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Australian conservative changes mind on marriage equality

Catholic Spector writer John Heard says that religious marriage and civil same-sex marriage can exist side-by-side
Australian conservative columnist and lawyer John Heard

An Australian conservative who is a regular contributor to right-wing magazine The Spectator has written a column in which he explains why he is no longer against same-sex civil marriage.

Lawyer John Heard writes that the separation between religious marriage and civil marriage in Australia means that 'traditional' marriage is not as risk from proposals to allow same-sex marriage.

'It just clicked,' Heard wrote. 'What I actually meant when I described marriage was Catholic marriage: a sacrament. That will not change with careful reform of the Marriage Act to allow for same-sex civil marriage.'

While Heard wrote that 'the changes [same-sex marriage] discussed do not accord with my religious beliefs', he said that other aspects of modern life, such as 'no-fault divorce' and 'the disintegration of gender roles' are also in opposition to his religion.

But civil marriage allows religious and non-religious lives to exist side-by-side.

'No one is upset when the Sikhs down the road get married and no one should get too excited if two same-sex-attracted citizens contract an Australian civil marriage,' Heard wrote.

Heard also echoed British Prime Minister David Cameron's argument that he doesn't support same-sex marriage 'despite being a Conservative. I support it because I'm a Conservative'.

'We have good reason to believe that, just like heterosexual blokes, same-sex-attracted Australian males will find marriage a binding, behaviour-changing institution,' wrote Heard.

'The social disintegration experienced in the West has been, in good part, a symptom of ever-fragmenting relationships. Those same-sex-attracted men and women who want to contract a civil marriage may represent an arrest in this decline, a return to commitment and stability.'

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said Heard's article will encourage social conservatives and religious people who oppose same-sex marriage to reconsider their views.

'John's article challenges those Australians who believe in the benefits marriage bestows, to open their hearts to same-sex couples and their families sharing these benefits,' said Croome.

In a statement commenting on his change of position on marriage equality Heard was clear that his previous arguments on the matter should no longer be used to promote the anti-same-sex-marriage agenda.

'No one should use my name, image, or previous statements to promote an anti-reform campaign,' Heard said, adding that he thanked 'those interlocutors over the years who challenged me to reconsider civil marriage reform'.

Heard also said that he believes gay couples should be allowed to adopt.

'Others claim that same-sex civil marriage will harm children, either directly or indirectly,' Heard wrote in his column. 'I am, alongside most Australians, keen to hear how this may be the case.

'Australian adoption laws should not unfairly exclude same-sex married people from raising children, especially children whose biological parents cannot, or do not wish to, raise them together.'

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