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US Theologian on Impact of "Same-Sex Marriage" on Religious Freedom

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
6 Aug 2015

Dr Gerald McDermott, US Professor of Religion and one of the world's leading theologians

Leading US theologian and ethicist, Dr Gerald McDermott will explore the impact of the recent US Supreme Court ruling that legalised marriage between same-sex couples across all 50 states at a public meeting hosted by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty on Wednesday, 12 August.

Professor of Religion at Roanoake College, Virginia, Dr McDermott's address on what has happened in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June this year, and also the impact on residents in states that legalised marriage between same-sex couples in 2009 will take place at 7.30 pm at Duffy Hall, St Peter's Parish, Devonshire Street, Surry Hills. 

"The evening is free and open to the public and I urge all interested in this issue to attend," says Rocco Mimmo, international lawyer and the Founder and Chairman of the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty.

In addition to Dr McDermott, Mr Mimmo will also speak, outlining continuing concerns about current proposals to change Australia's Marriage Act 1961 to allow same-sex attracted couples to legally marry. He will also discuss the potential legal and other adverse impacts this could have on religious liberty in Australia.

In June this year, shortly before Parliament's annual winter recess, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tabled a bill seeking to redefine marriage under the Law. Under the current Act, marriage is defined as "union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others." But under the Opposition Leader's bill, the Act would be changed and marriage defined simply as "the union between two people." However Bill Shorten's bill will be  supplanted by a cross-party bill that will specifically exempt "ministers" and "chaplains" of religion from being forced to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.

This bill, co-sponsored by Liberal MP Warren Entsch and Labor MP Terri Butler, is expected to be introduced to the House of Representatives as early as 11 August - next Tuesday. Supporters of the bill expect its introduction will precipitate a debate among government MPs about granting a conscience vote to its members and senators, possibly on 18 August. This bill also includes the repeal of the legal definition of marriage as between "a man and a woman" and replacing it with "two people".

Nothing equal about same-sex "marriage" - Dr Gerald McDermott

In the US, Dr McDermott has been long been an outspoken critic of the legalisation of same-sex marriage. He has both spoken and written widely on this issue, disputed the frequent claim by advocates of same-sex marriage who claim "gay rights are human rights."

He also dismisses arguments by proponents of legalising marriage between same-sex attracted men and women who insist that religion should have nothing to do with redefining civil marriage or with any other public policy.

"Cultures in the East and West from time immemorial have defined marriage as the uniojn of two persons who are biologically different, for the primary purpose of procreation. Some cultures have based this on religion, some have not. All have seen it to be given in the nature of things, discernible by reason which is common to religious and non religious alike," he wrote in 2009 as the individual governments of US states, including Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and California all voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

As for the assertion that gay rights are human rights, Dr McDermott pointed out that such arguments were not only specious but overlooked the religious grounding for some of America's most hallowed proclamations of human rights and cites the US Declaration of Independence that declares "all men are equal" because "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

International lawyer Rocco Mimmo will speak on potential impact of same sex marriage on religious liberty in Australia

Freedom of Religion is also enshrined in international Human Rights proclamations, including the United Nations' Universal Proclamation of Human Rights.

While freedom of religion is universally acknowledged worldwide as a fundamental human right, there are no human rights charters to enshrine so-called "gay rights."

Rocco Mimmo is adamant that same-sex marriage is not about not about marriage equality or human rights.

"The term 'marriage equality' is an emotional term and works well in campaigns. But it is deceptive and misleading. There is nothing equal about same-sex marriage," he warns. But it will not be same -sex couples denied equality if they are permitted to legally marry. Instead, it will be individuals and businesses who will be denied representation for their own personal and religious faiths, and find their religious freedoms curtailed and under threat.

In the US this is already happening with the University of Notre Dame in Indiana being ordered by the Federal courts to provide contraception to staff and all students regardless of the Catholic university's strongly-held beliefs and teachings.

Dr McDermott, whom Rocco Mimmo admires and has known for several years, will discuss the American experience as well as what has happened in Canada after same-sex marriages were legalised in 2005.

"With its own Bill of Human Rights, Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which guarantee certain rights including freedom to practice religion, Americans are in a much better position than we are here in Australia when it comes to religious liberty," Mr Mimmo says.

Ireland's referendum saw marriage traditionalists swamped by a slick multi-million dollar campaign for same sex marriage

Although he does not believe the same sex couples will be given the legal right to marry during the Abbott Government's current term, he fears a change in the Marriage Act and a new definition of marriage created to allow same-sex couples to marry could happen at a later point.

What he is hoping, however, is that the law remains the same even though the Prime Minister has talked about a plebiscite to decide the issue in the Government's next term.

"As happened in Ireland, we'd be swamped. Advocates of same-sex marriage from America and other places have very deep pockets and they would finance a campaign and overwhelm us with propaganda. Dishonestly and deceptively they would take the moral high ground and claim it was a matter of human rights. It would be a small group of us against big money and a concerted international campaign," he says.

To hear speakers Dr Gerald McDermott, Professor of Religion at Roanoake College, Virginia USA and Rocco Mimmo Founder and Chairman of the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty on the impact of the legalisation of same-sex marriage and details of the public meeting on Wednesday 12 August at 7.30 pm see www.ambrosecentre.org.au