CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Caution Needed On Sexuality Discrimination Legislation

Feb 2, 1998

The Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee has released its “Inquiry into Sexuality Discrimination” report. This report follows from a number of oral and written submissions presented in 1996 to what was then known as the Spindler Bill. In 1995 the then Democratic Senator Sid Spindler introduced a discussion paper on the subject of homosexuality and discrimination, which formed the basis of the Sexuality Discrimination Bill 1995 (hereafter, SDB).

Back then pro-family groups put out warnings stating that in addition to granting special rights to homosexuals at the expense of the rest of the community, the proposed changes would have serious ramifications for all religious institutions. They also warned that these changes would pose a radical threat to the institutions of marriage and family.

The 302 page report has more than confirmed our fears. It is in fact worse than the 1995 Bill. The report, along with its 32 recommendations, reflects a Committee which is both very much out of touch with the Australian community, and very much influenced by the homosexual lobby.

The committee, chaired by Senator Jim McKiernan (Labor, Western Australia), has urged full acceptance of the report. The only substantial dissent on the committee came from Senators Eric Abetz (Liberal, Tasmania) and Bill O’Chee (National Party, Queensland). They offered a small dissenting report, and Senator Abetz also included additional comments about his discussion with former homosexuals. These dissenting remarks only make up several pages of the report. Senator Bob Brown also had extra comments, saying the report doesn’t go far enough.

As an indication of how strongly the committee has been influenced by the homosexual lobby, one only has to look at the footnotes in the report. Well over 90 per cent of the footnotes refer to evidence given by various homosexual activist groups, individual homosexuals, or groups sympathetic to their cause (e.g. the civil liberties bodies). In fairness however, it could be said that the homosexual lobby and its allies did make up the majority of the submitters. This should be a matter of concern especially for all those religious bodies which did not speak up on this issue. Only a handful of church bodies made submissions – whether oral or written.

But when pro-family groups are quoted or cited in the report, their comments are usually followed by objections or dismissals. The pro-family voice, in other words, was effectively over-ridden; their concerns not taken seriously. As an example, the report says that some groups were concerned that the Spindler Bill would create special rights for homosexuals, but then dismisses this claim by saying that “little evidence supporting this belief” was given. Our submissions certainly gave evidence of this, as did other groups’ submissions. One area of major concern is the way in which homosexual activists are seeking to deny religious bodies any exemptions to their agenda. There have been many groups arguing that there should be no exemptions at all to this Bill. Here are a few examples:

A submission put in by the Australian Gay and Lesbian Inter-Faith Federation (AGLIFF) argued that there should be no exemptions, but if exemptions are allowed, they should not be granted automatically; instead, the religious body should have to make its case, and allow for rebuttal by groups like AGLIFF. Their submission said that “the established religions must no longer be able to operate unchecked in the continuation of prejudice against our community.”

Another submission, by Ms Kristen Walker, Lecturer in International Law and Constitutional Law, University of Melbourne, argued that exemptions should be “kept to a minimum”. She stated that: “In relation to religious bodies and schools, I consider that exemptions should not be available for these institutions. This is particularly so in relation to schools, where lesbian and gay students would then be deprived of important role models and, again, the myth of child abuse and the stigmatisation of lesbians and gay men as perverted would be perpetuated.”

Likewise, Wayne Morgan, Lecturer in Law, University of Melbourne, said in his written submission that “exemptions for religious institutions should be deleted.” Another group, the Alternative Lifestyle Organisation (ALSO) said at the public hearing that they thought there should be control over what is said from the pulpit, in sermons, etc.

Concerning religious education, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said this: “Someone’s sexuality does not impact on their ability to teach science or grammar or any other field. If there is a religious instruction component in the classes, then the question should be whether or not the teacher preaches the required doctrine, not the very fact of their sexuality.” This is a bit like saying a church school teacher living in adultery can go on teaching as long as he/she teaches that adultery is wrong.

Whether the narrow exemptions are allowed for religious bodies or not, this Bill will make things very difficult for all religions, leading to situations as in Sweden where a Lutheran pastor was recently jailed for speaking from Romans 1 (which deals with homosexuality) in a sermon.

The double standards in all of this are worth noting. While the homosexual activists are demanding that religious groups be denied their rights of religious freedom and freedom of speech, they are demanding, and getting, special rights. Consider the case of a St. Kilda health and recreation centre. The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal granted it an exemption to legally exclude women and heterosexual men from attending or being employed by the club.

This is one of a number of cases where we see special rights being granted to homosexuals, while rights are being taken away from others. The same Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has told religious newspapers that they cannot advertise “Christian only” roommate or worker wanted ads. Indeed, editors I have spoken to are in a constant state of fear, never knowing exactly if they are complying with all of the anti-discrimination legislation, and if and when someone will challenge them on something. Clearly, Christians and other groups are having rights taken away from them while homosexual groups are being granted special privileges. Why the double standard? Why the discrimination?

Other obvious examples of this double standard can be found in Sydney, where there are several “gay-only” bars. I’m not aware of any “heterosexual-only” bars, but if they did exist, they would quickly be closed down by the anti-discrimination tribunals. The Gay Mardi Gras is another case in point. Each year organisers of the event debate whether or not they should allow heterosexuals to participate in the parade (have floats, etc).

Religious bodies, churches and church schools are not the only groups which will be affected. Social welfare groups, service clubs and private associations will also be subject to the legislation. Some homosexual lobby groups want to deny religious-based social welfare groups the ability to employ people in keeping with their religious beliefs. Consider these comments by the Queensland AIDS Council:

“One of the things that concerns us is the growing extent to which the church and religious organisations are delivering services … We would argue that the recommendation [in the SDB] as it currently stands would do nothing to prevent an organisation such as the Salvation Army from actively discriminating against gay people in terms of the services which they are funded to perform on behalf of the Commonwealth.”

Historically it has been church-based groups which have most consistently and most deeply been involved in welfare-type activities. By demanding that such religious-based groups confirm to the dictates of the homosexual lobby, there will be a reduction of such groups and the expansion of the welfare state.

Moreover, as the Bill shares many features of the NSW Homosexual Vilification Legislation, it is worth looking at what is happening there. Since being enacted, a number of people have received warnings from the NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal. For example, in September 1995, a couple who called a homosexual neighbour a “poofter” were found guilty of violating the legislation, and were ordered to make a public apology and pay $50,000 in fines. While we are not in favour of verbal or physical abuse of anyone, the point is, anyone can make a charge against anyone, sometimes just out of a grudge. Indeed, the problem with all ”hate crimes” of this sort is that judges are forced to assess the motives and attitudes of an individual – a very difficult job indeed.

The problem with the NSW legislation is, those making the complaints or accusations can do so with anonymity and at no expense – the taxpayers pick up the bill. But the person who is accused of being homophobic can have his or her name splattered all over the papers, and has to pay all the bills, regardless of whether the case is won or lost.

There are many other problems with this legislation. Briefly, here are some other areas of concern:

-The granting of special rights to homosexuals will take away rights from the rest of the community. For example, under the SDB, church groups, small businesses, clubs, incorporated bodies and families will have no option but to rent to homosexuals, employ homosexuals, and tolerate cross-dressing and other activities, even if this is contrary to their beliefs..

-This Bill, which urges full legal recognition of homosexual partnerships, will pave the way for same-sex marriage and adoption rights for homosexuals. Their final goal, of full societal acceptance and affirmation of the homosexual lifestyle will be close to being reached.

-Religious bodies may have to employ homosexuals, or prove why they should be exempt from such obligations.

-If a homosexual accuses an individual or group of ridicule, harassment or vilification, the burden of proof will be on the accused to show that they have not done such activities.

-Any group receiving government funding will not be allowed exemptions to the provisions of the Bill.

-This Bill could override many States’ rights, and invalidate much State and Commonwealth legislation, and put Australia further at the mercy of the United Nations and other international bodies and treaties.

-Religious bodies may find their ability to proclaim scriptural truth on issues of family and sexuality severely curtailed by many provisions of this Bill.

Marriage and Family under threat

Perhaps the main concern in granting special privileges to homosexuals is the way in which this will undermine the institutions of marriage and family. For centuries cultures have affirmed the importance of marriage and family, and have expressed disapproval of homosexuality. The SDB will lead to a reversal of this cultural and historical norm.

Societies have treated marriage as special for several reasons. Marriage helps to regulate and stabilize sexuality. Marriage is also the best environment in which to procreate and raise children. As James Q. Wilson once put it: “In virtually every society, the family is defined by marriage; that is, by a publicly announced contract that makes legitimate the sexual union of a man and a woman. Even in societies where men and women have relatively unrestricted sexual access to one another beginning at an early age, marriage is still the basis for family formation. It is desired by the partners and expected by society. Marriage, in short, is not simply a way of legitimizing sex, and so it cannot be dispensed with just because sexual activity need not be made legitimate. Marriage exists because people must take responsibilities for child care and assume economic obligations. Marriage, and thus the family that it defines, is a commitment.”

Once cultures begin to abandon the institution of marriage, sexuality runs riot, children are put at risk, and social cohesion is weakened. According to JD Unwin of Cambridge University, marriage is seen as the crucial element in the development and maintenance of healthy societies: “The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilised unless it has been completely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs. Marriage as a life-long association has been an attendant circumstance of all human achievement, and its adoption has preceded all manifestations of social energy. . . . Indissoluble monogamy must be regarded as the mainspring of all social activity, a necessary condition of human development.”

Conclusion

It is remarkable to see how a very small yet very influential lobby group has made such dramatic inroads into Australian legal, social, economic, religious and moral strata. That a group of Parliamentarians, called to represent average Australians, have managed to be totally taken in by the homosexual agenda shows just how powerful and successful the gay lobby has been. What we are witnessing is one of the most profound and far-reaching social upheavals of recent times. It is nothing short of revolutionary. Equally amazing is how apathetic and indifferent most Australians have been in the face of such an upheaval, especially the religious bodies who should very well be concerned.

The acceptance of this Bill, along with other advances made by the homosexual lobby, will have a profound effect on the nature of family, religion and society. To understand the magnitude of this social revolution, consider this scenario. A 300-page report on religious discrimination has just been released. Recommendations include: mandatory public prayer in schools; religious books be made compulsory reading in all schools; non-believers threatened with various anti-vilification legislation; non-believers forced to rent to and hire religious people; religious people are given preferential treatment; etc. Most people would strongly object: we are a pluralistic, multicultural society; how dare they impose their will on the rest of us? Yet this is exactly what is happening with this type of legislation which seeks to grant special rights to homosexuals, while denying basic rights to others.

Proper debate on the Bill will soon begin in Parliament. It is very important that everyone reading this contact their local Federal members. Senators especially need to be targeted. Urge them to oppose this Bill. While the deadline for written submissions has passed, there is still time to lobby your local Member and ask that this Bill be opposed.

The Brave New World implications for religious bodies will be especially frightening if this Bill passes (with or without exemptions). It is extremely important that this legislation does not go through. The well-being of our children, the need for public health and safety, and the freedom of religious expression are all at stake.

[2386 words]

Leave a Reply