are always going to be people who object, for whatever reason. At the moment, for example, you cannot have polygamy here in Australia. So is that excluding people under the current Marriage Act? Yes, it is. But what we are saying is that, for people in a committed, loving relationship, as was mentioned before, who want to make a commitment for life—

Senator HUMPHRIES: But not a polygamous one.

Rev. Smith : Not polygamous, no—

Senator CASH: Not a bisexual one.

Rev. Smith : No—two people. Two people.

Senator CASH: And that is the point, isn't it? You argue for equality for all; however, the 'for all' is actually as defined by you. You want to put limits around the 'equity and equality for all' argument.

Pastor Hercock : No. Some of the limits are about boundaries, and the boundaries are about fidelity and monogamy and a commitment for life. A commitment to monogamy and fidelity is the basis of marriage and the institution that we want as family. Now, monogamy and fidelity can exist in same-sex relationships; that it is what we argue. We are making the point that monogamy and fidelity can exist inside any family unit, be progressive and good for the children, and good for the community that they live in. The argument that you raise about equality across a broader spectrum—we are not arguing for that. We are asking for those individuals who want monogamy and fidelity in their lives for their families.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You are not arguing that now, but your submissions are more broadly based than that. To quote one of them, you want 'a fair go and full civil marriage equality for all residents of this great country of ours'. I can understand that you want to limit it, in the context of this hearing, to a particular type of relationship. But if your test is inclusiveness—if your test is that society is now calling for people's relationships to be recognised—you have to acknowledge that, if, in the future, such relationships were to become more common and there were lots more people in menages a trois, your churches sooner or later would say, 'We can't exclude those people.'

Mr Pittaway : If I can intervene, the allusion you are making there is that it is a slippery slope, that we are going down this slippery slope of changing marriage—

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is the logic of your position, with respect.

Mr Pittaway : and I think that the people who want to get married, particularly the young people, would perceive that to be mildly offensive. The lie that is told to them by conservative churches is that gay culture and LGBT culture is promiscuous and you will never settle down, you will never find a partner. That is the position that you are putting forward, that 'slippery slope' argument. The substance of the debate now is focused on it being between two people, and that is the logic of our position: it is between two people.

Rev. Gilmour : Can I just add to that. When we are talking about the rite of marriage, there are cases of that changing throughout history. In fact, if you look at marriage as an institution throughout history, it was Elizabethan rites that introduced the notion of 'with my body I thee worship'; before that, it was all about property. It was a radical change to include a dynamic that was not named in those rites. So I think that this is a healthy debate for us as a progressive democracy to have. We weigh up the conservative argument—'This is the way it's always been'—and we look at: what is the social good of the change here, and what are the fruits and benefits of this for civil life and the common good? That is where we are arguing that this is a good move. And it is a move away from tradition; we are not arguing that it is not. It is a move of inclusivity but not broad-slather inclusivity; it is just another step in this ongoing journey.

CHAIR: Do you have anything to add to this discussion, Reverend Catt?

Very Rev. Dr Catt : I think the territory has been covered, thank you.

Mr Chapman : The question was what should be the legal basis for distinguishing between a monogamous relationship between any parties whatsoever and a polygamous relationship.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That was not my question. My question is how do you churches which are arguing for inclusion in the institution of marriage on the basis of people needing to feel to be included in this institution, to not have people outside the tent, people should be inside the tent and not second-class citizens by virtue of being excluded. How do you respond—

Mr Pittaway : What is missing from that argument and I think what you are missing that is implied in that argument is common sense. It is common sense that we are not talking about three or four people and it is common sense—

Senator CASH: Some disagree with you completely.

Mr Pittaway : We would argue that it is common sense that it is two people and no-one in the current marriage equality debate is arguing for polygamous relationships.

Senator CASH: Have you read what polygamists are asking for in United States?

Mr Pittaway : This is not the United States; this is Australia.

Senator CASH: No, but why do we keep having referred to us what the European countries have done by way of an example of what Australia should do? Should we disregard that as well and only look at Australia?

Mr Pittaway : What I am saying is that behind our submissions is the assumption that everyone gets it that is two people, not four or five, and that is common sense.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Your argument is time-limited. In due course societies will change. When they do change your successors will again come to this table and argue—

Mr Pittaway : In due course common sense has always prevailed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Don't give women the right to vote because next thing they will be wanting to stand for parliament.

Senator HUMPHRIES: No, that is not the case.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is.

Rev. Smith : In 1970 I left the Royal Australian Air Force because I was gay and could not serve as a gay man in the Royal Australian Air Force any longer. Today we have gay men and lesbians serving in the Royal Australian Air Force and the other armed forces. When you have women serving, if they choose to and if they are capable, on the front line. Is that a slippery slope or is that progress? I call it progress. We are not calling for menage a trois. In my 22 years of ministry and performing hundreds and hundreds of holy unions within our church, not once have I ever been asked to perform a holy union or even someone come to me inclined to have performed a holy union for more than two people—not once in 22 years. I think it is an erroneous argument.

Mr Pittaway : And throughout history marriage has changed, as it has changed significantly in the Bible; there are six forms of marriage in the Bible. Whenever we have weighed up how to change marriage, we have always weighed up with common sense. Common sense thus far has dictated that it is between two people.

Pastor Hercock : One of the things I picked up as we were sitting at the back when you were having the last discussion was that there was a language around fear and danger. I said to Reverend Smith I wondered if he had a concealed axe, because a conversation like a conspiracy theory is going on here behind the gay community trying to have the right for marriage. Particularly I picked it up from the conservative side because I am a part of it and I sit in those conversations, and I must say, what do we want to build as a community? What do we want to go forward into? Yes, I know there are some issues involved with this. We know that, but why are we so afraid and talking about danger rather than saying, 'Hey, here is a group of people who will have more of a contribution, who will build better families, who will build better communities,' rather than focusing on fear and danger. I find that a bit sad.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for helping to restore my faith in the Christian faith. You all spoke very eloquently about what I believe the Christian faith is meant to represent: compassion, love, commitment and an understanding that we pull together to build our society in the healthiest manner possible. So thank you for that, even though you all prefaced your contributions by saying it is not necessarily represented by the national bodies.

Mr Pittaway : It is at ours.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I think that that is actually really sad—that it is not the view that is represented by some of the national bodies. The issue I have is: I already believe this stuff, and I come from a position of faith as well. So I already believe this; I have to convince the majority of my colleagues in the federal parliament that this bill will make a difference to people's lives, and that it will not inflame things and create the dangers and the fear that we have heard espoused. How do you communicate the love and compassion that you feel, that drives your faith, to people who have fought the fear campaign in their electorates, through being fearful of what their electorates fear, or of what their church is going to say the day after the vote?

Mr Whelan : I think that is why in my initial statement I used two stories that have influenced me. Partly you are asking a propaganda type question. But one of the things that I have noticed, even in my lifetime, is that relationships with people who are the other—in this case we are talking about same-sex attracted people—who live authentic lives which demonstrate love is by far the most effective way in which people's views are changed. I do not have the stats in front of me but I am pretty sure that there is quite good empirical evidence for that argument. So I think it is people being aware. 'Perfect love casts out fear' is the nice line we have. I think partly there is a fear of the other.

It is quite interesting, the slippery slope argument: what it is doing, I think, is connecting bestiality with gay or lesbian relationships. It was interesting in the previous round of submissions that people used words like 'grotesque' to describe lesbian people having children. So one of the things is about authentic relationships.

Another thing I found interesting in the last set of witnesses is that not one of them attempted to provide a single piece of empirical evidence that the slippery slope argument holds. There are a number of countries and states around the world where same-sex marriage has been legalised, and they were unable to suggest a single piece of evidence that this has led to calls that have gone anywhere for other forms of recognition. Nor were they able to provide any evidence that there is any negative effect on children's health, and the reason is that, as we all know, the evidence is quite the opposite. They were unable to provide those empirical arguments. I think those are important as well, but the role of the parliament is to consider these empirical arguments, and they are just not there on the side of those who oppose this legislation change.

Pastor Hercock : Can I just say that I was on the other side last year—because I have changed. That is one of the questions: how do we progressively have a discussion within our churches?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How did that happen?

Pastor Hercock : It was relationship, and I think that is what Justin is pointing to. Initially it was relationship. It was really hard for me to take my two-year-old boy off to day care with one of the other mums. As it turned out, we became friends. They have been together for, I do not know, 15 years, and they have a little boy. Looking at that relationship, his relationship with his two mums is exactly the same as my little boy's relationship with me. And for me to perceive in her mind that I saw her relationship as different to mine was concerning. So then I did my own research, and the research I came back with was Prof. Lee Badgett's—I think she came to Canberra—which clearly says that allowing same-sex couples to marry has not caused or contributed to any perceived decline in marriage overseas. In fact, marriage equality has strengthened families by fostering greater commitment between same-sex partners, providing their children with a greater sense of security and stability and integrating same-sex couples more closely into their extended families. So it was also about in-laws and grandparents and aunts and uncles embracing this wider experience of family. When I started to get into that idea of finding out research from relationships, I found that most of the arguments I were hearing from the Christian lobby side were quite fearful and quite judgmental. I had to ask us as a church community what we wanted to represent, and that is where we shifted over time.

CHAIR: We are severely running out of time. Reverend Catt, did you want to add anything?

Very Rev. Dr Catt : Only that we only ever get changed by a relationship and the story. I know Christian communities that are being transformed in their approach to gay and lesbian people and their relationships by the relationships themselves. We can only tell the stories and we can only meet the people. It is the same thing that changed the church's view of women in ministry. People who were against it eventually had very positive experiences of women in ministry and they changed their mind. My view is that many people in the Australian community have gay and lesbian friends who are in relationships and they have been transformed by experiencing those relationships. That is why, overwhelmingly, the Australian population supports this move.

CHAIR: We have time for one further question, which Senator Birmingham is going to ask.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: I will ask one question on notice. Most of you heard the evidence of the previous groups who appeared before us. There was much faith put on the role of procreation and children in that evidence. I invite you to take on notice and come back to the committee with your interpretations, as fellow people of faith, of the arguments that were put and I guess whether you have counter arguments to those statements about the particular role of procreation in marriage. What was touched on a little bit is this distinction that I think is very blurred in the debate between the role of the civil institution of marriage and the role of the religious institution of marriage. In most of your cases you come from organisations that, at a national level, have a different view of what the religious institution of marriage should be compared with what we are debating here as a proposal to change the civil institution. Do you think there is anything that could be done to enhance either this proposal or existing marriage laws that would further strengthen, in a sense, that separation and that, for those of your faiths who do not share your outlook, would provide comfort that a change to the civil laws would not necessarily undermine the religious teachings they wish to pursue?

Rev. Smith : From my understanding it is already reasonably covered under the Marriage Act, as in there is no compulsion of people from faith traditions to carry out even heterosexual marriage.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Indeed. And there may be nothing additional that can be done, but I ask the question in the sense that it does not seem to provide the comfort or security that others may seek.

Mr Pittaway : I think when politicians make laws of any kind they should always try to humanise them and see what impact they have on people. So there is a civil element, yes; there is a religious element too. But what about the people? What about the people who these laws affect? What about their lives, their sense of wellbeing?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Yes. I do not want to cut you off, Mr Pittaway, but we are short of time. Again, feel free to take it on notice and come back to us.

Pastor Hercock : I would note that, within the Salvation Army, they are not involved, deliberately, because of the internal discussion that they have chosen to have. My concern within the Baptist Union was that internal discussion did not take place, but at a hierarchical level—which is unusual for Baptists; let me tell you—decisions were made without due discussion within the union and within the churches. There was a lot of discomfort about the presentation as it stands from a conservative perspective. We hold a forum called 'A different conversation' so that people can have an opportunity to have relationship and dialogue. There will not be movement unless there is dialogue and relationship. I hope that we can somehow be a part of that within our own denomination.

Rev. Gilmour : I think in the Uniting Church you have had both sides represented. Even though I have come from a different tradition—the Uniting Church here and in the previous session—we are in the process of also having this discussion. I think the discussions are happening in other places and other contexts as well. What was your question again?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Legislatively, is there anything more we can do to appease, in a sense, the concerns of those of the other view, in your case?

Rev. Gilmour : I do not think so, because as a celebrant I am bound by the rights of my tradition in how I perform the marriage, so even if we move to approve same-sex marriage that conversation in terms of religious institutions still has to take place to allow that to happen.

Very Rev. Dr Catt : If I may, I agree that there is nothing extra required by law. I just needed to get a bit of clarification on the first question because I did not hear the evidence before. So is there a suggestion that only people who are capable of procreation should be allowed to marry? Is that the idea—that the aged and the barren should be refused marriage? Is that the argument?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: The first half of your statement is perhaps how it was presented. The second half is perhaps how it was refuted to summarise the evidence before. But I am sure the Hansard on that will be up very shortly for you to review.

Very Rev. Dr Catt : I think that probably refutes itself. Thanks.

CHAIR: I think we are going to have to wrap it up after this, because we have other witnesses and we all need to be out of here by about four o' clock.

Mr Chapman : That is okay.

CHAIR: So let us finish up then.

Mr Chapman : The clearer you can be that you are legislating civil law for people of all faiths or no faith, I think, the clearer that makes everything, because if you are doing that then you are not saying what any particular tradition or denomination's view of marriage is and you are not coming into that territory.

CHAIR: We are going to have to finish there. I thank the six of you—and you, Reverend Catt, on the end of the phone there—for your submissions and your time this afternoon.

Very Rev. Dr Catt : Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. It is most appreciated.