IMG_5881The Australian Christian Lobby's Managing Director Lyle Shelton (pictured left) has written an opinion piece, first published in Online Opinion, entitled Same-sex marriage should go to the people. 

Below is a copy of the opinion piece. You can also read it on the Online Opinion website here.


Same-sex marriage should go to the people

Kevin Rudd's public humiliation of Christian Pastor Matt Prater on Monday night's Q&A is yet another reason why a referendum of the Australian people may be needed to settle the issue of same-sex marriage.

As the nation's leader, the PM was giving powerful permission for the ostracising of those who wish to hold to the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

For those whose conscience will always cause them to hold this view, it was chilling to watch. And this is before one jot or tittle of the Marriage Act has been changed.

Parliamentarians should not be put in the position of having to decide if this is how their fellow Australians are to be treated once the law of the land is changed.

The law is a powerful instrument and emboldened by it, some will use it as a big stick to further silence those who wish to speak up publicly for man-woman marriage.

What was also profoundly disturbing about Monday night was the two different Mr Rudd's on display.

Earlier that evening I hosted ACL's own Q&A-style election panel which featured former Rudd Government Attorney-General Robert McClelland and former deputy prime Minister John Anderson.

ACL webcast the event live to more than 300 churches at 7:30pm, kicking off with exclusive video messages from Mr Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Mr Rudd's pitch to Christian voters was gracious and respectful. While he knew most of the webcast audience was disappointed by his change on marriage, he earned points for his conciliatory tone as he admitted this.

He even went so far to say that it was okay for Christians to disagree with him in "equal prayerful conscience".

By 10:30 when many of us arrived home and tuned into the ABC's Q&A we were just in time to see Mr Rudd's "prayerful conscience" approach to tolerance going out the window.

We saw a glimpse of what freedom of speech and freedom of belief might look like in the future as Pastor Matt Prater was mocked by the crowd.

But there are also constitutional reasons why same-sex marriage should go to a referendum.

Earlier in the evening, Mr McClelland reminded webcast viewers that when he was Mr Rudd's Attorney-General in 2008 he removed all discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples. This was supported by ACL.

He said same-sex marriage was not a legal but a definitional issue.

"I think the High Court will ultimately, if there is a change in the law, be required to determine what the constitutional founders meant when they included the marriage power in the constitution.

"I don't think that's a comfortable place for the High Court to be. I think if there is going to be any reform in this area, and I don't think there should be, but if there is it should be through the public debating it through the course of a referendum."

Mr Anderson agreed saying he was "deeply troubled by the lack of civility" in the debate.

"I think this debate puts politicians under unbelievable pressure because the community is so polarised.

"I actually think this now needs to go the people".

Mr Anderson was quick to say that despite his Scottish heritage a referendum should come with a "publicly funded, properly articulated yes and no case".

He said there should also be an honest acknowledgement of what changing the law on marriage would mean for freedom of belief and the right to express that belief.

He also said there was another vexed issue.

"Same-sex marriage does lead to same-sex parenting and there is a huge issue in my view of the state sanctioning the idea that a certain class of children will be denied access to one or other of their biological parents."

The people should certainly have a say on this.

But perhaps a constitutional referendum won't be needed.

Until Mr Rudd's blasting of Pastor Prater, he and Labor had been relatively quiet on the issue for the past few weeks.

This was despite a flourish at the beginning of the election campaign when Mr Rudd put it front and centre with a bold promise to legislate within 100 days if Labor was re-elected.

As the polls dropped so did Mr Rudd's rhetoric on same-sex marriage.

Pollsters say it hardly rates as an issue in focus groups and it is a fair bet that political strategists on both sides of politics know this.

If the Coalition wins, it can rightly assess that this election was in part a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Legal recognition for same-sex couples has already been achieved. We don't need to change the marriage law so that political correctness can be forced on people like Matt Prater.

If same-sex marriage advocates persist after Saturday, it should go to the people – again.