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Donít confuse marriage with discrimination

By Cory Bernardi - posted Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Marriage is the “first society” and we, in our modern society, cannot function without it. The marriage between a man and a woman, and the family that springs from that union, is more important to our society than any level of government or any other organisation of human development.

The divorce rate tells us that in our modern society it can be difficult to sustain a marriage, and yet people still aspire to be married. Marriage is still the foundational relationship - the glue that binds.

It is fitting, therefore, that the state should support marriage and the family, not because of religious interests, but because society springs from marriage through the birth of children. Marriage plays a large part in the continuation of our society. In recognition of this contribution, Australian governments have provided advantages that assist mums and dads in the crucial role of child rearing. These advantages are of a mutual benefit.

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According to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission report from last year, the advantages awarded to married couples should now be open to others - by a false appeal to “rights”, same-sex couples should be afforded the same rights as married couples.

The Rudd Government wants us to accept a number of conclusions at face value. They say that same-sex couples are being discriminated against in current legislation because they do not have access to marital entitlements. But affirming the primacy of the marital relationship is positive, worthwhile and necessary. Same-sex relationships are not the same as marital relationships and to treat them the same is to suspend common sense.

The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have been quick to assure us that they will not create a situation that would “mimic” marriage. Noble words, yes, but the reality of their actions tells a different story. The first serving of the same-sex agenda tabled in Federal Parliament recently is evidence of this.

This first amendment bill changes 14 superannuation acts to include same-sex relationships. The “marital relationships” category will no longer exist. Both formal and common law (de facto) marriage will be devolved into “couple relationships” and will include same-sex relationships. The Rudd Government, despite the rhetoric, is creating legal parity between same-sex relationships and both forms of marriage.

Even if we were to accept the argument about the extension of all marital entitlements to same-sex relationships, there are ample precedents in state and federal legislation where this has been achieved without degrading marriage.

The creation of a distinct category, known as “domestic co-dependency” or “interdependent relationships” has enabled this recognition, regardless of whether a sexual relationship exists, but where domestic arrangements are such that two people share a common life of mutual support.

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If the government wants to convince the Australian public that it is genuine about “removing discrimination” then it would introduce this model. It maintains marriage in both its forms while also addressing the claimed discrimination issues more broadly. Ignoring non-sexual co-dependent relationships is in itself discriminatory and would defeat the purpose of addressing change.

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About the Author

Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Families & Community Services and Liberal Senator for South Australia.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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