The High Court heard the ACT same-sex marriage case last week, reserving its decision until December 12. The Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) Research Officer Daniel Simon attended the hearing and reports on the arguments presented.

The Commonwealth argued that the ACT’s same-sex marriage law, passed in October and which took effect on December 7, is invalid because it is inconsistent with the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. Under the Australian Constitution, the federal government has the power to legislate for marriage. The Constitution also says that any state or territory law inconsistent with a federal law is invalid. In its arguments, the Commonwealth, represented by Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson SC, made two main points: the uniformity of marriage law in Australia, and the intention to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Firstly, marriage is a federal power because this allows for one uniform law throughout the country. Prior to 1900, the separate colonies had different laws governing marriage and divorce. A similar situation existed, and still exists today, in the United States. Wanting to avoid what they called this “mischief”, the founders deliberately gave the federal parliament the power to make laws for marriage, which they did with the 1961 Act. In the words of Mr Gleeson, the need to avoid the problems of diverse marriage laws was “at the heart of the very case for Federation itself”.  The intention was to define marriage as between a man and a woman

The second theme in the Commonwealth’s arguments was that the Commonwealth has clearly shown its intention that marriage in Australia be limited to the union of a man and a woman. This was assumed in the original Act but made clear in the 2004 amendments, which inserted a definition and also expressly prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships formalised overseas. In response, the ACT argued that the Commonwealth law only regulates opposite-sex relationships, and that it is open to the states to confer the status of “marriage” onto same-sex couples. The ACT also argued that the text of the Marriage Act as amended does not expressly prohibit the formalising of same-sex marriages in Australia.

The High Court also allowed submissions from Australian Marriage Equality (AME), represented by Mr Kirk SC, who argued that the ACT law creates a new and distinct status, not “marriage” but “same-sex marriage”. The ACT – and any state or territory – has the right to do this, they argued, because the federal law only deals with the status “marriage” as defined in the Act. The potential exists for other statuses of marriage he argued.  The Court drew two important points out of the ACT and AME arguments.

Firstly, after some probing questions from Chief Justice French and Justice Bell, AME had to admit that, based on its argument, a state or territory could legislate a new status of marriage for any type of relationship, including those currently prohibited by the federal Marriage Act. Such relationships include those where one or both parties are a child, or already married to somebody else, or where true consent is not given, or where the parties are related.

Secondly, it was exposed just how shallow the claim of “equality” is. Justice Bell asked the ACT’s solicitor Ms Eastman SC whether a same-sex couple married in the ACT would be “married” for the purposes of any Commonwealth laws which deal with married couples – such as the Evidence Act, which allows a person not to be compelled to give evidence against their spouse in a criminal matter. Ms Eastman replied that “for Commonwealth laws, they are not recognised as married”. In the words of Justice Bell, the ACT Act gives “a somewhat limited quality to equality”.

It is not known how the Court will rule tomorrow. Despite the uncertainty, some same-sex couples “married” in the ACT last weekend under the new law, even though they may be left without the legal recognition they thought they had gained. Based on legal advice the ACL has received, it seems there are strong grounds for the Court to reject the ACT bill as unconstitutional. There is a clear case for the importance of a single marriage law for the whole of Australia. Moreover, it was the clear intention of our elected federal parliament to define marriage in Australia as between a man and a woman.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby



The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who died last Friday will be remembered as a passionate voice for reconciliation whose optimism for change inspired a nation and the world. That’s the opinion of the Rev Dr Keith Garner, Superintendent of Wesley Mission, who paid tribute to the South African leader following his passing. “I have watched this man with a sense of real admiration: the prisoner of Robben Island who became a free man and the liberation leader who became a passionate voice for reconciliation,” Dr Garner said. 
“The world joins with the people of South Africa in thanking God for the life of this extraordinary human being. “Perhaps Nelson Mandela will be best remembered as one who has shown that it is possible to see a better future, even when the circumstances appear to be hopeless.  God bless the memory of a great man who spoke of a better way across all our cultures.” The passing of Mr Mandela has significant meaning for Dr Garner. In 1990 he was invited by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to minister and preach in South Africa. 

On Friday, 2 February, 1990 the then South African President F.W de Klerk announced a raft of reforms including the unbanning of the African National Congress, the lifting of media restrictions and the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island prison, Cape Town.  Dr Garner was at the Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg when the announcements were made. “It was lunchtime and we crowded around a radio listening to President de Klerk’s ground breaking speech,” he said. “The most significant piece of news, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, was the movement towards a fairer South Africa and the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela as soon as the administrative and security arrangements could be finalised.”
On the Sunday that followed, 4 February, Dr Garner was the guest preacher at Orlando West Methodist Church, Soweto, where some of the Mandela family worshipped. The church was located a short distance from Mandela’s home. “The worship in that service was profound,” Dr Garner said. “It became more passionate and joyous as it became clear that Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was imminent.”  Dr Garner said Mr Mandela’s greatest influence and contribution to history was his leadership of the new nation of South Africa and his role as a peacemaker in the world.
“Through the choice of non-violence, he helped people to see that it is possible to change the world in ways of peace and integrity,” Dr Garner said.  “Like many others, I have stood in the small room on Robben Island which for many years was his cell and wondered how someone could live in such a place. It was remarkable that he was imprisoned for 27 years and then became a world leader.”

Source: Press Release from Wesley Mission Sydney



The Australian Bureau of Statistics have just released the figures relating to Marriage & Divorce in our nation for 2012. The salient points to note are that:

*  Marriages, between one man and one woman, are still on the increase – there were 123,244 marriages and increase of 1,492(1.2%) on 2011. This is however not all good news in that in relation to our population the marriage rate is lower than it was in 1992.

*  In 2012, 80.8% of all brides and 79.2% of all grooms had not married previously.

*  The proportion of marriages performed by civil celebrants has increased over the past 20 years. In 2012, 71.9% of all marriages were performed by civil celebrants. Civil marriages have outnumbered religious ceremonies since 1999. In 2012, of the 34,613 marriages performed by ministers of religion, the most common rites used were Catholic (31.8%) followed by Anglican (16.2%).

*  In 2012, couples who cohabited before marrying were more likely to marry in a civil ceremony than those who lived apart, with 78.2% of couples cohabiting married in a civil ceremony, compared with 21.8% of those who lived apart.

*  The majority of couples registering their marriage in 2012 cohabited prior marriage (77.6%).  The number of couples cohabiting prior to marriage increased by 445.

*  Sadly, In 2012, there were 49,917 divorces granted in Australia, an increase of 982 (2.0%) compared to 2011.

*  People between 40-44 years of age had the highest percentage of divorces granted, with 16.9% of males and 17.6% of females being granted a divorce falling in the age group in 2012.

*  In 2012, there were 24,144 divorces involving children, that is 44,834 children under 18 years of age. This represents 48.4% of all divorces granted.

These figures continue to be a “wake-up call” for the Church. In response every church in the country needs to give serious attention to establishing a top notch marriage ministry. Why? Because the local Church is likely to sink or swim depending how healthy its marriages are. Marriage is crucial to a church’s growth and outreach programming. If a church is focused on evangelism they should discover that marriage is a great portal for evangelism. The experience of marriage focused ministries is that unchurched couples in a community will enter the doors of a church for a marriage seminar when they won’t come to church for any other reason.

But how can a church develop an excellent marriage ministry? By adopting a life-span approach for the couples they minister to. For example, the local church needs to examine what it is doing to prepare youth and singles for healthy dating and eventual marriage. A premarital education program is crucial. We believe every church should have at least marriage mentoring ministry. With its boomerang effect, marriage mentoring not only strengthens newlyweds but also the more seasoned couples. Marriage Week next year will be held in Australia from 14 – 20 September 2014″

Source: Marriage Week Organisers