David Cameron may have left power months ago, but his legacy lives on. The BBC has been trumpeting same-sex weddings being carried out at British consulates in Australia which are not valid under Australian law. There have apparently already been over 30 in the capital, Canberra. The UK High Commission in Australia is without doubt acting in defiance of Australia’s Parliament, which continues to reject the redefinition of marriage. This offensive attempt to meddle with Australian democracy is part of David Cameron’s legacy of exporting same-sex marriage around the world.
It is the Foreign Office playing politics and wasting taxpayers’ money as none of these weddings (of UK citizens) will have any legal standing in Australia. What should we expect to see next? Will it be UK embassies providing abortion facilities in Dublin, ‘sex change’ operations in Moscow, or off-licence drinks in Riyadh? Obviously not. On a whole host of other controversial or sensitive issues, in foreign countries with different cultures, Britain would, surely, be much more respectful.
What is disturbing is that the British Government’s gay marriage posturing comes at such a sensitive time in Australia, where the RC Archbishop of Hobart has recently been hauled before the Tasmanian ‘anti-discrimination’ tribunal over his views on traditional marriage. There has also been “unprecedented abuse” directed at other senior figures who support traditional marriage, and attempts have been made to pressure their employers in business and academia. For example a hotel has been bullied into cancelling a major Christian conference.
As the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Rt Revd Glenn Davies, said recently: “the campaign for same-sex marriage is not sailing on a raft of rainbows but on a barge of bullies… Not only has this minority view tried to swamp the public debate with its introspective, authoritarian denial of free speech, it has struck at the heart of Australian democracy and the freedoms that we all cherish.” (The Australian, 31 March 2017).
Responding to the British Government’s flaunting of same-sex weddings in Australia, Lyle Shelton, head of the Australian Christian Lobby, said: “We’re seeing the negative consequences of the decision that Britain has made in terms of the impacts on the rights and freedoms of other people in the UK, particularly people of faith, so I think it’s up to Australia to make its own decision and not to be swayed by what other nations might do”.
Lyle Shelton is absolutely right. Australia’s democratic process must be respected and not defied. Australians should also be alert to the fact that redefining marriage brings many problems for freedom of speech, as cases like Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland and many other such cases have abundantly shown.
Colin Hart is Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage