ARMIDALE’S Catholic Bishop, Michael Kennedy, has criticised the NSW Upper House’s support for same-sex marriage, claiming the move could have unforseen social consequences.
Bishop Kennedy expressed disappointment in the result, claiming it appeared as though some MPs voted based on emotion rather than a consideration of the social impact.
“I was a little disappointed when I read [Guyra-based MLC] Scot MacDonald’s position and his speech in Parliament,” he said. “I haven’t been in touch with him, but he seemed to be saying that it was a deeply
personal issue for him.
“I thought it was interesting to see parliamentarians basing their vote on emotions or feelings rather than considering the broader social consequences that could arise from Bills.”
He described marriage as “one of the foundations of our society” and claimed redefining its meaning could have unexpected social consequences.
“Changing the legal definition of marriage is a big move to make,” he said.
“It’s risky in terms of making a legal change to the meaning of something so foundational without studies into what those changes could cause.
“Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to say what the consequences would be, so it seems to be more of a risky social experiment rather than taking a more considered approach.”
While he acknowledged polls showing a majority of Australians in support of same-sex marriage, Bishop Kennedy (pictured) said it was not a pressing issue in the minds of many people.
“Gay marriage probably isn’t in the top three issues most people are interested in, which seems to show it is being driven as an issue in Parliament and in the media by a very proactive minority,” he said.
Last week, the NSW Legislative Council passed a motion 22 votes to 16 calling on the Federal Government to legalise same-sex marriage.
While it was not legally binding, the motion marked the first time that Coalition MPs have voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
While he supported maintaining the current definition of marriage, Bishop Kennedy said the Catholic Church’s position was not homophobic and that religious people were entitled to contribute to public discourse on the issue.
“Yes, the Catholic Church has a position on faith grounds with regard to marriage, but members of the church, including myself, are also part of a modern secular society and can add our voice to the issue,” he said.
“It seems when people want to make a contribution to the common good, the media describes them as belonging to a faith rather than being another citizen having their say.”
Mr MacDonald rejected the suggestion his vote in favour of same-sex marriage was made purely on personal grounds and referred to a poll on armidaleexpress.com.au showing more than 80 per cent support for his position.
“It’s always a combination of both; the personal aspect was certainly a factor, but you also have to consider where you see society moving,” he said.
“It was done from both a personal and a wider social viewpoint, but I was quite happy to get out there and canvass the issue in the public domain.”
Mr MacDonald said society could adapt to the change, citing past concerns from parts of the community over equality in the workplace for women.
“People said that about equal pay for women, they said that when women no longer had to leave the public service when they were pregnant,” Mr MacDonald said.
“Whenever you’re in that situation, there are some people who believe there will be negative consequences, but society adapts and I believe traditional marriage will remain strong.
“This is about respecting and accommodating a small group of people who are just as important to society as other groups.”