Listen to Lyle Shelton's interview with Fran Kelly from RN Mornings



 



E&OE



Audio Transcript



ABC Radio National Mornings: Monday, 01 June 2015 8.32am - Fran Kelly interviews Lyle Shelton



 

Fran Kelly



Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this morning will introduce a private members bill to legalise same-sex marriage. The Labor leader has invited the government to second the bill though that is unlikely to happen and it looks as though it will go up under the name of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek. This morning in Parliament House, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton, is working the house, encouraging MPs to vote against Labors same-sex bill. Lyle Shelton joins us from Canberra now, Lyle Shelton welcome to breakfast.

Lyle Shelton



Thanks very much Fran, good to be with you.

Fran Kelly



Lyle Shelton do you agree the question on same-sex marriage now is when this bill will be passed rather than will it be passed?

Lyle Shelton



Fran, nothing is inevitable in life except death or taxes and yes I concede the numbers are tight but I believe that if we can have a debate that focusses on the consequences of changing the definition of marriage I think you’ll find people will rethink their position and the support there is for marriage will be shored-up. We’ve not discussed how legislating a new family structure requires a child to miss out on a mother or father the debate has been held in sound bites of ‘marriage equality’, ‘equal love’, ‘whatever they need’. We need to unpack those a little more and look at the consequences.

Fran Kelly



It seems to me from looking at the surveys over the years that support for gay marriage seems to have improved, that a lot of people are looking at the consequences of changing the definition of marriage to be that two people, any two people who love each other can get married.

Lyle Shelton



Yeah and that’s why the debate has been held at this very superficial level Fran…

Fran Kelly



Well is that superficial or is it that love is equal?

Lyle Shelton



Love is very important, Fran but the government is not interested in who you or I love. The only reason the government needs to have a law about marriage is because it’s a legal contract and the reason for that is to ensure that wherever possible, that there’s some sort of incentive for a mother and a father to stay attached to their children and are responsible for their child. That’s the only reason the state has any interest in this matter it’s not interested in regulating your or my love.

Fran Kelly



Why does this change this? For a start there is plenty of children being raised in same-sex relationships, that’s already happening, there’s also plenty of children not being raised by their mother and their father.

Lyle Shelton



That’s right, children miss out on a mother and father because of tragedy and desertion and I don’t think too many people would say that’s a desirable thing.

Fran Kelly



No, but it’s quite common.

Lyle Shelton



Yes it is and I think that’s seen as not a great thing in our society… fatherlessness and motherlessness has detrimental social consequences and the social science shows that. In the case of same-sex families raising kids in many of those cases, most likely the majority, there are children there from previous heterosexual relationships. But what this bill that Mr. Shorten is putting forward today does, it replaces man and woman, husband and wife, it abolishes those terms from the marriage act and replaces it with the term two parents.

Fran Kelly



Two people.

Lyle Shelton



Two people I’m sorry. But what that’s doing is replacing at least one of the most important people in a child’s life and if you redefine marriage this way, the benefits of so-called ‘marriage equality’ have to flow and that means there has to be access through assisted reproductive technology for two men to acquire babies now I just wonder if Mr Shorten has thought about whether Australia’s current prohibition on commercial surrogacy can be sustained if the definition of marriage is changed.

Fran Kelly



But you’re making all sorts of assumptions that will come into two people, no matter which sex marrying: if they’re having children, that there is no father or mother also involved with that child. You’re making a lot of assumptions. There’s a lot of family models around even with marriage being a heterosexual arrangement a lot of different family models.

Lyle Shelton



Sure but if you redefined marriage and removed the gender requirement, you’re legislating that a child must, in effect, miss out on one of its parents.

Fran Kelly



No I don’t see why you are doing that.

Lyle Shelton



Marriage is a compound right under international law to form a family. Even the UN convention on the rights of the child says as far as possible, a child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Now, if you change the definition of marriage you’re saying that there is a family structure that removes one of the parents from the equation.

Fran Kelly



No, removes one parent from the marriage, not necessarily from relationship with the child. That’s one thing. Also that the compound of marriage is for the basis of forming a family, what about all those who get married with no intention of having children? Should they not be able to call it marriage either?

Lyle Shelton



Well Fran let me take the first point, if you remove the idea that a child wherever possible should be known and loved by its mother and father; where are the protections in Mr. Shorten’s bill to ensure that the biological parents will be identified on a child’s birth certificate? Where are the guarantees that a child will always be able to discover it’s biological origins? We’ve had a senate enquiry here recently into donor conception practices in Australia and that was brought to the parliament by people who have been conceived in this manner.

Fran Kelly



But they’re already happening within marriages, that’s already happening.

Lyle Shelton



There are huge ethical issues there Fran, which haven’t been settled. But this settles it by virtue of the fact that if you change the Marriage Act there’s no way we can ever enact the tri-partisan recommendation of that senate enquiry that there be a prohibition on donor anonymity. There’s no way we can sustain our ban on commercial surrogacy because for marriage equality to mean anything it means two men and two women have got to have access to assisted reproductive technology. That means severing the primal bond between a child and it biological parent and that’s something that a civil society should never do.

Fran Kelly



Well it seems to me that that’s already happening in heterosexual relationships under current marriage so I’m not sure why you’re saying you have to change the bond…

Lyle Shelton



Well, it shouldn’t happen even in those cases, Fran.

Fran Kelly



This discussion will continue right up and if this certainly does bill before the parliament and the country is debating this I’m sure we’ll have this discussion again. But more broadly back to the politics, do you expect the Prime Minister will try to persuade coalition MPs not to support the same sex marriage bill? Are you urging the Prime Minister to do that?

Lyle Shelton



Of course, and the Prime Minister is on the record as saying that he supports marriage as between a man and a woman. I would hope that as coalition MPs focus on the very real consequences of this social change, and also the fact that where this has happened overseas, people have been punished legally and are being sued because they have a conscientious objection to supplying services within the same-sex wedding industry. So we have florists being sued by state’s attorney-general, photographers, cake-makers being re-educated. The consequences to this are quite chilling, Fran.

Fran Kelly



Well that depends on how you draft the law I think doesn’t it?

Lyle Shelton



Well there’s no protections in Mr Shorten’s bill for people supplying services…

Fran Kelly



That’s discrimination. We have discrimination laws in our country.

Lyle Shelton



Ok so someone who exercises a conscientious objection to supplying services to a same-sex wedding not because they are a bigot or a homophobe but just because by conscience, they believe marriage is between two opposite-sex people. They no longer have the right to publically manifest that idea and they will be punished by the law as they are in the United States at the moment. I think this has huge implications for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, what does this mean for the millions of Australians who will always believe that gender complementarity is an essential truth for marriage and will want to teach that to their children through Christian and Islamic schools? Are these people bigots for wanting to teach that to the next generation? This is the sort of social, cultural and legal pressure that will come on those who will always dissent to a government definition of marriage that removed the gender requirement. And Fran, if I could just make one more point, if you remove the gender requirement, why wouldn’t you then remove the numeric requirement? If it is, as you say, about love…

Fran Kelly



Now hang-on, when we get to this point, we’re getting way beyond any kind of description of any law. I think this is just scare mongering.

Lyle Shelton



Well tell that to the Swedes, Fran. Just google polygamous marriage and Sweden.

Fran Kelly



Lyle Shelton we will have this discussion in the lead-up to the bill but I don’t think now is the place to talk about multiple marriages.

Lyle Shelton



Well they are in Sweden, Fran, and we can’t have our heads in the sand.

Fran Kelly



Well this isn’t Sweden.

Lyle Shelton



Well they’ve had gay marriage for about ten years now and now they’re talking about number-neutral marriage.

Fran Kelly



I think we’re getting beyond the terms of the debate now but Lyle Shelton thank you very much for joining us.

Lyle Shelton



Thank you Fran.



Ends.