House debates

Monday, 15 November 2010

Private Members’ Business

Same-Sex Marriage

8:30 pm

Photo of Philip RuddockPhilip Ruddock (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The motion that we have before us needs to be read with the remarks of the honourable member. It is quite clear that the honourable member is seeking support for fundamental change to the law of Australia in relation to marriage. The opposition has a clear position on that question, and that is that it believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that the opposition does not support any change to Commonwealth law that would diminish the institution of marriage and will continue to oppose any action that would alter that status.

Having said that, let me make it clear that over a period of time there has been consideration of this issue. There was consideration by the High Court of Australia. It looked at the question as to what we mean when we refer to marriage. The court opined—and I notice that people pay great respect to the views of our court—that marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, in May 2004 when I was Attorney-General I introduced the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill to prevent any possible further court rulings allowing same-sex marriages. The law was amended accordingly and it put beyond doubt the definition: marriage is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life.

There have been other times when the matter has been the subject of discussion. The states have recognised that you can establish a basis for civil unions for same-sex couples in which there is a recognition of the union between people that is very similar to the union that many others make—that is, a de facto relationship, which does not involve a marriage but which does carry certain rights and responsibilities. A de facto relationship would to all intents and purposes be for a same-sex couple very similar in its genesis in terms of the rights and responsibilities.

I have often been asked why it is that there is so much emphasis upon a union being between a man and a woman. It is seen that marriage has been ordained over a long period of time as a basis for ensuring that a union that can give rise to the procreation of children is the subject of some regularity and order, particularly when the ongoing care of those children becomes relevant when there might be differences of view as to whether or not the relationship should continue. It is in that context that we have law dealing with marriage break-up and law which primarily has as its focus the issue of how children are dealt with.

There has been a view over a long period of time in this country that in relation to children, while it cannot always be the case—for example, if there has been a death or other similar circumstance—that it is desirable that children have the role model of both a father and a mother available to them and influencing their upbringing and that is the preferable model for this country. It is self-evident that same-sex couples are unlikely to have children other than by the adoption of a child of one of those people in the union by another party or, if adoption to a same-sex couple over a man and a woman was permitted, which would generally would be seen as being less desirable in the context of the law dealing with adoption, where there are so few children available. I make the point that there are arguments that have carried a great deal of weight over a period of time that marriage should be for a man and a woman only and it not be available to same-sex couples. But it should not be seen that the arguments that I put mean that I believe that there should be overt discrimination against same-sex couples.

In fact, I have overseen a great deal of the work that gave rise to the development of the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—Superannuation) Act 2008. A lot of that work was done initially under the Howard government when the Law Reform Commission was looking at these matters. The Howard government wanted to see how we could progress the elimination of all those forms of discrimination which had been in place over a long period of time. I ought to make it clear that I supported very strongly the relevant legislation that brought about those changes in 2008. It brought them about in a number of areas: taxation; superannuation; defined superannuation benefits; social security and family assistance; the PBS safety net and the Medicare safety net; aged care arrangements; child support, where that was relevant; citizenship and veterans’ affairs. Even in relation to immigration, I played a very early role in supporting measures that enabled same-sex partners to be reunited in Australia in circumstances where one partner was a resident and the other was not in Australia.

Those changes, while they were not recognised on the basis of marriage or a de facto relationship, were like for same-sex couples as for the others. So I make the point that this is not a suggestion that we should have discrimination against same-sex couples in the wide range of other areas. I thought it was important that we were able to reform private-sector superannuation arrangements to ensure that same-sex couples could receive reversionary benefits. Similarly, I thought that for defined superannuation benefits, death benefits should be able to be conferred on same-sex partners. I think it was appropriate in the public sector. The best known case was that of Justice Michael Kirby. Changes were made so that his partner was able to benefit from the judges’ pension arrangements.

Equally, in relation to social security and family assistance, reforms were initiated that ensured that same-sex couples were recognised as couples and consequently would receive benefits on the same basis that opposite-sex couples, as the explanatory memorandum referred to them, received them. Likewise, the PBS safety net and the Medicare safety net arrangements, whereby same-sex couples previously could not access Medicare or pharmaceutical benefits as a family, were amended.

So I want to put beyond doubt that this is a measure that, if opposed, accommodates a view that people are opposed to same-sex couples being able to access benefits and other programs in the same way as married or de facto couples do. This is a very narrow issue that relates to the way marriage is defined. It is not designed to stop those who are described as being in love from being in a de facto relationship in the same way as other de facto couples are. All it does is recognise that marriage has always been seen to be different and that that basis ought to be kept, primarily because marriage deals with issues that arise when children can possibly be conceived. (Time expired)


James Kruithof
Posted on 29 Jan 2011 12:51 am

In answer to Adam Bandt opening remark that love knows no boundaries

You say love has no bounds or no limits. What is true love? Love is selfless not self indulgent. If I am 40 years old and I love a minor will the law allow me to marry that minor if my love is boundless or limitless? Thankfully the law puts limits and boundaries on such selfish indulgences disguised as love.

James Kruithof
Posted on 29 Jan 2011 1:28 am

Can the union of two men bring forth a child? Then why would we enact laws that would allow two men to raise a child? This would go against what nature intended, wouldnt it?
It is interesting to me that those pushing for this are very reluctant to do anything in the environment other than what nature intended.

James Kruithof
Posted on 29 Jan 2011 1:52 am

Philip Ruddock, thank you for speaking for the rights of the child

Nicolette Norris
Posted on 29 Jan 2011 9:44 am

A child is born with male and female genes. There will be times when instinct will cause a child to turn to the father for their needs and times when they will be drawn to the mother.

It is a child's birth right to have both there to turn to, where possible, for their emotional and physical development.

If a child is forced to live with two parents of the same sex, they will be denied this right.

If two males are raising a child the child will be denied their absolute right to the comfort only a 'female' mother can give. Reverse the situation, ie two females, and the child will be denied their absolute right to benefits only a 'male' father can give.

Very simply, to force babies into such a situation is to deny them their birthrights and therefore any such act would be a violation of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and would interfere with the balance of nature, this being to the detriment of the child.

The child will not receive essential contribution to their development that only a man and woman can give.

I appreciate this same sex couple may have needs and wants fulfilled, however I appreciate far more than that, so too, does a child.

Chris Edwards
Posted on 18 Nov 2011 3:07 pm

I would love to start by adding my thanks to the thanks of Mr Kruithof to Mr Ruddock, in speaking for the rights of the child, however, I would ask also about the rights of any single individual to discuss parenting in terms of things such as sexuality and sexual orientation. Clearly such things, are so ambiguous as to be beyond any positive deduction, based on theory.

Questions like:
"Are gay people bad at parenting?"

Whilst never openly stated in those words, sentiments that promote this sort of doubt, is a causal, not a symptom of a problem.

Consider, the pressure for any child, that must come from people whos' views inherently discredit their parents, and, in seemingly the same breath them also.
Are we to now suggest that our ability to parent our children is dependant on our genitals? Or how we prefer to use them?
I know plenty of straight men who could do with a large dose of femininity, and straight women who could use some masculinity.
Regardless of sexuality, one thing is clear, it is most certainly not the first place I would personally look to assess ones parenting ability. Considering the current divorce rate of straight couples, statistics relating to physical and sexual abuse, statistics relating to mental illness, homelessness, the education and health systems, poverty, event the fast food epedemic, etc, etc, etc, you start to see a very different picture of where we need to be spending our energy. And the concept of prohibiting two people, ANY two people, of publically and formally recognising their devotion and love, and, prohibiting those two people being able to create a family environment and raise a child within it because..."that is the preferable model for this country", is ultimately only going to foster hatred within our communities, and; strip those children, who are living in our communities right now, discovering their homosexual orientation, along with their puberty, of any right to believe they can have a family in the future.

We strip an entire sector of our community the rights to family, for no reason of fact, or rhyme or reason.

It is simple phobia, fear of the unknown, and, clearly illogical.
"that is a preferable model for our country"? Whos' country? If you wish to DENY such a basic and primal right, or liberty, to ANYONE, you better have some pretty solid facts to back you up. This unspoken dehumanising causes the very problems those that would uphold this discrimination decry, and, inflict damage, of just as serious a nature if not scale, as the legislation regarding the rights and freedoms of that minority of the community, the indigenous Australians who, at one point in our not so distant history, had to suffer a much greater discrimination and fate when, this same government upheld the view that they too were 'unsuitable' as parents, announced and disguised in dry words then too as "the preferable model".
With only two seconds with a search engine:

"The History of Marriage
Humankind has always formed family units in order to survive. Marriage was a way of legally formalising the agreements between families when a woman was passed from the protection of her father to her husband.
This agreement was usually accompanied by financial arrangements, sometimes in the form of a dowry given to the husband for his wife's keep. In return, the wife had no rights to property, children, or refusal to engage in sex with her husband. In areas of England , wives were even sold between men in a crude form of divorce.
New York was the first US state to pass a Married Woman's Property Act, entitling women to the ownership of property, sign contracts, and keep wages they earned. In 1978, New York became the first state to outlaw rape in marriage.
Since the early part of the 20th century, marriage has evolved into a formal recognition of emotional commitment. One of the positive gay marriage facts is that, as ideas of gender and possession are different in a gay marriage, the custom will evolve further away from its tradition of ownership."*1

and from a little closer to home:


Changes in social attitudes in recent decades have led to GREATER ACCEPTANCE of couple relationships outside of registered marriage, such as de facto and same-sex relationships. At the same time, broader social, economic and educational opportunities have become more accessible to most people (particularly women), which has made remaining single a more viable option.

For some people, couple relationships outside of marriage may provide an opportunity to test the suitability of the match before making the commitment of marriage, whereas others may see no need to formalise what is for them a long-term and committed relationship."*2(my emphasis)

Where are we evolving to anyway? Or should we return perhaps to a league of nations based upon equality and lies?

Perhaps those that would insinuate that homosexuality, inherently excludes parenting ability, should spend a little time with a search engine, with search terms like "good parenting", "raising children", etc, etc. After doing such an activity myself, lo and behold, none of them mention heterosexuality as a requirement or 'skillset', lending itself to more well adjusted adults, or ANYTHING!!!! None of them say squat about sexuality, because, it's really rather irrelevant to anyone who is informed.
In this and all issues relating to the parenting of children, the best, and simplest key is in education. We as parents, need to educate ourselves on how to BE parents, good parents, and leave questions like sexuality, religion, race and other such controversial matters aside.
Truly the rights of ALL children, gay, or straight, or parented by someone gay, or straight, would be better represented by furthering the knowledge of family, rather, than trying to inhibit it.
As for the association between paedophilia and homosexuality Mr Kruithof, to even infer such an association, you had better have some proof. That is equivalent of me associating one with assaulting the elderly because one likes boxing.