Media Release: Monday, 4 February, 2008

A decision by the British Government to allow people in polygamous marriages to claim extra welfare benefits illustrates the policy dilemma created when heterosexual marriage is compromised, according to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

News reports over the weekend state that polygamous marriages are now being formally recognised in Britain provided that the weddings took place in countries where polygamy is legal. This is despite bigamy being a crime in Britain.

“This disturbing development, which effectively means that the UK Government has sanctioned polygamy, should demonstrate the inevitable consequences once governments fail to safeguard the special status of marriage and equivocate about what relationship the government endorses,” ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said today.

“The British Government passed legislation to introduce ‘gay marriage’ through the Civil Partnerships ACT 2004 and in the process undermined the sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Once they crossed that line it was never going to be long before other forms of ‘marriage’ were accepted, such as polygamy.

That seems to be what has happened now and was also the experience in Holland.”

Mr Wallace said that it is vital that Australia continues to protect the institution of marriage as the relationship endorsed and benefited by government.

“If the ACT Government were to pass its civil partnerships legislation it would set a precedent for the other States and start our nation on a similar track to Britain. Quite apart from the social cost of this, there is also a large real cost to the public in being caused to financially benefit these additional relationships, many of which will not carry the intent of life-long commitment inherent in marriage,” Mr Wallace said.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan