Coalition for Marriage Launches No Campaign

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
18 Sep 2017

By Robert Hiini

Some of the speakers at the campaign launch of the Coalition for Marriage in Sydney (from second left): NSW MP for Robertson Lucy Wicks, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Senator Matt Canavan, Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton, and Australian Conservatives leader, Senator Cory Bernardi (second from right). PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

THE leader of Ireland's unsuccessful no campaign, Keith Mills, said in the two years since same-sex marriage had been legalised in the majority Catholic country, there had already been an erosion of parental rights and freedom to debate gender theory.

Keith Mills was one of a slew of high-powered speakers who electrified an audience of about 1000 at the official launch of the "no" campaign in Sydney on Saturday.

Pointing to overseas examples as well as recent developments in Australia, the speakers warned of the consequences of creating gender-less marriage, laying out its likely impact on freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the rights of parents and children.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was searing in her portrayal of the 'yes' campaign as a dogmatic attempt to suppress the legitimate values of generations of migrants - values which put marriage and the family at the centre of life.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells giving what was one of the best-received speeches of the night. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Senator Cory Bernardi warned that state anti-discrimination laws would be "weaponised" in the wake of a "yes" victory.

The Australian Conservatives leader pointed - as did Australian Christian Lobby chief Lyle Shelton - to the case of Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, who had been hauled before Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission after distributing a pro-marriage booklet.

Senator Matt Canavan galvanised the crowd by comparing the plebiscite battle to the final stretch of the Melbourne Cup: "We may not be in front at the moment, but we are coming down the straight on the outside."

But it was Mr Mills who gave perhaps the most unexpected remarks of the night, cautioning the LGBTI community against a fearful view of the world that rendered any disagreement "hateful".

"What I think is really hateful here is telling gay people that they are facing homophobia and that they are facing hatred when it is not there," Mr Mills said, referring to the Coalition for Marriage campaign.

Children's rights campaigner Katy Faust: "Mothers and fathers offer distinct and complementary benefits to kids … You cannot legislate away a child's desire for a mother and father". PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

"I know referendums can be divisive, but there's no excuse for personal attacks. We have a phrase in Ireland, 'You play the ball but not the man.' You can play against people's ideas, you can challenge their policies, but you don't play personal attacks, you don't try to get them sacked from their jobs, and you don't call them liars when they are standing up for the rights of their children."

Speaking to The Catholic Weekly Mr Mills said the way to defeat actual homophobia was to assert one's co-equal dignity, not by shutting down debate.

"I lost a lot of friends because they took the other side and then they didn't want to be associated with me," he said.

"But, I mean, we have one life to live. Do you live it in fear where you don't speak up and you don't stand up, or do you use your talent - the little bit that you have - to stand up for your beliefs and try to improve everybody's lot?.
Mr Mills said he was compelled to join Ireland's "no" campaign in the conviction that children deserved - wherever possible - the love of their mother and father.

Parousia Media founder Charbel Raish happily sports the campaign's signature poster with Lyle Shelton. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

"I opt for the second option."

He had some salient advice for "no" campaigners as Australians go to vote in the next two weeks.

"The way to win this is to persuade people one by one. Go out around the place tomorrow. Talk to your workmates; talk to people you think are on the other side or are wavering, and say, 'I am voting no, and this is why.'"