Sep 21

Senator Conchetta Fierravanti-Wells gave this speech in the Senate on the issue of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, 19 September 2012.

In this blog, guest blogger, Guy Curtis looks at her speech and takes the speech apart.

I rise today to speak on the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012. Marriage is defined as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. This was the definition 22 years ago when I married my husband, John, and has been the definition of marriage throughout the history of humanity over the ages.

Well no, a couple of Roman Emperors are reported to have married men, and another ordered the death of people in same-sex marriages, which implies they existed at least a while ago in the past. But, more to the point, there are more than a dozen countries now that define marriage differently and they did it in the last few years, that’s part of the history of humanity now. Moreover, what CF-W is saying here is a fallacy – either appeal to antiquity, that things are right because they are old, or the naturalistic fallacy, that things should be how they are. Either reading means this is not a logical argument.

I reject the assertion that those who argue for the retention of the definition of marriage are somehow homophobic, bigoted or are opposing equal rights. It is about maintaining a tradition—a tradition that has been the bedrock of our communities, our society and the world as we know it.

On 14 August, we celebrated National Marriage Day. I am indebted to the organisers for the red and gold rosettes for us to wear on the day, but I also received a bookmark with the following Chinese proverb: ‘When there is love in a marriage,

This is the premise for the rest of the argument in the proverb. If this is to be taken (a) as true and (b) as an argument against same-sex marriage, then the implication is that people in same-sex relationships do not love each other. Those I know in them would disagree.

there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world.’

Retention of the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is also about protecting the rights of the silent majority

Who are particularly silent given that they are the MINORITY in every poll on same sex marriage in the past few years. But nice tactic, you can claim support for any position by saying the minority are silent because when the polls are against you, just claim that the silent majority aren’t speaking up. You could make an irrefutable case for any rubbish by claiming most people agree but won’t say so.

and that of the institutions that have made this great nation the wonderful land in which to live. It is widely accepted

Another logical fallacy – appeal to popular opinion. Made worse, of course, by the fact that popular opinion is actually running in favour of, not against, same-sex marriage.

in the Australian community that there are certain customs and practices in any society that are unique to certain relationships. To acknowledge this does not amount to discrimination. The silent majority in this country does not support this change

I’ve made my point, this is just silly.

Indeed, there are many people who are in a gay relationships who themselves do not support gay marriage.

Name five.

Their views have also been drowned out by the vocal gay marriage minority

Sleight of hand here, she’s gone from claiming some gays are against gay marriage to claiming that gays in favour of gay marriage are a minority, not just of the population, but of homosexual people per se.

Marriage is not only a civil union but has also always been traditionally a religious ceremony

Yes, but the government’s role in it is to provide the legal recognition not the religious morality. Section 116 of the constitution seems to have slipped by the Senator entirely. And, just because religious people believe their god or gods prohibit them from marrying someone of the same sex, does this mean they prohibit people who do not follow their faith from doing the same?

whether in the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or any other faith. It is a religious act that glorifies the significant union between a man and a woman. An important part of the marriage journey is the public vows that a man and a woman make to each other before their God which commits them to each other for the rest of their natural lives.

Sorry, but again, you are not legislating religious observance or religious rules. The constitution forbids this in section 116. But, while we’re on it, how about you do the one thing in human history that no one else has been able to and prove that God exists. If you want me to accept your argument, prove God exists, otherwise, don’t base an argument on the existence of God because it is begging the question. Oh! That’s another fallacy.

In other parts of the world, we clearly see how amending the definition of marriage has opened the backdoor to attacks on religious freedoms by challenging the churches and other religious institutions such that they would be unable to act with neither their conscience nor their religious teachings and trouncing thousand-year-old beliefs.

You mean you’d like bigots to be able to continue to freely practice their bigotry. Ok then, make sure that amendment is in the legislation, don’t reject the legislation altogether. I should note also that you have said that the problem is a “backdoor” consequence of a change to the legislation. This is the slippery slope fallacy that your good mate Senator Bernadi used to “argue” (and I use the term loosely) that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and human-animal relationships potentially getting recognition.

For example, just recently in Denmark, where same-sex marriage was legalised only earlier this year, the Church of Denmark was forced to make its churches and priests available to perform same-sex weddings. Marriage celebrants, pastors and even service providers such as photographers have suffered legal actions and fines for not approving same-sex marriage.

So if same-sex marriage is legal, or discrimination illegal, you think it is a bad thing that people can’t still discriminate. Tell me Senator, where do you stand on the Racial and Sexual Discrimination laws in Australia?’

This is not about equality; it is about the tearing down of our social fabric.

I doubt that most people who are pushing these amendments are overly religious

Are you saying that this makes them bad people?  That seems to be the implication. Do I have to tell you about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – atheists who have pledged over 100 billion to philanthropy? Do I need to tell you that atheists are under represented, as a proportion of the population, in US jails?

or even intend on staying in a monogamous relationship

You’re saying that some of the people who support others’ choice to get married if they want to may not want to be married or may not want to be monogamous themselves. So what? I can argue for the rights of asylum seekers without, myself, wanting to seek asylum anywhere. The specific wants of the person making the argument have little bearing on the validity of the argument. In fact, however, I would turn your point around and say this: Aren’t people who argue altruistically for the wants or other people with no self-interest in the outcome taking a higher moral position than you?

which begs the question: why do they want to get ‘married’

I’m married and not only am I not “overly religious” I’m not religious at all. Marriage was something that I wanted to do to publically declare my love for my partner, now wife, and for convenience and protection under the law for our assets, joint living arrangements, and children.

The chattering classes do not want to concede that, by amending the Marriage Act, they are in fact denying the rights

Me drinking a beer on my couch doesn’t make your choice to drink one too any less valid.

of the silent majority

Not this li(n)e again?

who want to uphold the sanctity and true meaning of marriage and who want to keep some tradition going in a world that seems to be forever throwing out the old and bringing in the new.

Just being afraid of change isn’t an argument.

In terms of equal rights there is no law under the Commonwealth that discriminates against homosexuals

What about the Marriage Act?

It was the Howard government that substantially removed

But given that Rudd/Gillard had to go on with the job means it wasn’t done fully. This is petty politicking to claim a victory for your side on an issue where you left the job incomplete.

the discriminatory treatment in federal laws as it applied to all interdependent relationships. The previous government took the attitude of looking at interdependent relationships and discrimination across different areas. The previous government was committed to the elimination of discrimination against same-sex couples, and it became part of a program of the elimination of discrimination in areas such as superannuation, migration and Defence Force entitlements. This was followed up by further legislation in 2008

Ok, you’ve acknowledged it the contribution of the other side, with the petty semantics of not crediting it to the people who did it.

which the coalition supported.

These wide-ranging changes now put those in a heterosexual relationship and those in a homosexual relationship on an equal platform

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

This is real equality before the law

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

There is no discrimination

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

when it comes to voting rights or salary. It is worth noting that both the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights have rejected that same-sex marriage is a human right.

Because these organisations have to deal with a range or nations, some of which will not give their assent to this. However, Australia, as a sovereign nation, can choose to be less discriminatory and/or more progressive if we wish.

This is also a question of trust with the Australian people. Like the carbon tax, this government has no mandate to change the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.

I agree with this.  Julia Gillard went to the last election saying she would not support same-sex marriage and she has been consistent. In fairness, governments often try to keep their promises, and sometimes circumstances change when in office that prevents this. The minority government status meant that the government had to change from wanting an emissions trading scheme to having a period of fixed carbon pricing preceding its introduction in order to get this through parliament. This situation was not helped in any way by Tony Abbott’s refusal to take part in the relevant negotiations. The Liberals could have held Labor to its ETS promise and no carbon tax position had they played ball, but I digress.

Before the last federal election, both the ALP and the coalition promised that they would not make changes to the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act. In fact, the coalition has long been opposed to changes to Commonwealth law that could diminish the institution of marriage. This position was represented to the Australian electorate at the 2010, 2007 and 2004 federal elections. Therefore, it was a firm government election promise to keep marriage in its traditional form. In fact, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, on at least eight occasions before the last federal election, declared ALP support for the current definition of marriage. Julia Gillard also said that the ALP would not change its position during the life of the current parliament. I have received thousands of letters and emails from constituents who do not want me to support these changes or any other changes to the Marriage Act. These far outweigh those who have written to me supporting the changes.

Probably because your position is on the record and they don’t see much hope of changing your mind.

Same-sex marriage is a 10th order issue. It galls many in the Illawarra, where I was born and where my electorate office is located, to see their local member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, championing this cause above more pressing issues for his constituents

Well no. It may have escaped your attention, or be beyond your personal capabilities, but other people can deal with multiple issues at the same time.

Throsby is one of my patron seats and, just one year since the announcement of the carbon tax, more than 1,000 workers from BlueScope Steel will lose their jobs in one of our major employment sectors—manufacturing.

First, what has that got to do with same-sex marriage? Second, social and emotional support in marriage is helpful when people face job loss, don’t you think some gay steel workers would like to be able to get married too? Third, is this another example of the Liberal party claiming that job losses not attributed by the company to the carbon tax are because of the carbon tax? My recollection was that the exchange rate was the biggest factor in this business’s decision.

BlueScope is located in Throsby, as are many of the workers who are losing their jobs. More than 1,400 people in the region have lost their jobs since September 2011 and home repossessions had gone up by 60 per cent.

And wouldn’t it be nice to give the wedding industry a boost by allowing same-sex couples to get married? Some of the people needing jobs could get them in photography, florists, catering, limo hire, and the like.

With all this happening, all the member for Throsby can think about is same-sex marriage

CF-W can apparently read minds. She should nominate for the Australian Skeptics’ challenge for proof of paranormal phenomena – there’s a big wad of cash in it for her if she’s successful.

This is not an issue of concern to the people of Throsby or the Illawarra in general.

Polls say otherwise. It is among many issues that people have an opinion on. Really? You can’t deal with more than one at a time?

This is an area which is doing it tough and it galls many in the area to see their local member focussing on this 10th order issue. I ask you, Stephen Jones: how will introducing same-sex marriage give people jobs

I just mentioned the marriage industry.

save them from losing their homes

By giving them jobs.

or lower the cost of living?

Does anyone argue that it will have any CPI impact? There are lots of cost-of-living measures rolling through in the past couple of terms of government, like the tripling of the tax-free threshold which CF-W’s party opposed.

How will same-sex marriage put the budget back into surplus?

I was unaware that anyone argues it would. The budget measures do that, they’ve been debated already. Were you there for that Senator or has it just slipped your mind?

It will do none of these things. At the present time, Australia is not in a position to be discussing an emotive, and I believe destructive, subject such as this one, when there are much more pressing issues that need to be addressed urgently.

Again, parliaments and governments can deal with multiple issues. If you believe it’s a waste of time, why waste further time making a speech on it? Why not cut your speakers list and just vote for or against so you can get on with what you feel is more important business? Oh, I know why, because you want to argue against same sex marriage and because you can’t find good arguments you’re going with this bad one.

One must ask: where will this all end? You do not have to look very far to find the answer. There are already legal challenges in Canada and Utah that have been brought forward by polygamists who claim they have a right to polygamous marriage, and polyamorous activists are relentlessly campaigning for legal recognition of their relationships.

Hang on, didn’t your buddy Cory get in trouble for such statements? If your point about same-sex marriage leading to polygamy was correct we’d see polygamy and same-sex marriage both approved of legally where the other is approved of, right? However, the facts are against this – same-sex marriage is illegal in countries where polygamy is legal and polygamy is illegal in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Polygamy is legal in Saudi Arabia. How do they feel about homosexuality you ask? It is punishable by death there. So, not only is this argument based on a logical fallacy of the slippery slope it doesn’t accord with facts.

These relationships have already been given legal status in the Netherlands. Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby has said, ‘We do not know what the future decades may hold in terms of relationships’, and he has commented that polyamorous relationships are ‘matters for the future’. This is the thin edge of the wedge

This is the slippery slope fallacy.

Even the Greens ACT convenor, Simon Copland, has criticised Sarah Hanson-Young’s stance that marriage should be limited to only two people.

You were debating a Bill on same-sex marriage not polygamy. The Slippery slope argument NEVER holds up in a parliamentary debate because the fact is that the parliament can limit an issue in legislation in any way they want and if it is really a slope parliament can apply the brakes at any point they want.

Most Australians would find these concepts repugnant, abhorrent and destructive to our social fabric.

Are you talking about your own speech above or Senator Bernadi’s? Apart from him mentioning “creatures” and you not, they are barely distinguishable.

But this is where we are heading.

No slippery slope, bad slippery slope!’

I therefore support the sanctity and uniqueness of marriage in its current form, and I acknowledge the very important role that it plays in Australia. Marriage is a very important institution not only for the traditional Anglo-Saxon culture in this country

Aren’t you Italian by ethnicity?

but also for so many others in our culturally diverse community

So you’re saying it is important to protect and continue the discriminatory perspectives of a range of cultures not just one. Again, it’s an argument to popularity fallacy, and one that loses because the polls of individuals (who vote) rather than groups (who don’t) say the opposite!

I know that the chattering classes do not share that view and constantly denigrate those who do.

I’m noting that your argument is shithouse but I’m not doing too much particular denigration of you personally. Still, if you want your ideas to be respected, try having respectable ideas, and if you don’t want your ideas ridiculed don’t subscribe to ridiculous ideas.

As I have said, the silent majority in this country agree

As I have said, this “silent majority” line is a crock. If I say the silent majority favours same-sex marriage what’s the response? No they don’t you say! But they are silent, I say.

about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of what is the traditional family.

I will conclude with a time-old African proverb that simply and profoundly states: ‘Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was put up

Marriage was instituted for many reasons throughout history. Academics has cleverly concealed very detailed analysis of this question in papery things called books which are held in large publicly-accessible things called libraries.

Marriage is a unique institution in our society and it is one that we as senators and members of the Australian parliament should do everything in our power to protect and to ensure that it is supported,

Subtext: Except for letting two consenting adults who want to do it do it because of their particular match of gender.

encouraged and backed up in every way, shape and form. I will be voting against this bill

These are mutually contradictory statements.

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