Dear Mr Turnbill
I have read your Michael Kirby lecture given at Southern Cross University in which you explained how you had found the arguments against gay marriage unpersuasive.
I believe you have misunderstood a number of things in relation to this discussion.
First, you characterise those coming from a Judaeo-Christian perspective as being against gay unions. While you acknowledge the Christian Bible condemns such unions both BC and AD (see Romans chapter 1:21-32), but dismiss the Bible's relevance in this discussion on the bases that the Laws given to the Israeli nation required the death penalty for homosexual activity as well as a number of other crimes.
However, you fail to acknowledge that the New Testament, while describing homosexual activity as sinful and therefore condemned by God, does not go on to insist that such people should be sentenced to death. What the New Testament requires is repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.
Using the statement by Lord Penzance in the case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee surprised me as one of the reasons why you find the arguments against defining gay unions as a marriage unpersuasive. Lord Penzance concluded: “I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.” But for you to go on to assert that because so called Christian Countries can no longer be called Christian, therefore, Lord Penzance's ruling is no longer valid. This a is very weak argument on your part.
So you ask: "So the question for us here in Australia in 2012 is should we recognise same sex unions and describe them as “marriage”?
Clearly my answer to your rhetorical question is "No."
Because as you know, across cultures, languages and religions for at least 5000 years the term "marriage" has always, and continues to be defined, as a heterosexual union. What seems to be lost on your ears is that people from a Christian-Judaeo perspective, those from an Islamic background, and some from other religions object to the redefining of the term "marriage" to include gay unions.
A gay union is not a marriage as traditionally understood universally for over 5 millennium. This you do not even hint at in your lecture.
You do acknowledge that in Australian Law gay couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. ". . . federal legislation, especially since the Same Sex Relationships Acts of 2008, recognises same sex couples for the purpose of many entitlements and obligations and, broadly speaking, whatever rights and duties accrue to couples of different sexes accrue to those of the same sex."
So what is at stake is not the legalization of gay unions but how such unions are to be described.
As a wordsmith why don't you come up with a term to describe gay unions? Why destroy the universal, traditional understanding of the word marriage? Your lecture does not even go near these questions.
Marriage, according to the law of Australia
"Marriage, according to the law of Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life." Note, no reference is made to Lord Penzance's definition of marriage! In fairness you could have pointed this out.
So why not introduce legislation to define a Gay Union as: Sodomite Partnership/Union, according to the Law of Australia, is the union of a man and another man, or the union of a woman and another woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life? This is how Gay Unions have been defined for at least 2000 years in some contexts. Why change that definition now?
Same sex unions were formerly described in Australian Law in every State as a Sodomite union. Why not revert to that Legal term? It has legal precedence.
Defining Gay Unions as a: Sodomite Partnership/Union, would have the support of the Christian Lobby, those from a Christian-Judaeo an Islamic backgrounds, and no doubt many others. This would remove any ambiguity about what type of relationship is being described.
Thank you for taking the time to consider perhaps a different angle in this debate.