A Clarification on the ALP Party Conference and that “change in wording” in their Platform on Marriage

In a post below, I noted the recent ALP Party Conference in which the wording of their platform on marriage was altered to remove reference to “a man and a woman”. I have received some correspondence from Rob Ward, the Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby which clarifies this a little.

Last week he sent out a circular email which read as follows:

You might have seen media and other reports over the weekend about a push for gay marriage at the Australian Labor Party National Conference. What really happened?

Well, we were there. Our chief of staff Lyle Shelton was at the conference and was able to communicate directly to delegates the strength of feeling in the Christian community about this issue.

Gay activists were unsuccessful in achieving their aims. Although they did change the wording of the ALP’s platform they did not change the substance of the Party’s support for marriage.
Because of relationships built up in all political parties over many years, ACL was able to play a key role in ensuring that marriage as defined in the Marriage Act (i.e. between one man and one woman) remained in the ALP’s platform.

The good result at the weekend was in the end due to the intervention earlier in the week of the Prime Minister. But even his strong support for marriage has a shelf life against the momentum for gay marriage which has sadly built up over the years. Whilst we have been successful in holding the line on marriage for now, those pushing for gay marriage have vowed they will not stop until they achieve their aims. Even today a gay commentator stated “Kevin Rudd will not be there forever”. She is right.

The decision at the weekend has bought us valuable time to make the case for marriage and its importance for children and society. Our opponents, who represent less than two per cent of the population, are very active politically in pursuit of their goals. As we seek to turn public and political opinion in the next couple of years we will need an active and supportive church.

What occurred at the weekend was a miracle against the tide of global political trends. It confirms to us that we have been given a window of opportunity to ensure our nation retains marriage. We hope you will continue to partner with us in this and the many other important tasks that confront our society – one that seems so quick to deny Christ in its values.

Curious to learn more, I emailed him back to ask if he could tell me exactly what significance the change of the platform wording has for the “substance” of the party’s support for marriage? This is his reply:

David, as we understand it, the minor changes in the wording approved at the Conference do not alter the commitment towards only supporting marriage as being between a man and a woman. The quote below is from the Attorney General in his speech to the conference:

The support of Australia’s faith-based communities, consistent with undertakings made before the last election and indeed reflected in our current platform, was based on those reforms not undermining the institution of marriage.
Marriage is defined, as the amendment reflects, that we acknowledge and commit to the definition of marriage. That is defined in the Marriage Act as being between a man and a woman. And indeed that definition, I believe, is certainly consistent with the provision of the Australian Constitution.
The amendment confirms, in clear terms, that to be the position of the Party.
I should also place on the record that that Prime Minister has made it clear that a Labor Government will not support any form of recognition of relationships that undermines marriage.
Indeed, he recently said when asked about that:
“when it comes to civil unions, civil unions mean the effective amendment of the Marriage Act and that is something that we don’t support.”
I have also made public statements in similar terms.
I should place on the record that this resolution is not intended to, and does not support, any form of legislative or other action that in any way undermines the institution of marriage which is defined, as I’ve indicated in the Commonwealth Marriage Act, as being between a man and a woman.

It seems as though the phrase ‘that mimics marriage’ was considered offensive by some proponents of same-sex marriage. Its removal does not change the intent of the policy at all.

Hope this helps explain it better!

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9 responses to “A Clarification on the ALP Party Conference and that “change in wording” in their Platform on Marriage

  1. Paul

    Although we may not yet have legal same sex “marriage”, I think there is continual push towards it, which might eventually be successful. While I tend to agree with you (only because of my observations of other people, not from any facts and figures), that only a small minority wants gay marriage, I think the arguments of “equality” and “for the sake of peace and quiet” are seductive for a lot of people, even if they themselves would reject GM.

    Because of that, I think it is a duty to enter into the debate, including with the “peace and quiet” brigade of Christians against GM. The question I have is which approach to take. I believe there are several arguments:

    1) real equality and justice (the IVF and adopted children are never asked if they want to be denied a father or mother. As always, the children’s rights are neglected)

    2) plain logic (what do you really mean by marriage? Is it the sacrament you want, or just legal convenience and the word “marriage” for its own sake. In any case, if gay marriage is accepted, do you want polygamy and multiple marriages? If not, what argument could you possibly have against those? If you do allow polygamy, how many partners would be allowed, the Koranic limits or something else?)

    3) the Scriptural teaching.

    For myself, 3) is the most important, but in this day and age, 1) and 2) would be easier to understand for a lot of people. Is it dishonest to argue 1) and 2) if it is 3) that is the most important for me?

  2. Matthias

    I noted yesterday a very poignant letter in the AGE where the writer made the comment that gay marriage campaigns are not in the same league as the civil rights movement

  3. Paul (and other readers),

    I would propose a fourth line of argument (which involves the notions in your 1. and 2.): natural law. We can start from first principles and note that ‘marriage’, generally, means in some sense to unite two parts into a whole; hence a carpenter might speak of ‘marrying up’ two interlocking pieces of timber, for instance. Now what is the union involved in marriage? It isn’t just some kind of Platonic union; it is a physical, conjugal, sexual union. But two persons of the same sex clearly cannot be united in this manner, so the marriage can never be consummated, and the pseudo-sexual means by which they simulate (or rather, parody) conjugal relations do not suit the natures of the organs or persons involved, and hence are rightly called evil; it’s a matter of natural law. The foundation, then, of a same-sex ‘marriage’ is evil, and the State has no business approving evil (which it would do by recognising these corrupt unions), though it may prudently tolerate evil in order to avert greater evils.

    So in any discussion of gaymarriage (sic), ask your interlocuters:

    What is marriage? Is it not a conjugal union?
    What is the good? Is is not that which suits the nature of the thing desiring it?
    What is love? Is it not unselfishly desiring the highest good for another?

    No-one, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, religious or non-religious, should find himself in disagreement with any of these definitions; alternative definitions would be absurd. And if your interlocuters can accept these definitions, then he or she has to reject gaymarriage.

    P.S. for more arguments against gaymarriage you can peruse the contents of the “G.L.B.T.” tag at my blog. Also, someone from the Sydney Archdiocese had a very good piece in yesterday’s Catholic Weekly answering the major same-sex ‘marriage’ F.A.Q.s; it doesn’t seem to be available on-line yet but I’ll provide a link if it turns up.

    • Paul

      Thank you, Cardinal Pole for your suggestions, I’ll try to use them. I confess that I see the problem that many (most?) people these days are not interested in natural law, and only accept the One Commandment that “thou shalt not tell anyone else what to do”, or “discrimination is not acceptable” as you mention in your blog.

      I think a strategy is to make sure that at least Christians understand the arguments against gaymarriage and do not give in to the temptation to concede the One Commandment. We then have to pray that more people will see the validity of the natural law.

      If I may be permitted a rant on another example of application of the One Commandment…

      these days society is confronting the issue of couples getting blind drunk and then one of them claiming to have been assaulted against their will. There is endless discussion about the “fine line” of consent when drunk and of course this debate ends in confusion. Very few people are willing to argue in public that the line is in fact very broad, that losing your free will by getting drunk is wrong, that loveless sex is wrong, and most contentious of all, that conjugal union is rightly part of marriage.

      As long as the debate is controlled by the “fine liners”, the moral confusion will never go away. Again, I suppose the most effective thing is to start by making sure Christians are confident of Christian ethics.

      • “Thank you, Cardinal Pole for your suggestions”

        You’re welcome, Paul. Regarding the very widespread contemporary aversion to natural law, say to your interlocuters: the laws of morality can either be based on natural law–on the objective natures of things–or positive law–which will derive ultimately from the lawmaker’s subjective tastes and preferences. But people will acquire tastes for all sorts of self-destructive things, so natural law is the only reasonable basis for morality. Also, natural law contains within itself the principles for regulating social relations, whereas preference-based ethics can only do so by invoking a principle like ‘people should be free to follow their tastes and preferences except to the extent that it infringes on others following their tastes and preferences’, which is an abritrary rule, not following from the system’s axioms.

        Tom,

        I’m not familiar with Prof. George’s First Things piece which you mention, but here is a link to a very good interview with him which would probably cover similar points; readers might find it useful:

        http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2009/07/381

        Furthermore: you are right to say that the man on the street would, while accepting my definitions, go on to say something like

        “sodomy is conjugal, pleasure suits the nature of sex, and everybody’s highest good is self-determined.”

        So in response to:

        1. “sodomy is conjugal”: I would say to the person: how can a truly loving union be consummated in a manner which–because of the very nature of the organs involved, not because of some defect which might occur in them–is so mutually destructive?

        2. “pleasure suits the nature of sex”: for one thing, that is discrimination against sadists and masochists! What about their equal rights! For another thing, that would have the absurd corrolary (sp?) that things like auto-erotic asphyxiation are good. Pleasure alone is an insufficient criterion for judging goodness.

        3. “everybody’s highest good is self-determined”: but then we have a potential contradiction with the agreed definition for goodness, since some people will seek apparent goods which are in fact evil and self-destructive. Good cannot be merely subjective.

        Overall, one has to keep reminding people of the absurdity of ethics derived from subjective tastes and preferences, which is what we’re left with if we ignore or reject the objective natures of things.

    • Tom

      Pole,
      Shocking moments! We’re in agreement!

      The only thing I’d say is that if you get into this kind of debate with people generally; that is to say, “the man on the street,” they’d say ‘yes’ to all three questions. Then, sodomy is conjugal, pleasure suits the nature of sex, and everybody’s highest good is self-determined.

      You and I know these answers to be ludicrous and absurd, but the systematic breakdown in the concept of nature (now causal as opposed to teleological) over the last 400-500 years (well, you can trace back as far as Ockham, but it really took off post-reformation) means that today people are very, very unwilling to engage with the debate in a truly coherent manner; people will define marriage however they please, for no good reason other than how they want to.

      On another note, there was an excellent article by Robert George in this month’s First Things about the good and complementarity of marriage.

  4. I’d like to see a campaign against no-fault divorce, myself. This is what has really weakened marriage. This and contraception.

    Gays won’t wan’t to “marry” when there’s no easy way out.