Why Marriage Deserves More than a Parliamentary Vote

Why Marriage Deserves More than a Parliamentary Vote

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There have been moves recently in our Parliament to eliminate the planned plebiscite on same-sex marriage, with Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon advocating for a vote in parliament. Others in parliament feel this sentiment is, at its core, anti-democratic.

One of the most vocal supporters of the plebiscite is Federal Member for Deakin, Michael Sukkar. Joining the Parliament in 2013, he has become one of the Parliament’s most fierce advocates for traditional marriage. After the most recent election, he was one of the few marginal Liberal Members of Parliament who improved their margins despite a nation-wide swing.

Sukkar argues that “marriage is one of, if not the most important institutions in society.” Because of this, he feels that scrapping the plebiscite on same-sex marriage, and thereby not letting every Australian have a say, would be grossly inappropriate.

Sukkar feels that what is crucial in this debate is to have a good understanding and appreciation for the definition of marriage. Distilling it down, marriage is “ultimately a public declaration of commitment between two people,” and according to Sukkar, the only reason that government involves itself with marriage is because “governments have a vested interest in ensuring that children are properly cared for, they’re educated, they’re loved and they ultimately grow up to be law abiding citizens”.

Many ask why same-sex marriage can’t fit into this definition? For Sukkar, the answer is simple. He explains, “same sex marriage is innately about fulfilling the desires of the two individuals who want to get married, and is less about the progeny of that marriage or the progeny of that relationship”.

Sukkar quips, alluding to the legal parity but inherent distinctness of the relationships, “a Ford is a Ford and a Holden is a Holden. They’re both cars, we agree with that”. Likewise, both forms of relationship must be accepted and fostered within society, although only one can satisfy the core definitional goals of marriage.

Sukkar added, “we shouldn’t have to redefine other people’s marriages in order to give public recognition of same-sex couples”. Because this potentially affects every Australian, every Australian should be entitled to have a say.

There remain peripheral but far reaching consequences if a new definition of marriage is enshrined in legislation. Sukkar warned that “same-sex marriage will result in one of the most significant attacks on freedom of thought, freedom of speech. What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions is when same-sex marriage is being advocated, promises of protection are given to churches, to other religious organisations, to lay individuals, but over time you see those protections whittled away or diminished either through the courts or through legislature and you effectively have no protections for freedom of speech or thought”.

Sukkar asks us to imagine what same-sex-marriage will mean for Australia and Australians in twenty years’ time. “Imagine little Johnny goes off to school and says to a teacher ‘I believe marriage is only between a man and a woman’. I can see a circumstance where that teacher goes to the principal and says ‘I’m concerned that these parents are filling their child with hateful thoughts’. The principal calls child protection, who goes around and questions the parents on what they’re teaching their child because it’s hateful and bigoted, and amounts to the abuse of that child”.

Sukkar’s confident that the ‘NO’ case will prevail if and when a plebiscite eventuates, especially when the general public come to terms with such inevitable “restrictions of their freedom of speech”. He is further motivated to push the ‘NO’ result for the plebiscite, due to his belief in a “huge disconnect between the political class, the media elites and your everyday average Australian”. He points to the example of Brexit. “The political class, media class, all of the pollsters said ‘the position is very clear, it makes a lot of sense for us to stay in Europe, it would be economic madness, it would be folly, it would be disaster’. UKIP had moved the political debate to such an extent that David Cameron had to promise a public vote, and that public vote indicated that the will of the people was extraordinarily different to the political class”. In drawing the parallel, Sukkar disputes the so-called conventional wisdom that there’s “overwhelming support for same-sex marriage”.

Perhaps this explains the aversion of the Bill Shorten, Nick Xenophon and the Greens to an open vote. Sukkar concludes by warning that the definition of marriage “shouldn’t be trifled with lightly and the people should be given a say on any proposals to redefine it”.

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