Last month, Australia’s National Press Club was awash with commotion as two South Australian Senators debated same-sex marriage.
Speaking for the preservation of traditional marriage was Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and speaking for same-sex marriage was Labor Senator Penny Wong. The debate commenced with an opening address from Penny Wong claiming that most Australians have accepted same-sex marriage and a call for the Parliament to reflect such sentiments. This was followed by remarks reminding the audience of the personal nature surrounding the topic being debated and denied that there will be major changes to society if same-sex marriage were to be legalised.
Cory Bernardi’s opening address tried to highlight that same-sex marriage was “about personal desire and self interest of a vocal minority” and that this issue was overlooking the rights of children and responsibilities of parents. However in an unexpected move from Senator Bernardi, he acknowledged that “some same-sex couples make much [better] parents than some married heterosexual couples.”
The issue of reverse discrimination towards conscientious objectors of same-sex marriage was also mentioned by the Senator whom cited overseas examples of some charities, businesses, individuals or religious groups “sacked, forced to close or change their practices because of their beliefs.” Senator Bernadi concluded his opening address by warning of the dangers with the “dictatorship of representativism,” relativism and political correctness.
Senator Wong addressed Senator Bernardi’s previous comments that same-sex marriage would eventually lead to the acceptance of bestiality by jokingly offering to publicly oppose bestiality.
On whether a plebiscite should be held in Australia on this issue, Senator Bernardi stated that “Parliament has already dealt with it” in reference to previous bills that were rejected. Senator Wong responded by accusing Prime Minister Tony Abbott of attempting to delay debate into the issue. Senator Bernadi also highlighted the risks to the freedom of conscientious objectors being curtailed as a result of same-sex marriage drawing on overseas case-studies.
Senator Wong gave a simple “no” to the question of multi-member relationships. On the issue of children potentially being disadvantaged by same-sex marriage, Senator Bernardi highlighted that the difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals regarding the production of children, reminding the audience that same-sex couples need assistance from a third party.
He also remarked that same-sex marriage as opposed to traditional marriage would remove the biological connection between children and biological parents. Senator Wong dismissed Senator Bernardi’s concerns by stating that LGBTQI couples can already be parents to children and reiterated that children need to be cared for as well as downplaying the existing ethical debate surrounding anonymous sperm donation and surrogacy.
In response to Senator Wong’s calls for the Coalition to vote for same-sex marriage, Senator Bernardi said that “we’re in Government, we have a policy position, it should be expected that frontbenchers uphold that.” The Liberal Senator went further to add “just becomes it appears popular it’s the right thing to do for the country,” challenging the accuracy of a survey claiming that there is more Australians are strongly in favour of same-sex marriage than those opposed to it. Senator Wong responded by highlighting that the issue is far from resolved and the debate should continue.
The Labor Senator then pressed Senator Bernardi on whether the Liberal Party was truly liberal to which he responded that “the substantial difference between my [Liberal] party and your [Labor] party is you can [vote freely] without being thrown out.”
In closing, Senator Wong restated her desire for same-sex couples to be accepted and treated equally under Australia’s legal system. To which Senator Bernardi commented that ‘marriage equality’ is simply a “catchy slogan”, that has “no meaning in reality,” as well as that “there is no legal discrimination between same-sex couples” with the only difference being “the classification of their relationship as not being a married couple.”
With Australia’s Parliament in recess, some same-sex marriage advocates are calling a Parliamentary debate into the issue upon the resumption of sessions.