In a democracy social policy should be decided by the people, not by the judiciary, as has happened in the United States this week.
The Age Newspaper – 1 July 2015
Senator Eric Abetz
It is disappointingly predictable that the media in Australia is obsessed by a slim majority activist US Supreme Court decision. At the same time there have been no reports of an elected representative vote in another country of 110-26 against same-sex marriage.
While we have heard much about the US Supreme Court’s extraordinary ruling that a right to marry someone of the same sex has – somehow – always been constitutional, there’s been hardly any mention about last week’s overwhelming vote against gay marriage in the Austrian legislature.
Most people in a democracy believe social policy should be determined by the people, not by dubious interpretation by an activist judiciary.
The US Supreme Court majority has set a dangerous precedent for the US by asserting that the American people have, since inception, somehow misunderstood their own constitution.
As dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia put it: “And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”
Scalia’s deep concern is sound.
Chief Justice John Roberts also put it succinctly: “But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.”
Roberts aptly said that the majority of judges “seizes for itself a question the Constitution leaves for the people, at a time when the people are engaged in a vibrant debate on that question”.
He went on: “Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers.”
Prior to Obergefell v Hodges, 31 US states had amended their constitutions to define marriage between a man and a woman. This came about through referendums.
Of the 31 states, 28 subsequently had their democratically determined amendments overturned by activist courts.
Such decisions should not be made by unelected judges, but by the people. Why should the people be completely sidelined by a ruling that has the power to drastically transform society?
Elsewhere around the globe, in Rome last week more than 300,000 people took to the San Giovanni square to express their opposition to a proposed civil union bill, which was being considered by the Italian senate. In February, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation ruled same-sex marriage was not constitutional. But why didn’t we see these events similarly reported?
Because it simply doesn’t fit the media agenda.
The Italian mass movement demonstrations follow the huge public reaction by the French people against such a move in their country. This also went virtually unreported.
However, one prominent Australian news website rejoiced that tiny Pitcairn Island, with a population of 48, recently legalised gay marriage. The headline even screaming that Australia “sits on its hands”.
It’s regrettable that the media has lost its objectivity on this issue.
With the recent one-sided reporting of the Supreme Court ruling in the US, same-sex propaganda is hitting new heights.
But I would advise caution. The debate here isn’t over.
The undeniable truth is that the nature of marriage is exclusionary by design. It has always existed for just one man and one woman.
Even the petitioners in the US case conceded they were not aware of any society that permitted same-sex marriage before 2001. Just 14 years ago.
So what we have here is a wrong-headed decision by a bare majority that an institution that is acknowledged to have existed in a union between one man and one woman for “millennia and across civilisations” (to use the Supreme Court majority’s own words) is actually something quite different.
Study after study, time and time again, shows that children benefit from having a father and mother.
That is the foundation that marriage provides, and has provided for millennia.
The institution of marriage has stood the test of time.
For our children’s sake it needs to continue to do so.
And that is why I have no hesitation in supporting the long-established Liberal Party policy to preserve and protect the institution of marriage, just as we did at the last election.
Eric Abetz is government leader in the Senate.