May 152012
Jeff Kennett former permier of Victoria

TODAY, I call on the Catholic Church and the community to review its position on marriage.

It is time our laws respected the rights of all law abiding individuals.

Those laws should reflect contemporary educated attitudes, not just for marriage but to women and their role in society.

The Catholic Church has suggested to women they should, in effect, lower their standards and marry the second or third-best male available.

Those pronouncements I found belittling to, and of, all women.

They were a throw-back to a view that the only purpose for which women occupied a place on the planet was to bear children and run the household.

It has made me wonder where the church is heading.

The sanctity of marriage has changed substantially in my lifetime. Vows given are so often quickly forgotten.

In many ways we have become a disposable society, where self is so often more important than the responsibilities we agree to enter into or take upon ourselves.

In 2010 there were 121,176 marriages registered and 50,240 divorces granted. Just over 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce.

Twenty years ago the average age at marriage for a male was approximately 28 years, whereas today it is 31.4 years.

The median age at marriage for females in 1992 was approximately 25 years, and in 2010 it was 29.2 years.

That anyone or any institution should suggest we turn the clock back, that people should accept less than their ideal, represents an amazing failure of relevance.

I think religion has a very real role in our society, and for the total believers it must be great solace.

But many of us want a church that is relevant to today and tomorrow. A church that is compassionate, uplifting, maybe even exciting.

Perhaps that is why there will always be new churches and faiths springing up, lifting spirits rather than suggesting, as in this case, women and only women should give up the dream and pursuit of Mr Right.

President Barack Obama has announced his support for gay marriage.

I changed my view (on gay marriage) because of the way discrimination against so many in the gay and lesbian community has caused so much stress, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Again, this issue risks dividing communities, and that I guess is understandable. But it is an issue that reflects the changing society in which we live.

Yes, the Marriage Act says that a marriage is between a male and a female. But the Act was written in 1961.

Acts of Parliament get changed, amended, repealed all the time – in the main to ensure their relevance.

It is time the Marriage Act was changed to reflect the desires of law-abiding citizens.

I changed my view because of the way discrimination against so many in the gay and lesbian community has caused so much stress, anxiety, depression and suicide.

But perhaps the greater reason is the realisation that our lives are short.

Surely everyone – regardless of how they look, their colour, language or sexuality – deserves to live as full a life, and as happy a life, as anyone else.

As long as we all respect each other, and obey the laws of the country, surely that is all that matters.

If I want to live my life with Tom or Harold, surely that should be my right as much as it is if I want to live my life with Felicity or anyone else of the opposite sex.

And if I choose a partner and wish to marry, why should anyone be denied that comfort?

I have no idea what changed President Obama’s mind, but it matters not.

The reality is that all the anti-discrimination laws are baseless if society deliberately discriminates against those law-abiding citizens who seek marriage, but are discriminated against by a law on the grounds of sexuality.

Finally, I have not read the controversial submission by the Victorian doctors and experts who claim gay marriage could jeopardise the nation’s health.

But we live in an enlightened society where medical science and education are addressing many of the illnesses of our time.

Yes they have a right to express their views, as does the Catholic Church, but it begs the question: how relevant are such comments in society today?

Some in the community have successfully demanded the resignation of one signatory from Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Such a demand is, in my opinion, again an expression of intolerance.

People should be free to express their opinions as they see fit and, where some of us differ on the views expressed, we can respond with arguments of our own. But shrill views test the credibility of those who make such demands.

Australia has to stay modern, we have to respect the individual and pursue innovation and science.

Antiquated views have no future for a growing, creative, relevant and respectful Australia.

Jeff Kennett