What happens when your sexuality clashes with your cultural, religious or political beliefs?
BROCKIE: Hi, I'm Jenny Brockie, welcome everybody.
Good to have you with us tonight. Ben, you and Nam have been together for eight
years, is that right?
BROCKIE: And you're of Malaysian Chinese
BROCKIE: How does your family feel
about you being in a long term relationship with Nam?
BEN: It wasn't
easy, it wasn't easy, I mean coming out was a difficult thing. But eventually
love did overcome everything, I suppose, my parents love Nam very much, it's
not difficult to love Nam. He's really kind and he's really beautiful so.
BROCKIE: You want to marry Nam,
BEN: Because I
love him. It's about love between two
people but it's also about the union of two families and two communities. The
rituals to that we have, for example, tea ceremony, the paying homage to the
ancestors where your partner's family gives permission for you to pay homage to
their own ancestors. You combine your
lineage together, your, you make family, that's what marriage is.
BROCKIE: And you wear rings?
BROCKIE: So you're not married though,
you've had a commitment ceremony of some kind?
NAM: We - I
wouldn't go that far.
BEN: Our friends
actually was the ones who help us cast our gold rings actually.
NAM: So it was
combination of a few things, so our friends helped us obtain the rings. Ben's
parents so this is when we were in Malaysia visiting Ben's family and Ben's
parents blessed and said a prayer for the rings to sort of support our
relationship and then when I brought the rings back to Australia, my parents
took the rings to the temple to get it blessed by a monk to bless our
relationship as well and then they sort of brought it back and again said a prayer.
BROCKIE: This is all sounding very good and very much as though your families
are totally on board with this idea. Are they totally on board with you being a
NAM: It was very
difficult so where we are at at this point in time is actually something that
in my wildest dreams I wouldn't have imagined.
It was actually very, very difficult when I first came out to my parents
and for me, the journey of coming out was when I actually met Ben and I thought
hey, this could actually turn into something quite special. And for me the
first person or the first people I wanted to tell were my parents before anyone
else because they were my community.
They, if I can't tell who my loved ones that have brought me up until
this point, why, you know, how I can tell anyone else?
BROCKIE: Now your parents are of Vietnamese heritage, yes?
NAM: Correct, and
for the first probably two years of our relationship every time Ben came over
my brother would stare straight through him. My dad probably wouldn't, wouldn't
be around as much. Mum found it very difficult but she's very kind so she tried
to make Ben feel at home as much as possible.
BEN: They just
didn't have, I suppose, the language, if you like to put that, the cultural
language to deal with it.
BROCKIE: What I'm interested is in why
marriage matters to you?
NAM: Because it's
the recognition of our relationship. Because I can profess my love to Ben, he
can profess his love to me, but until we come to a place where we're able to, I
guess, announce to our loved ones, you're community, and then also get their
acceptance of it or at least their support, can we sort of "¦.
BROCKIE: You, I know you, Nam, struggled about coming on television
BROCKIE: Tell us why you decided to come
on television tonight?
NAM: There's a
lot, it's very difficult because there's a lot of stigma, there's a lot of
homophobia, there's a lot of - it's not easy to be gay. It's easier, sometimes
it can be easier to just let things slide and try and blend into the
BROCKIE: Were you worried about your
family and your extended family's reaction to doing this tonight?
NAM: I was, apart
from my nuclear family which is my parents, my brother, my extended family
don't really know that I'm gay.
BROCKIE: They probably do now.
NAM: Yes. The,
there was a question of conscience for me. Because me being gay, that's a
burden I can bear, but in my cultural context, if I were to announce that I'm
gay, then a lot of, there would be a lot of stigma and a lot of, I guess, bad
faith or bad will and shame that will be put onto, I guess, my family
name. And I worry about how that will
affect my parents; I worry about how that will affect my brother. And if it was
just me who had to bear the brunt of all that, then I can make those decisions
for myself, but it affects more than just me, it affects my brother, it affects
my parents and I worry about them.
BROCKIE: Do you feel that shame?
NAM: I do.
NAM: Because you don't want to disappoint your parents.
You don't, sorry"¦
BROCKIE: Are you okay?
NAM: Mm-mmm. When
you grow up your parents do so much for you.
My parents were first generation migrants, they had to work really,
really hard to look after me and when we grow up we have a formula of okay, you
grow up, you study hard, you go to university, if you can, you get a job, you
get married, you have children and then
the cycle continues. I don't want to disappoint my parents and the immediate
reaction or the immediate instinct of if you're gay, then you've already
disappointed them because already you can't get married and potentially you
can't have children. And in my cultural context, that - there's no other sort
of alternative, or at least there isn't any other talk about any alternative to
BROCKIE: Now your brother, your older brother is getting married and I
understand that that's prompted you to come on tonight too. Can you explain
going to find out anyway now. Because he's the first child of our family, first
male child, and so a lot of relatives will be coming in from overseas, our
community will meet us and this is the first time in my life where I can, I
feel that I'm comfortable enough to make a stand and say, and declare my
relationship with Ben to these people. And I'm, I'm not, I'm done with thinking
and feeling that my relationship with Ben is any less than his relationship
with his girlfriend or fiancée at the moment.
BROCKIE: So where will Ben sit at the
wedding do you think?
NAM: Oh, don't
even go there. I haven't had that discussion with my brother yet and it's one
that I'm really, really worried about having.
BROCKIE: See why I'm asking you so many
questions about this is just to try and paint a picture of what it really means
for you two not to be married and whether it would actually make any difference
if you were married.
BEN: I think it
will be a new evolution so to speak. I suppose"¦
BROCKIE: For you with your family?
BEN: For me and
my family because now we will have a new language, we have a new, you know, a
new naming of something that's important to our family lives and one point I want
to make is this, marriage within my own lifetime – have evolved. Three
generations – my grandparents got married in an arranged marriage, my
grandmother had no rights, no say – she was married into my grandfather’s
family to carry on the family name, to bear children with no say in that
question, and you know - they have to work with that.
Then came my parents, they freely chose each other and
then it was also about gender equality and then it was about free will, it was
almost about democratising marriage because they got the opportunity to choose
each other as spouses but it was not encouraged and now it is about us.
BROCKIE: Penny Wong, your background is
partly Malaysian Chinese like Ben's. You settled here I know when you were
eight years old but does any of this sound familiar to you?
PENNY WONG, FINANCE MINISTER: Sorry, I'm a bit overcome actually. It was
very brave of you two. Aspects of it are familiar. I mean I think the journey,
whether in the world, in the family, in the community, to coming out, to
declaring your relationship, is, isn't easy. Well, I have to say the thing that I was just
struck by is I always find it so sad that we live in a time where still someone
can feel that they need to be ashamed. It really is, it's a shameful thing in
this world that Nam would still have to feel that he should be ashamed.
BROCKIE: Can you understand though, for some people this is a tradition,
marriage is a tradition, why is the business of marriage so important to you in
PENNY WONG: Oh
well, I suppose there's two aspects to that, you know, personally why is
marriage important is because I love Sophie and I would like to declare that
before the world. Why, as a matter of principle, do I think marriage equality
is important is very, very simple really. I think there is no sensible reason
why that discrimination ought continue. And laws do have a normative function,
they have a function which is about declaring what is okay in society and I
think perpetuating a situation where we're saying well, our laws are going to
continue to tell these two young men, or Sophie and I, that our relationship is
somehow lesser, I don't, I don't accept and I don't agree with.
BROCKIE: I'm interested in getting a few
cultural perspectives on this, being SBS, that's what we do. Feng and Jasmine,
what do you think about the idea of same sex marriage?
FENG ZHANG: Both
of us actually growing in a traditional Chinese background family, we have our
dad and mum, they play different roles in the family. So among the mums, ladies like auntie, anyone
from extended family, when looking through them I can't find any characters
which is from my dad. I can't find that
characters from those ladies and from my mum.
BROCKIE: So how do you feel though when
you hear Ben and Nam describe their love for one another?
FENG ZHANG: Marriage is not just only about love because
in traditional Chinese we have families come together. It's traditional
marriage for us.
BROCKIE: Okay, can I get some other
views from people, cultural views here, Sayed?
SAYED MOKDASSI: Firstly
I grew up in a Catholic Lebanese background, originally it was same sex
marriage was wrong when I was really young, my dad's very, very old school.
Then it was kind of, going through school was like yeah, what's the big deal?
And then coming into the faith I came to understand that there are reasons why
it is the way it is.
BROCKIE: Okay, Jenny, what about you up
JENNY SUN: For
me, I am completely for same sex marriage. I find it embarrassing as well. I
think that Australia hasn't yet legalised it and it's a matter of equality and
discrimination. And especially hearing Nam and Ben tell their story and I
think, yeah, as Penny Wong said, it's the responsibility of governments to at
least show leadership and set the standard.
BROCKIE: Farshid, what about you? Now
you've got an Iranian background?
FARSHID NAMDAR: Yes
I do actually.
BROCKIE: You've been here for eighteen
years, what do you think?
FARSHID NAMDAR: Maybe
eighteen years ago if you talk about it I was really against it actually, or
just not really happy with it, but over time, just something if you just
accepting them in the society, they should have rights.
BROCKIE: Sogand, you're also from Iran,
just before we move off Iran, what's your view because in Iran homosexuality is
illegal so I'm just interested in what yours views are living here.
It's completely illegal and even we cannot talk about that, you know? I
mean, but my idea, now, I think it's okay.
BROCKIE: Okay, someone else had their
hand up over here, yes, down the front?
MONICA OCHUDZAWA: Well I think it should be limited to a man
and a woman because you could very easily say well, man and man, woman and
woman. I've read once that people actually are trying to, I don't know what
it's called but get married to nature in some way, I don't know how that
works. But I believe that marriage
should be between a man and a woman for the child in particular.
BROCKIE: Penny I wanted to ask you,
given that some of these attitudes are very deeply embedded in culture and
tradition - is changing one law going to make any real difference to that?
PENNY WONG: Well,
I don't necessarily want to change your mind. If you have those views, I think,
I disagree with them and I think they're illogical but you're entitled to have
them. I think the question is what the secular state decides is legal, the
question whether or not the views of a particular group or a particular
religion has the right to impose those views on the secular state and on the
whole of the population and to say because I have these views, this particular
group should not have the same rights.
Let's substitute same sex for interracial or people of
different age. There is no one in this country with, there might be some still,
but there is almost no one in this country who would stand up and say that
should be banned. There was a time where marriage between my parents, or black
and white was considered so appalling the secular state said we would ban
BROCKIE: Monsignor John Woods, the
secular state, why shouldn't the secular state legislate on this?
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS, ACT CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE: I think sometimes the church has been
portrayed as trying to impose a particular view on the wider constituency, if I
can put that it way. However, the church's understanding of marriage in the
first instance affirms or at least it would claim to speak into the public
forum to affirm that which accords with nature, fact and the good of society - in
other words, the common good. As to the church's"¦.
BROCKIE: Hang on, hang on, before you
leave that, according with nature? What do you mean by that exactly?
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: Okay, well in a simple summary way, marriage
is unitive of a couple and open to the begetting and nurturing of children, in
other words - unitive and procreative. The procreative aspect of marriage
requires not sameness but difference, in other words complementarity.
BROCKIE: But a lot of marriages don't
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: They don't.
BROCKIE: A lot of heterosexual marriages
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: True, and your point?
BROCKIE: Does that make them in some way
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: No, but surely every marriage that
is of a heterosexual couple, constituent of that is the giving and receiving of
consent and the consummation of that marriage in a genital sexual act.
Father, with all due respect, homosexuality and same sex orientation is
part of nature and 3 percent to 5 percent of any population in the entire
planet is same sex attracted. So it's part of God's design, if you like, it's
part of how nature operates. So to say that it's somehow out of nature, that is
unfair and unreasonable and I worry that people like yourselves really have a
deeper agenda theologically when you encase it in these other words of nature
and complementarity when you're actually really believe theologically at the
end of the day that my husband and I, as a disordered relationship, we are
going against God's design and inherently homosexual orientation is something
that needs to be repaired.
BROCKIE: Okay, can I get a response to
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: Sure. Firstly, as to being of nature,
scientifically there is no scientific proof that it's genetic, nurture or a
combination, sorry, the debate is on-going as to the genesis of homosexual
That's, with all due respect
that's a little bit silly. All through human history there has been same sex
attraction. People have not, it's about
cultural language and only in the last couple of generations have we been
allowed to even talk about our relationships and to form our own families and there's
a new language around that, that Australian culture is evolving with.
I am a marriage celebrant and I'm at the coal face doing
hundred weddings a year and I'm there on this day and marriage is important
because it's the one day that in our country, whatever nationality background
we come from is irrelevant, we all come together, celebrate and affirm to
people and their family who then set boundaries and are given support for what
is probably the hardest commitment we can make in modern life.
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: What I'm questioning is, should marriage be
afforded to people of homosexual orientation or is there something that should
be distinctive of marriage, indeed what is marriage, that whatever respect and
dignity afforded to people of homosexual orientation for that status and
dignity to be realised, does it require the status of marriage?
BROCKIE: Penny, can I get a response?
PENNY WONG: I
find it, with respect, what should I call you?
MONSIGNOR JOHN WOODS: John is fine.
PENNY WONG: I
think it's interesting you use words like respect at the same time as having a
discussion about whether or not homosexuality is in fact natural or, by
implication, you know a result of some form of disorder. I don't think that's particularly
BROCKIE: Ben, you're Catholic, I mean
how do you feel listening to this?
BEN: It was very
hard because, I, part of me coming to terms with my sexuality was to choose
between my loves, my faith, my family, my community. They were the foundations
that gave me, engage my values. But all of a sudden I'm told, you know, you're
intrinsically disordered, you're objectively, you're objectively disordered,
you're intrinsically evil. I had to struggle a lot with that and"¦
BROCKIE: How has that impacted on you
and your other Catholic friends as well?
BEN: So when I,
when I came to terms with my sexuality, I asked myself where do I go from here
because I did contemplate suicide because I'm thinking does this thing that
cannot be speak of, that is so, so taboo within my culture and then this faith
that I love so deeply and have this deep engagement of a journey with, also
tells me that, you know, suddenly you're no longer loved. And then I jumped into
it and I was blessed to have wonderful priests, pastors and sisters who were
theologically whole and sound, who was there to journey with me and say that,
well basically one of the things that I do was when I came to them, I said that
I have a very big secret you I need to tell you and then when I tell them the
reaction is always okay, and? There are no mistakes.
BROCKIE: Frank, you're sitting here, you're sitting
here listening to this, Father Frank Brennan, now you've shifted ground on same
sex marriage as a Catholic priest. Where do you sit?
FR. FRANK BRENNAN, AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: Yes,
I'm a Catholic priest but I'm also a human rights lawyer, I'm a citizen of a
pluralist democratic society. I'm so grateful that we now live in a society
where Ben and Nam can now come tonight and speak as they have but I'm ashamed.
BROCKIE: Albeit with great
FR. FRANK BRENNAN:
Well I'm ashamed that I live in a society where it's still - it requires
courage to do it. So you know, let's
hope and I pray to God that we will get to be a society where that sort of
courage will no longer be required.
BROCKIE: So what's your position on same
FR. FRANK BRENNAN:
My position is I have been
strongly in favour of civil unions, I've had issues about children which we can
come to, but where I think there's going to be change and I simply accept it,
is with the recent decisions of the US Supreme Court and the recent legislation
in the United Kingdom. There is
obviously a need in a society like Australia to give recognition to civil same
sex marriages which are now contracted in Canada, the United States, in New
Zealand and the United Kingdom.
BROCKIE: And to call them marriages, for
them to be marriages, secular marriages.
FR. FRANK BRENNAN:
They're married. I mean they've been married in Canada you've got to be
recognised civilly as being married here.
BROCKIE: Now Penny, I know that you're
a practising Christian with the Uniting Church, I mean how do you reconcile
your position on this with your membership of that church?
That's a very personal question and I'm not sure I necessarily want to
share it on national television.
BROCKIE: Has it been a struggle?
PENNY WONG: Um,
no, I don't think so. But that's probably the church I'm a member of, although
I attend less regularly than I should, I have to say, sorry.
BROCKIE: But I'm interesting because I
know, you know, Ben is struggling with faith?
BEN: I was.
BROCKIE: You were struggling with faith in this question, yes.
PENNY WONG: That
for me, I think I have seen people like Ben and others for whom their faith has
been one of the most challenging things in their journey that we discussed
early earlier. That hasn't been for me
the most challenging aspect.
BROCKIE: Okay, David, you're a GP and a
local member of the Liberal National Party in Queensland. Your response?
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
It seems to me that we're getting
away from the foundation of marriage. We're talking about ethnic colouring to
marriage, about religious colouring to marriage.
BROCKIE: We're talking about tradition,
we're talking about culture.
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
Yes, but culture and tradition merely
enrich marriage. Marriage, as the great anthropologist Claude Lavy Strauss said
is a social institution on a biological foundation. So society doesn't create
marriage, it simply recognises its biological reality, male and female having
offspring, and tries to bring some order to bear. Every society has to apply
great effort to build up that natural biological bond so that men, feral by nature,
men will stick with their mate. And both will stick with the child who
typically arises from the union because if you don't you've got chaos. Now that
is the anthropological origin of marriage in every society.
PHILOMENA HORSLEY: Jenny, as an anthropologist I have to
disagree, really quite frankly there are many different ways that different
communities have formed families and brought up families and had sex, you know,
same sex and opposite sex. So anthropologically that's a very old-fashioned
view. But I think the discussion so far is a perfect argument for why we need
to abolish marriage as a state - seriously, abolish it as a state institution -
BROCKIE: You're not going to abolish,
you're not going to abolish marriage, I mean it's not going to happen. I think
it's very unlikely it's going to happen in the short, medium or quite possibly
long term. Okay, up the back, yes?
I think there's another view on the table, the view that sees marriage
between a man and a woman about bringing men and women together to become
husband and wife, so they can become father and mother to however many kids
that they have. Now not every marriage
ends up having kids but every child born has a mum and dad.
BROCKIE: Penny, your response, you're a mum?
PENNY WONG: I don't like the way children get used in this
That's a consequence of it.
PENNY WONG: Well
you may laugh but as a parent I don't like the way in which some people feel it
is permissible to speak about my child in a way that is often denigrating and
that's one of the really, I think, sad
things I think about this debate. Whether or not you decide that we can get
married is not going to prevent same sex couples having children, we do, we
already do so if it becomes"¦
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
Coherent laws would stop that. Coherent laws
would say that the only part of the debate"¦
PENNY WONG: You
can decide to"¦
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
Is that a child should have the
BROCKIE: You think there should be laws
against gay couples from having children?
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
No, no, if it's from other
marriages and other unions, no, but there should certainly be laws against the
intentional creation of children by single men, for example, using surrogacy
which is going to be overturned in Queensland by the LNP, and there should be a
consistent principle, one principle that no law should stand or be created
which diminishes a child's right to both a mum and a dad.
PENNY WONG: I'm
not going to get into that.
BROCKIE: I mean on that, on that basis
you wouldn't allow IVF, yeah?
DR DAVID VAN GEND:
For a married couple, certainly, but
not for a single woman -no, not for a single woman.
Let's, I'm not going to engage in that. But no one in this debate is
arguing that civil society should impose on churches or any other religion. In
fact, what is being argued is the opposite.
I've always found it really
interesting that there would be people who actually suggest that somehow
because this relationship would be legally recognised, that that somehow is
destructive of any else's. I mean well, it's a pretty fragile institution if
you really think that having these two young men be able to be married is
somehow going to delegitimise in any way the relationship that you have.
I sometimes think that people forget how it is heard and
what effect that has on people, you know. People suggesting you want to get married
to nature or it is like polygamy or some of the appalling comments which have
been made or the comments about children which the young man at the back has
made. People hear that, children hear
that, we hear that in our relationship – I can cope with it. I often think of –
imagine Ben five years ago or imagine the kid living in regional Victoria who
is not able to come out, hearing that.
Perhaps in this debate, if we could have a bit more conscience compassion,
whatever your views, about how people hear the sort of prejudice and message
that you are not okay, I think would be helpful in this discussion.
BROCKIE: Tonight we're talking about
same sex marriage. Raj, you're the child of a same sex relationship and
everyone's been talking about children, I wonder what you think listening to
Well, my initial reaction actually is one of disappointment. I wasn't
expecting to be completely enraged coming in here but some of the things I've
heard tonight just really disappoint me.
BROCKIE: But as a child, your mums are
here, both your mums are here?
BROCKIE: What's your experience been? Have you missed not having a dad?
Absolutely not because I do have a dad and I know him, I see him quite
often and he has played a role in my life. And that was part of the deal when,
when my mother Louise and Margaret approached my father. They said that they
wanted a dad that would be there when I needed him, that would play a role so
he's always been there. There have always been multiple other male role models
in my life and I think for me, you know, a family is not just the two people
that you live with that raise you, it's a communal activity and it's a communal
BROCKIE: Can you understand though the
argument that some of the people in this
room have, that marriage is about a mum and a dad?
Well not really because I've never felt like I lacked anything by not
having a father live with me. I feel that my mothers have provided everything
to the best of their ability in terms of love and care, in terms of, you know,
financially as well. I think they've done the job of being parents, you know,
and I think that parents come in all, in a manner of different forms. You know,
you can be, your parent can be your grandmother and your aunt, you know, anyone
that takes the time and interest and devotion, gives you the devotion and puts
the effort into raising you is a parent, in my view.
BROCKIE: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, you're
Jewish orthodox, could you ever support same sex marriage?
RABBI MOSHE GUTNICK, ORG. RABBIS OF AUSTRALIA: No, I couldn't support same sex marriage but
not for any of the reasons that have been mentioned here till now. I think
mixing in the notion of raising children, I think that's irrelevant, I think
there are great same sex parents that will raise children wonderfully. I think
there are some, you know, heterosexual parents that do a horrible job so I
think it's got nothing to do with that. I think it's got nothing to do with the
religious or the internal struggle that gay people may have coming to grips
with their religion and I try my best to empathise as best I can, but I can't
possibly imagine the struggle they must be going through. To me it's really a matter of
definitions. The biblical Jewish
definition of marriage is a man and a woman and reflecting Adam and Eve in the Garden
BROCKIE: Okay, I'm going to do a whip
around on this with some other rabbis here.
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, you're an orthodox rabbi too?
RABBI JEREMY LAWRENCE, THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE SYDNEY: I was until I'm about to speak, but yes.
BROCKIE: You say you wrestle with your
religion over some of this, can you tell us how?
RABBI JEREMY LAWRENCE:
Yeah, look I think that there are four or five good reasons why Ben and
Nam couldn't get married in my synagogue. And they're not Jewish and that would
be one of the prerequisites for both of them.
BROCKIE: Let's assume for argument's
sake they are.
RABBI JEREMY LAWRENCE:
And still they couldn't because Judaism still defines marriage as
between a man and a woman. But as I look at them and as I hear their commitment
to each other, I feel that there ought to be a validation of their commitment
for each other. I believe that.
BROCKIE: A religious validation, if that’s
what they want?
RABBI JEREMY LAWRENCE:
I don't believe this can happen in my synagogue, it's not what my
religion teaches but I believe that to say that they are discriminated against
and that they are treated as less than any other couple makes no sense in a
BROCKIE: Does that mean that you agree
then with secular same sex marriage and the idea of legislation to allow for
secular same sex marriage?
RABBI JEREMY LAWRENCE:
And this is where I wrestle, this is where I wrestle. I believe in
marriage, I believe in my religion certainly for me and for my family and I
believe that it is what God wants in the world. But within a secular society,
as we have now, to have, to be an agent of God saying to Ben and Nam that they
can't celebrate their love makes God an oppressive agent against them and I
find that a problem.
BROCKIE: Rabbi Gutnick?
RABBI MOSHE GUTNICK:
You want to talk about rights and
no discrimination and the state recognising that the responsibility of the two
partners, that's a different story, that's not what marriage is. Marriage can
only be between people mirroring Adam and Eve.
BROCKIE: Okay, another Rabbi, Rabbi
Jacqueline Ninio, you have a different view again?
RABBI JACQUELINE NINIO, EMANUEL SYNAGOGUE: Completely different, well not completely
different. I agree that in the secular
society it's a question of human rights and about equality and I think then
religious communities make their choice about whether they're prepared to
sanctify same sex unions within their religious tradition or whether they're
not. And for me all people were created
in the image of God, that's what the Torah tells us and then the Torah tells us
that people are not meant to be alone. We're supposed to be in relationships
and I believe sexuality is part of how we're created and the God that I believe
in, I don't believe would want people to hide that part of themselves or to not
have that part of themselves be part of something that's holy and
sanctified. And I - but you know, I
perform commitment ceremonies in my synagogue between same sex couples. At this
point we're not permitted by law to perform marriages but if we could I would.
And I believe that people shouldn't have to make the choice that you've had to
make between their faith and their sexuality.
BROCKIE: Okay, yes. Lady over here,
seems to me that the simple thing is to abolish religion.
BROCKIE: We've knocked out two things
tonight, marriage and religion. Okay. Sheikh
Mohamadu Saleem, I want to ask you about this because I want to ask you would
Islam ever permit same sex marriage, allow same sex marriage?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM, AUST. NATIONAL IMAMS COUNCIL: The simply answer is no. This is based on
many Koran texts which talk about a marriage is between man and woman. Chapter
30, 21 is the most important verse in which Allah says that it is he who
created from you your mate, so that you can find tranquillity from her and also
created the love and compassion between you. And also Koran talks about
BROCKIE: So is your interpretation of
the Koran that it's opposed to homosexuality as well as the idea of gay marriage?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
This gay marriage and homosexuality is new language for the Koran. At the time when the Koran was revealed, this
was not an issue or not a concept. But again, the Koran elsewhere uses the
words that indicate that the marriage is between man and woman and again,
coming into the question of divorce, Koran talks about the divorce. When you
divorce your woman, you have to divorce, your wives, talking about wives, the
family, female, a partner, then you have to follow certain procedures. These
are all indicative of marriage between man and woman, not otherwise.
BROCKIE: Does the Koran specifically
though prohibit same sex relationships?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
Yes. There are many Koranic verses specifically says sexual act between
a man and a man is prohibited and it is very clearly said that you can't have a
sexual relationship with another man.
BROCKIE: What about women?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
It is not mentioned.
FEMALE: We don't
BROCKIE: It's not mentioned?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
BROCKIE: So theoretically would it be
acceptable then for less lesbian relationships to be recognised under
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
Ah, I have - okay, deriving from this course it may be a sin, considered
to be a lesser sin than homosexual relationship between a man and a woman.
BROCKIE: Imam Daayiee Abdulla in
Washington, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You've been listening
to all of this. Now you perform same sex Muslim marriages. How can you do that,
given the majority view of your fellow Imams on this?
IMAM DAAYIEE ABDULLA: Thank you for inviting me Jenny. What I
wanted to say is that I do same sex marriages and have been doing so for the
last thirteen years, I'm not the only Imam that does so. I find that the
process has been one of dealing with the interpretation and it's always about
interpretation and the subjective reasoning that goes behind it. Just speaking about the Sheikh there, salaam to
the Sheikh, that his comments saying that it is no, I think that he definitely
makes a subjective judgment saying that it is no because I read the same Koran.
He's forgetting about the cultural and historical
framework into what was male and what was not male within historical framework
of that. I like for him to also look at Sura 24, 30 to 32, where in 24, 31 it
clearly states there are men who have no desire for women and then in Sura 24,
32, the Arabic clearly states that people should marry from the single among
them without definition as to what the gender should be.
The Koran itself does not say that in clearly in that
same way, definitively it must be female or male, but that the person should
seek someone who is single because there's a prohibition against having sexual
relationships with someone who is already committed in a marriage.
BROCKIE: Sheikh Mohamadu, what do you
think about the Imam performing same sex marriages?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
They know for sure from their own conscience that such marriage is not
valid at the moment. We are talking about Islamic traditions. Islamic
traditions, it is not valid as an issue in any Court of law in the whole world,
in the Sharia Court, it will be thrown out of the Court in just one
BROCKIE: Okay, Imam Daayiee, your reaction?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
He is giving, he is giving false hope, he is giving a false hope or
false impression that these people are married according to Islam, that is not
true, that is not true at all.
BROCKIE: Okay, I'll get a response. I'm
very interested in this because I haven't heard a debate like this before.
IMAM DAAYIEE ABDULLA: Well Jenny, I just wanted to say that he's
always talking about tradition but those traditions in terms of just heterosexual
marriage, it was based upon property and power and tribal relationships. It had
nothing to do with just because of the situation of sex and those things. The
Koran clearly states that just because you get married and have sex, you're not
guaranteed you're going to have children - frequently the interpretation is
that it's all about procreation, but it's not, it's about relationships between
two human beings and the commitment between them.
the Netherlands took the lead in 2001, 14 other nations have legislated for
same-sex marriage, most recently England and Wales. Some states in Brazil,
Mexico and the US have laws enabling same-sex couples to marry. There are also
moves to legalise it in places like Scotland, Columbia and Vietnam. Dozens of
countries including Cuba, Zimbabwe, Poland, Cambodia, Bulgaria and Australia
have legislated against marriage equality.
BROCKIE: We've talked a lot about
religion and for a very good reason, which is that it is a big influence, I
think, in this debate and Penny I wanted to ask you how big a part you think
religion plays in the Labour Party's views on this?
PENNY WONG: Well,
inside the Labour Party we have a conscience vote so I think your question is
answered by saying, well individual members of the Labour Party will have a -
will judge this issue on their conscience and some will be informed if they're
members of a particular faith, tradition by that tradition. There are some advocates who do use religion
or who express this in a religious context. Maybe at a much more human level
sometimes I look at this debate and think there's a lot of fear and prejudice
that's actually underlying the discussion in the Parliament and some of the
contributions I think in the debate at times reflected that.
My impression is that yes, I know you disagree, you
don't need to wave at me, it's okay, if I can just finish the question, the
answer. My view is that this will occur over time and I think, you know, if you
look inside the Labour Party the position we've shifted from and now where we
are in terms of where the Prime Minister is and the Deputy Prime Minister,
having the two most senior people in the government support marriage equality.
It's a very big step for the party and our party platform is now pro equality
and you know, I don't think this will change until the coalition have a similar
position of a conscience vote and a free vote on this.
But my view about
it is the community's probably ahead of the institution of the Parliament in
this, there are a great many Australians who would say well, that's, you know,
the church has that view or other faith traditions have that view, that's
fine. But we live in a pluralistic and
secular society and those views should not be determinative on the national
Parliament. So I suppose that's probably the answer.
FR FRANK BRENNAN: Religion is much less relevant now because the
marriage rate continues to decline and if you look a century ago, 95 percent of
marriages were church marriages, 1970's it was two-thirds, well now two-thirds
of all marriages in Australia are civil.
BROCKIE: Sue Boyce, you're a Queensland
Liberal Senator, you crossed the floor to support a bill proposing recognition
of overseas same sex marriages. Now you crossed the floor with your party,
against your party's position?
SUE BOYCE, LIBERAL SENATOR: Yes.
BROCKIE: What about the Liberal Party in
terms of the influences at work and how likely are we to see a conscience vote
do you think in the Liberal Party?
SUE BOYCE: Tony
Abbott has said that this is an issue that will be revisited after the election
and I would expect that there'll be a very strong debate in our party room
about the conscience vote. I see myself as representing a probably close to
majority of the centre right views of our party in following up on that view of
what's the big deal about same sex marriage?
BROCKIE: I should point out at this
juncture that you might be wondering why there isn't a federal MP here opposing
same sex Marriage. We tried, I have to say after all the majority of federal
politician have voted it down, including members from both sides of the house,
but we made dozens of phone calls and no one was available to come to tonight.
Just so everybody's clear on that. You're
a young Liberal though I know and you've been waving at me for ages so what do
you want to say?
Well, I believe in marriage, I guess in society it upholds the ideal of
the mother and a father for every child. And that's not to denigrate, Penny
said that no, I'm denigrating her, I'm really not.
BLAISE JOSEPH: Well,
just let me finish, hang on. What I'm saying is that ideally a child should
have a mother and a father. Now some people think mother and fathers are
irrelevant and that's fine, they're entitled to that opinion but"¦.
Jenny, you can’t let him finish that, please.
BROCKIE: Wait a minute, wait a minute, I
want to ask a question.
BLAISE JOSEPH: If we're arguing about what's best for
society, surely it is reasonable that if we believe that ideally a child should
have a mother and a father that should be reflected in our legal
BROCKIE: Okay, so can I ask you, can I
ask you, so Blaise, can I ask you as a follow-up question to that, how then
would you feel about the Liberal Party having a conscience vote in the
BLAISE JOSEPH: If
we genuinely believe that that's what, that's what's best for society, then we
should be voting on it as a block and I think Tony Abbott has a lot of backing
BROCKIE: Okay, Sue, your response as
SUE BOYCE: Look,
I honestly can't quite see the rationality of that, right now homosexual
couples have children whether they're married or not married and this debate is
not about that, it is about giving them the same equality of recognition
of their commitment to each other as
other couples are able to have.
BROCKIE: Okay, John, John, how would
you, sorry, yes?
SHEIKH MOHAMADU SALEEM:
Why conscious vote instead of having a referendum on the issue because
this particular issue is going to being impacting every individual family in
PENNY WONG: Well
the reason I don't support a referendum, as has been demonstrated in the debate
thus far. I don't believe that I want to be put in a situation, or I want the
country and the community to be in a situation where some of the hateful things
which are said in this debate become so central to the public discourse. And
you may snigger but those of us who are on the receiving end of prejudice,
homophobia, who receive letters and texts and tweets about ourselves and our
children, understand what is out there and what the public debate can be and we
saw only a glimpse of that.
I had to sit in the Senate where one of my colleagues
likened this to a discussion about bestiality. You know, that is, you may not
think that's offensive, that's deeply offensive to me, if we don't have a
capacity yet to have a compassionate and respectful discussion in this sort of
context or in the Parliament, then I certainly would be very fearful or
concerned about having it more broadly.
SUE BOYCE: I
would imagine that over the next three to six years, yes, we'll see a situation
where every party allows a conscience vote. I mean the Liberal Party allows"¦
BROCKIE: But a change on same sex
marriage, not on the conscience vote, do you think?
SUE BOYCE: I haven't done the numbers Jenny, can't answer
that, I would hope so and I think the more we see that, the experiences of UK
and New Zealand will keep that happening.
But the Liberal Party does allow a conscience vote on every issue.
Can I just say something? We've been on your show seven years ago,
Adrian and I have been together 15 years, our son was three months old, he's
now seven sitting outside with a nanny.
While you all bicker and go on with all your discussions, we try and
have a good marriage, raise our son the best we can, and we have to listen to
rubbish that's said from religious people that hurts and defames and good stuff
from religious people that encourages me as well. But marriage is a civil institution and it's
something that our family deserves, Penny's family deserves, these beautiful
young men deserve, and it needs to happen soon, we can't - New Zealand has done
it and England has done it and Canada has done it, it's time.
BROCKIE: Penny Wong, do you think that
we'll see a change in the law around same sex marriage, do you think the states
are going to beat the federal parliament push?
PENNY WONG: I
think only if this has to be bipartisan. So we will only achieve this, not just
if there's a conscience vote, accepting what the point, I understand the view
that's been put, but actually if there are sufficient people inside the Liberal
Party who say actually, this is an equality.
BROCKIE: And the Labour Party?
Absolutely, I agree, but I think we're a long way further down that
track. I'm just making the point that it will not occur unless I think both
major parties have a view that sufficient people amongst us are prepared to
BROCKIE: Ben and Nam, I want to finish with you, we started with you, do you
come under pressure to get married?
NAM: The cultural
context that I come from, one of the questions that is always asked whenever
you mean anyone is what's your job, what's your occupation, are you married?
How can I answer that truthfully? Because to me I see Ben as my lifelong
partner and my spouse, and I'd like one day to call him my husband, but I'm
constantly faced on a day-to-day basis where I have to lie about that and for
me that's a big struggle because I will either say oh I'm not really married or
I'm in a long term relationship, or whatever else, and they say well why aren't
you married? Well because I can't get
married. But it's always with the assumption that I am straight and that my
partner is female and I think that having same sex marriage opens up society's
idea that marriage or that you can have a long term relationship between two
men or two women and that our love is equal.
BROCKIE: We have to wrap it here but we can keep talking about this on line and
we will. Thank you all very much for joining us tonight, much appreciated and
to our guest in Washington as well. We
do have to go but do keep talking on-line. Go to our website, Twitter or
Insight's Facebook page. Thanks everybody.