Rightwatch: Australia’s “Marriage Alliance”

August 9, 2015 in General

I decided to have a closer look at Australia’s new “Marriage Alliance” organisation, the latest Australian Christian Right pressure group opposed to marriage equality. It is significant that Australian homophobes realised that overly close association with loudmouth pressure groups like New Zealand’s own Family First, the UK Christian Institute or the US Family Research Council were counterproductive in those specific national contexts. Whether or not the Marriage Alliance turns out to be a front group for another Australian Christian Right organisation or coalition of such pressure groups is a moot point, however.  I decided to profile their webpage and then do a search of whether it was backed by such pressure groups.

“Marriage Alliance is a group of individuals, businesses and community organisations who are concerned that the Australian people are not getting the full story on the implications of changing the Act. Marriage Alliance believes the rights of children are being subjugated by arguments about equality between gay and heterosexual adults. Taking a back seat are the more important issues about the consequences and the rights of future generations, sex education, religious freedoms, morality, business and professional regulations, and legal implications resulting from permitting same-sex marriage.” 

Which “businesses” are those? Why are they afraid to disclose their identities? Which “community organisations” are those? The unrepresentative, extremist Australian Christian Right? Which “individuals?” Its members? 
And they’re right that the rights of children are taking a back seat in this context. However, in Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania already have inclusive adoption reform, while individual states also decide the scope and extent of IVF access and surrogacy legislation. Same-sex parenting is a seperate issue in their national context.  So is comprehensive sexuality education.  Is “Marriage Alliance” saying that “religious liberty” should override anti-discrimination laws when it comes to same-sex couples and same-sex-led families and that conservative Christians should have the “right” to discriminate against them? As for “morality,” surely it is arrogant to presuppose that particular religious institutions should be able to dictate what other Australians believe and demand that their particular sectarian perspectives be incorporated into public policy?  Rightly, Australians have rejected that argument in the context of abortion rights and they should also be free to do so here. They cannot, because of Australia’s discriminatory federal marriage legislation.

“Rational debate on the impact of allowing same-sex marriage is being denied to ordinary Australians because those with opposing views fear being labelled as ‘homophobic’ or a ’right-wing extremist’ and potentially face attacks on their business or personally.”

Oh, good grief! This is ad hominem! It isn’t even a substantive argument. And supporters of marriage equality aren’t being labelled “anti-family”, ‘anti-children”, “cultural marxists” or “secular humanists” by the other side?!  Two words: Bill Muehlenberg.

Let’s have a look at some of these local news items too:

“A social media campaign has called for a boycott of an Adelaide Hills bakery over “homophobic” comments. One  of the owners of the Lobethal Bakery, Ruth Trinkle, this week accused a local newspaper of promoting “the homosexuality campaign”, after it published a story about councils flying an LGBT flag. A Facebook page critical of Ms Trinkle has been set up calling for a boycott of the bakery “for not supporting equality“.

Sorry, but it is legal to institute boycotts of businesses whose stances on various public policy issues one opposes. That was commonplace during the anti-apartheid campaign era when South Africa was suffering under a murderous racist dictatorship- oh, wait a minute. That’s right. Australian Conservative Christians backed that dictatorship, didn’t they?  And it’s interesting that this item should be cited from South Australia, headquarters of “Family Voice” aka the former “Festival of Light,” isn’t it?

But wait a minute! Ms Ruth Trinkle, the offending party, has called for a conservative Christian boycott of a local paper!

“The majority of the hills community is Christian and my customers will be offended to read articles promoting gay [sic] and lesbians,” she wrote in a letter to the editor on Wednesday. I buy The Courier for my customers to read in our shop. I will stop buying the paper out of protest.”

Moreover, she doesn’t speak for other Lobethal Hills people, or other Christians, and the other bakery owners are trying to deal with the fallout:

“I am a Christian. You do not speak for me. Don’t hide behind your ‘Christian customers’ and what they believe,” wrote one person in a comment on the page. Another of the Lobethal Bakery’s owners, Peter Trinkle, distanced the business from the letter andsaid the newspaper had a right to publish its story: ”And we aren’t homophobic … we have our opinions on the gay agenda, but believe that we don’t need to express that opinion as a business. We don’t hate homosexuals,” he told AAP.

An item on sex education in Queensland doesn’t even mention marriage equality except in passing at the end.

Australian columnist Angela Shanahan condemns Australians for Marriage Equality’s Rodney Croome over calling the Catholic Archbishop of Tasmania to account over the distribution of pamphlets opposed to marriage equality throughout that state.  Shanahan condemns this as  a violation of faith/state separation and the right to free speech. Really? And what about the fact that liberal Catholic teachers were forbidden from supporting marriage equality when New Zealand’s marriage equality campaign occurred? Are Catholic supporters of marriage equality free to disseminate material that opposes their hierarchy and defends social justice for LGBT Catholics and other Australians?

Why is Marriage Alliance only citing Murdoch chain newspapers?  And how representative are Marriage Alliance’s core activists anyway? The Stirrer (05.08.2015) had a look at some of the individuals backing this and who else they were affiliated to. The results were interesting:

Marriage Alliance’s backers include former investment banker Jim Dominguez, former Australian Liberal Party President Prof Ashley Goldsworthy, and company Director Mark Phillips. Their spokesperson is Sophie York, former naval officer, barrister, law lecturer, Liberal Party member and regular campaigner, and very keen to be a Liberal MP. Check out the publicly available information on these people, and the following organisations show up: Knights of Malta, St Thomas More Society, St Vincent’s Hospital, University of Notre Dame, Campion College, Sisters of Charity, The Benenson Society, Brisbane Catholic Education Council, Garvan Institute, Catholic Education Office,  the Marist Finance Commission.

They conclude that Marriage Alliance is probably a Catholic Right front group. I don’t blame them, given their excellent detective work on this issue-although, as the links I’ve posted below show , conservative Greek Orthodox and fundamentalist Baptists oppose marriage equality, as does the Australian Bible Society -although the latter does provide some interesting background information on some of the Marriage Alliance ringleaders as well:

The Marriage Alliance was founded by Tio Faulkner, a member of the ACT Liberal Party. Its founding directors include former investment banker Jim Dominguez, Queensland businessman Ashley Goldsworthy and business adviser Mark Phillips, who all have Catholic affiliations. Mr Dominguez was invested with the Papal honours as Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great for his contribution to education and health. He was chairman of a campaign against euthanasia in the 1990s. Mr Goldsworthy is currently on the Brisbane Catholic Education Council and Mr Phillips was a member of review panel in the Catholic Education Office in Sydney in 2014.

 

Recommended:

“Adelaide bakery boycott over homophobia” Courier Mailhttp://www.couriermail.com.au/news/breaking-news/adelaide-bakery-boycott-over-homophobia/story-fnihsfrf-1227463146021

“Marriage equality: More to it than you think?” Stirrer: 05.08.2015: http://www.thestirrer.com.au/marriage-alliance-more-to-it-than-you-think/

“New ads asking for more debate on same-sex marriage pulled from Channels Seven and Ten” Bible Society: http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/new-ads-asking-for-more-debate-on-same-sex-marriage-pulled-from-channel-7-and-channel-10

Not Recommended:

Marriage Alliance: http://www.marriagealliance.com.au

Angela Shanahan” “Gay marriage leaves Catholic schools under threat” Australian: 04.08.2015: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/gay-marriage-leaves-catholic-schools-under-threat/story-fn562txd-1227427574703

Sydney Trads: “Marriage Alliance Launched”: http://sydneytrads.com/2015/08/03/launch-of-marriage-alliance/

Speak Up for Marriage: http://marriage.greekorthodox.org.au/

“Australian Baptists view on same-sex marriage” Australian Baptist Ministries: 16.06.2015: http://baptist.org.au/News/Articles_and_Statements/Australian_Baptists_View_on_Same_Sex_Marriage.aspx

 

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