In January of this year the WA Baptist Advocate published on its front page an interview with Jim Wallace, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). The interview dealt with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Labor Government’s push to legalise civil unions for homosexual and lesbian couples. Jim Wallace actually advocated relationship registers in place of civil unions as a legitimate means of dealing with some supposed matters of “discrimination” against homosexual couples. As the interview could have been read by thousands of Western Australian Christians, we at Life Ministries felt that we should respond briefly to it.
Jim was emphatic in his opposition to civil unions. “This is an article of faith for the new Federal Labor Government,” he said. “It has committed itself not to support civil unions or anything that mimics marriage and we expect the Labor Government to honour its commitment.”
But he was also emphatic about his support for relationship registers: “The registers effectively remove unreasonable discrimination for same-sex couples, such as in terms of an individual’s ability to allocate their own finance and property, without mimicking marriage in the way civil unions or partnerships would.”
This would logically lead to the assumption that there are substantial differences between civil unions and relationship registers, otherwise opposition to one and support for the other wouldn’t make sense. But there are no substantial differences between the two. Relationship registers grant homosexual and lesbian couples virtually all of the privileges that civil unions do.
Andrew Lansdown clearly states Life Ministries’ position in his article “Serious misjudgment: the Australian Christian Lobby advocates a relationships register for homosexual couples” (Life News, June-July 2006). He writes,
ACL is sadly mistaken in its belief that registration of same-sex relationships is less-serious and less marriage-like than same-sex civil unions. But even if it could be established that registration is less significant than civil unions, it still would not justify ACL’s stance. A relationship based on two men having sex together or two women having sex together is not a relationship that merits recognition or support. The relationship itself is unnatural and immoral and ought not to be sanctioned, protected or encouraged in any way by anyone, let alone by a government through legislation. As for the individuals in such a relationship, they currently enjoy all the rights and privileges of any other individual citizen, and properly so. They do not need to be registered and esteemed as a “couple” in order to access those rights. Their claim to “couple” status on the basis of their sexual practice is nonsense, and their demand for social respect and legal privilege on the basis of such an imagined status is outrageous.
In spite of ACL’s claims to the contrary, relationship registers do mimic and harm the special status of marriage in Australia. Therefore, ACL’s claim to be an organisation that staunchly defends marriage as evidenced by their forthright opposition to civil unions is seriously weakened by their support of relationship registers.
While Jim Wallace was responding in the interview in the The Advocate to matters relating to civil unions in the ACT, the legislation there has ramifications that are being felt across the whole nation. Kevin Rudd, prior to becoming Prime Minster, stated clearly his intention to establish relationship registers in every state and territory. That alone would be trouble enough. But to compound matters, ACL supports Rudd’s initiative.
Life Ministries and many other long-standing Christian social action ministries have steadfastly urged ACL to abandon its support for relationship registers, but ACL, not content to let the matter drop, has continued to promote them at church and governmental level across Australia, and even here in Western Australia via publications like the The Advocate.
By supporting relationship registers, ACL has not only caused considerable pain, confusion and discord in the Christian community, it has also split a united approach that had been adopted by pro-family groups for a full generation.
In 2005 Andrew Lansdown cautioned, “it disturbs us to think that should the issue arise in the near future in WA, Life Ministries and like-minded organisations and individuals might have to battle the Australian Christian Lobby along with the homosexual lobby” (“Serious misjudgement; the Australian Christian Lobby advocates a relationships register for homosexual couples”, Life News June/July 2006).
Given Jim’s statement to the WA Baptist Advocate, it seems that our concerns are being realised. We encourage our readers to pray that ACL will abandon this damaging and divisive position, so that we, and other Christian organisations in the West, do not find ourselves in a public fray with ACL regarding relationship registers for homosexual couples.
Life Ministries’ has published many articles by various writers expressing opposition to relationship registers. Some of these include:
- “Serious misjudgment: the Australian Christian Lobby advocates a relationships register for homosexual couples” by Andrew Lansdown
- “Certain issues of justice: same sex relationships and the law” by Andrew Lansdown
- “Same-sex relationships and the law: A response to Brian Edgar” by Roger Birch
- “Concerning the introduction of civil unions: the Christian biblical response” by Peter and Jenny Stokes
- “Salt Shakers response to the Evangelical Alliance paper ‘Same-sex Relationships and the Law’” by Peter and Jenny Stokes
- “Rights and wrongs in relationship recognition” by Bill Muehlenberg
- “Defending marriage against ‘same sex’ registers” by Dwight A. Randall
- “Dangers of a ‘same sex’ register” by Babette Francis
- “Myths and facts about relationship registers” by Festival of Light Australia