Should we vote for a party that backs same-sex marriage?

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Dear Father, Since the Australian Labor Party has promised to legalise same-sex marriage within 100 days of being elected, can Catholics in good conscience still vote for them? 

You have sent down a fast ball that I could very well have let “go through to the keeper”, to use cricket terminology, but given the importance of the issue with an election coming up, I feel obliged to answer it, for you and for many others.

The first thing to say is that there are many good people working in the Labor Party, including parliamentarians, who share the Catholic viewpoint on same-sex marriage and other moral issues.

The more of them in Parliament, the better.

At the same time there are many people working in the Labor Party and in other parties who differ from us on this important issue. By not voting for them we can send a message to Canberra that we feel strongly about marriage. For this, the views of each candidate must be examined.

It is interesting that Western Australian Labor Senator Joe Bullock recently announced that he is retiring from politics only two years after being elected because of his inability to support the Labor Party’s policy requiring members to vote for same-sex marriage from 2019 on.

He said: “How can I in good conscience recommend to the people that they vote for a party which is determined to deny its parliamentarians a conscience vote on the homosexual marriage question? The simple answer is that I can’t.”

The Labor Party, as you say, has promised to have a vote in Parliament on the same-sex marriage question within 100 days of being elected. If such a ballot is held, it seems likely there will be sufficient votes to redefine marriage to include the union of two persons of the same sex.

The Coalition has announced that if elected it will move for a plebiscite to be held as soon as possible in which the Australian people themselves will be able to vote directly for or against the redefinition of marriage, and the government will abide by the results. If such a plebiscite takes place, there is at least a reasonable chance that marriage will remain the union of a man and a woman.

So the upcoming election is crucial for the future of marriage and the family in Australia. This is not the only issue, of course, but it is an exceedingly important one.

In voting for the Senate one can vote above the line for six parties, making it possible for the voter to direct his or her preferences to other parties which stand for the same values on the marriage question. So it is important to inform oneself beforehand on which parties these are.

The outcome of a plebiscite depends greatly on those who support traditional marriage doing all they can in the meantime to speak with their friends and acquaintances on the importance of the issue, writing letters to newspapers, intervening on talk-back radio, organising meetings to discuss the matter, doing letter box drops, etc.

The outcome also depends very much on the exact wording of the question to be put to the people. There is a big difference between “Are you in favour of two persons who love each other, regardless of their sex, being allowed to marry?” and “Are you in favour of changing the definition of marriage from ‘the union of a man and woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’ to ‘the union of any two persons, regardless of their sex’?”

Many people have asked what a plebiscite is and how it differs from a referendum. A plebiscite is simply a national vote on a question which does not affect the Constitution, and it is decided by a majority of votes throughout the country.

A referendum may be called when a change is proposed to the Constitution.

To win a referendum there must be a national majority of votes in favour of the question and in addition there must be a majority of votes in a majority of states; that is, a majority in at least four of the six states.

Since Federation only eight of 44 proposals to amend the Constitution have been approved in a referendum.

So it is very important to vote wisely in the next election. Much is at stake.