Tags Posts tagged with "Same Sex Marriage"

Same Sex Marriage

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By: Benson Kua, "Rainbow".
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Just four lower house MPs voted against legalising same-sex marriage.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle

The Australian parliament has passed legislation to permit same-sex marriage.

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill passed the Senate on November 28. It was then passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday by an overwhelming majority: around 130 MPs voted in favour, just four voted against, and a small number abstained.

To confirm the new statute as law, it went to the governor-general for royal assent. This formality made the bill an act of parliament.

Attorney-General George Brandis has said that same-sex marriages will be permitted from January 9, taking into account the one-month notice period required under the Marriage Act.

Further reading: Flood of same-sex weddings in January, after historic parliamentary vote

Origins of the reform

Thursday’s lower house vote followed a drawn-out debate in parliament. But prior to the bill being introduced to parliament, the government arranged for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

This voluntary, non-binding expression of opinion came at a cost of around A$100 million. The survey results, released on November 15, showed 61.6% of respondents supported changing the law to allow same-sex marriage.

That evening, Brandis moved a private member’s bill in the Senate to begin the necessary legislative reform.

Liberal senator Dean Smith was the key proponent of this bill. It emerged from a cross-party Senate inquiry which concluded that legislation to permit same-sex marriage should also ensure some protection for religious freedoms.

The substance of the act

The new law changes the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act by removing the words “a man and a woman” and replacing them with “2 people”. This was the minimum required reform to enable same-sex marriage.

However, the bill goes beyond that minimalist change. It will insert a section into the act that reads:

It is an object of this act to create a legal framework:

a) to allow civil celebrants to solemnise marriage, understood as the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life; and

b) to allow ministers of religion to solemnise marriage, respecting the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of their religion, the views of their religious community or their own religious beliefs; and

c) to allow equal access to marriage while protecting religious freedom in relation to marriage.

There are three main features of the marriage reform law that attempt to balance marriage equality with religious freedoms.

First, some gain the capacity to be identified as “religious marriage celebrants”. To meet this definition, a person must be both a registered marriage celebrant and a minister of religion. This category covers people who are not ministers of religion of a recognised denomination, but regardless identify as ministers of religion.

An exceptional case is also permitted for people to identify as religious marriage celebrants even if they are not ministers of religion. The criteria for this case require a person to:

  • be already registered as a marriage celebrant;
  • give notice within 90 days of the new law’s assent that they wish to be identified as a religious marriage celebrant;
  • confirm that this wish is based on their religious beliefs.

Second, the law sets out circumstances in which ministers of religion and religious marriage celebrants can refuse to solemnise marriages. Although the grounds for refusal are not limited to same-sex marriages, these provisions have been included in the bill so that ministers and religious celebrants cannot be required to solemnise same-sex marriages.

Ministers of religion may refuse to solemnise a marriage where any of the following conditions apply:

a) the refusal conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the minister’s religious body or religious organisation;

b) the refusal is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion;

c) the minister’s religious beliefs do not allow the minister to solemnise the marriage.

Religious marriage celebrants may refuse to solemnise a marriage “if the celebrant’s religious beliefs do not allow the celebrant to solemnise the marriage”.

There is a parallel exception for armed forces officers who are authorised to conduct marriage ceremonies.

Third, the law permits bodies established for religious purposes to refuse to make facilities available or provide goods and services in relation to the solemnisation of marriages. The circumstances in which this applies are if the refusal:

a) conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the body; or

b) is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of
adherents of that religion.

So, for example, a same-sex couple could be refused the use of a church or church hall for their wedding ceremony, if that refusal meets the above conditions.

The marriage reform law also makes amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act. These changes ensure that no complaints of unlawful discrimination can be made in relation to refusals to solemnise marriages that are permitted under the Marriage Act.

Amendments defeated

Soon after the survey results were announced, Treasurer Scott Morrison said that more than 4 million “no” voters were coming to terms with being a minority on the question of same-sex marriage. But, as parliament has recognised, a law serving all Australians did not require elevating the rights of a minority over the rights of all.

A state-recognised institution – marriage – was closed to some members of the population on discriminatory grounds. In attending to that problem, there was no sense in arguing for multiple new forms of discrimination.

It was fortunate that parliament had a well-established bill to consider following the postal survey outcome. This meant that various amendments seeking to extend “protections” for religious freedom did not gain majority support, because most MPs were already satisfied with the Smith bill.

Further reading: Labor is right to block ‘religious freedom’ amendments to protect same-sex marriage bill

As it is, the new law already goes well beyond what was necessary to permit same-sex marriage. It would have been unconscionable to amend the bill in ways that privileged religious freedom over rights to equality and non-discrimination.

Nevertheless, the debate about the protection of religious freedom will persist. Prior to the passage of the marriage reform bill, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced an inquiry into “religious freedom protection in Australia”. Chaired by former MP Philip Ruddock, the inquiry is due to report by March 31 next year.

The Conversation

Amy Maguire, Senior Lecturer in International Law and Human Rights, University of Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cover Image By: Benson Kua, “Rainbow”. https://flic.kr/p/8ANxnj

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It’s time to vote, this month newcomers to the show Kyle and Zinia talk to Rhys about their opinion on the same-sex marriage survey and what their voting decision is. Plus we take a look at our media with a roundup on the latest from the Community TV switch off and we talk about the recent changes to media law that will change the ownership our media, for better or for worse.

All that and more on this episode of The RawCut Podcast.


ABC News – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdhw6LbNS_o

Music Sources:
YouTube Music Library
Intro Music – “Baby Plays Electro Games” by, http://teknoaxe.com.

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While fear suppresses talk about dying, marriage equality involves sex.
AAP/Danny Casey

Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

The Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote:

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.

We are in the midst of two great ethical debates: marriage equality and assisted dying. The results of the marriage equality postal survey will be announced on November 15; meanwhile, the Victorian parliament is this week debating a new law to allow doctor-assisted dying in the last year of life.

What is striking is the volume of the respective public debates. Everyone is talking about marriage equality; very few are discussing assisted dying.

Given that the ethics of assisted dying are more complex than marriage equality, and what happens in Victoria is likely to provide a template for other states, why is it receiving so much less attention?

How fear of death affects public debate

Public ethical debates are fuelled by emotion and psychological biases on both sides. In the case of assisted dying, most of us are not like Epicurus: we fear death. We hate talking about it.

Despite the fact that polls show that 73% of Australians favour assisted dying, it is not clear whether the legislation will pass, although the mood seems to be leaning slightly in favour: 40 out of 87 MPs in the Legislative Assembly told the Herald Sun they would vote yes.

Further reading: As Victorian MPs debate assisted dying, it is vital they examine the evidence, not just the rhetoric

So, there should be an enormous impetus to show MPs the level of public support. But it has been rather muted. Perhaps for similar reasons we post photos of weddings on Facebook, but not funerals: both are important, but only one makes good dinner party conversation.

Terror management theory, evolution and social signalling

Our fear of death might even be linked to our love of marriage, according to terror management theory (TMT). Neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre writes:

When we’re faced with the idea of death, people defensively turn to things they believe will shield them from death, literal or otherwise. Thinking about death also motivates people to indiscriminately uphold and defend their cultural world views, whatever those may be.

TMT has been linked to our development of regulation and rituals around sex.

In evolutionary terms, sex is more important than death, which is one of the reasons marriage equality provokes such heated debate.

So, a fundamental commitment to marriage being between a man and a woman may be more of an immovable foundation on which group membership is based to guard against our shared fear of death than an ethical position that can be defended or rebutted on rational grounds.

While fear suppresses talk about dying, marriage equality involves sex. People are intensely interested in love and sex. And sex has been more important than death in evolutionary terms.

As evolved animals, we were only here to survive long enough to reproduce. Reproduction is evolution’s goal, and so practices around its rituals and norms are hugely important in evolutionary and religious terms.

Religions and societies seek to control reproduction. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, sex was to occur within marriage between one man and one woman. Death at an old age is of much less evolutionary significance.

Further reading: To Christians arguing ‘no’ on marriage equality: the Bible is not decisive

We are social animals, motivated to support our in-group and reject out-group members. Tribalism can help explain our devotion to football teams, for example. We have developed social signalling to show our group which side we are on and maintain trust.

Add to that a status quo bias, and public debates where the topic in question is seen to express something foundational about ourselves can become little more than cheering for our own team.


Anchoring is a psychological bias that means we evaluate how good or bad something is relative to the anchor of existing examples.

In the UK, the 2013 same-sex marriage legislation was fairly uncontroversial. One reason could be that civil partnerships – same-sex marriage in all but name – were created back in 2004. Each step in the UK’s progress towards marriage equality was a short step from the previous state of being.

In contrast, the Australian campaign against same-sex marriage portrays the choice as a paradigm shift in our culture, extending far beyond marriage. Former prime minister Tony Abbott linked the debate to political correctness, gender fluidity and even the date of Australia Day, saying:

This isn’t just about marriage … there are lots and lots of implications here and we’ve got to think them through before we take this big leap into … the dark.

A better approach

For assisted dying to be an appropriate activity for medicine, we should show that death can be an appropriate therapeutic end and in a patient’s best interests. That is, that their life is no longer worth living.

That is an extremely difficult case to prove, and I haven’t seen any good arguments for how to evaluate that. Why wouldn’t we just go on what a competent person says? If a suffering person believes they’re better off dead, they’re probably right.

But here is another way to think about it. The Victorian legislation will provide assistance only to those in the last year of life from a physical illness. They are effectively in the process of dying.

While palliative care may be able to control pain and suffering, it cannot do everything.

One major objection to the assisted dying bill is that we don’t need it because good palliative care is sufficient. Relief of suffering is very important, and more should be spent on end-of-life planning and palliative care.

But this objection is complicated for several reasons. If palliative care is outstanding, people won’t request assistance in dying. So there is no need to ban it.

More importantly, while palliative care may be able to control pain and suffering, it cannot do everything.

Together with colleagues at Barwon Health and Oxford University, we surveyed 382 people from the general population and 100 attendees at an advance care planning clinic, where people think about and express their values relating to end-of-life care. We didn’t ask them about assisted dying, but we did ask them to rank four factors at the end of life: pain relief, dignity, independence and living as long as possible.

The highest proportion of both groups ranked the relief of pain and suffering as the most important value, followed by maintaining dignity and remaining independent.

Living as long as possible was ranked as most important by the lowest proportion of participants – only 4% of palliative care patients and 2.6% of the general population (30–35% regarded this as either not important or not very important).

People care not only about pain relief, but also about dignity and independence at the end of life. These are much more subjective and less amenable to control by palliative care. So while palliative care can address part of what people care about, it may not be able to address all their values.

Moreover, people can already shorten their lives by more than a year for any medical condition, or no medical condition at all, by refusing to eat and drink by mouth. It takes around ten days to die of thirst. Such people could be given palliative care to relieve their suffering during this period of suicide.

But surely the Victorian law offers a better way to die? As with the palliative care, this kind of death does not provide the dignified death, or the independence, that people value.

As distressing as public debate on heartfelt, emotive issues like assisted dying and marriage equality can be, it is an important collective exercise. Like many other people, I thought the marriage equality survey was a waste of money. But on reflection, this idea maybe misplaced. When the views of one part of the community are deemed politically incorrect and suppressed, they foment, then erupt in a Brexit or a Trump.

Debate is vitally important to democracy. What we should hope is that people engage in these debates with their heads, not their hearts. It will take considerable effort on both sides to overcome the psychological obstacles to finding the most fair and reasonable policy.

As Epicurus also said:

The ConversationThe art of living well and the art of dying well are one.

Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, Visiting Professor in Biomedical Ethics, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Distinguished Visiting Professor in Law, Melbourne University, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Featured Image By: https://www.flickr.com/photos/djackmanson/4140343286/

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In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Same Sex Marriage is now legal in the USA.

Press conference from the US President above.

President Obama reacted to the decision on Twitter:

You can read the full Supreme Court ruling here: