Last Thursday I was giving evidence at a Senate committee examining a Greens Bill to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.



I was presenting with a group of representatives of the Roman Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian churches.

We explained why changing the definition of marriage was a bad idea for the rights of children to know and be loved by their biological parents and why it was a threat to free speech and religion.



The bill’s author, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young chose not to engage us on the substance of our arguments.

However, in a welcome gesture, she struck a conciliatory note with us at the public hearings (see page 49).



“The most important thing in this debate, and I have seen many of you across this table on various occasions, is I think the level of debate is becoming more respectful. That is what I wanted to raise with you because I have been doing this for a long time and I think we are becoming more concise on both sides about what it is that we care about and what it is that the law should and should not cover. I wanted to thank you for participating in a good-natured way.”



We were glad to hear this because those of us campaigning to retain the definition of marriage have often been called bigots and homophobes and even told there is no place in Australia for people who hold our views.



I thought that perhaps we were entering a new phase where we could be free to speak without these pejorative slurs being levelled at us.



My hope was short-lived.



Less than a week later, Ms Hanson-Young gave an interview to The Guardian regarding yesterday’s National Marriage day at Parliament House, organised by the Australian Family Association.



“[it was] disappointing that government members are bringing these extreme views to parliament. …. The passage of time will not be kind to these homophobic and outdated views. If Abbott government ministers are comfortable associating themselves with these views, they’ll have to explain that to the public.”



I was disappointed to see these comments, following her words and soft tone at the Senate hearings last week.



I’m tired of being called “extreme” and “homophobic” for arguing that a child has the right to her mother and father, something that would be abolished in culture and law if same-sex marriage was legislated.



By all means, engage our arguments. But please don’t try and bludgeon us into silence.



As Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews told the National Marriage Day dinner at the National Press Club last night, the same-sex marriage debate is quickly morphing into a debate about what can and cannot be said about marriage.



ends