ALR383 – Government Relations and Issues Management
Essay – Same-sex marriage
As society has revolutionized and with democratic ideology denominating has the western world, liberation and equality campaigns stemming from “third sector” (Keane 1998) lobbying groups, stand as a key component to the operation a “civil society”(Keane 1998). Carrying an objective to influence legislators or regulatory agencies, these political advocacy groups play a critical role in the operation of a healthy liberal democracy. In contemporary society, the notion of Same-sex marriage has polarized public opinion worldwide and is recognized as one of the most controversial non-economic issues to ever confront the Australian parliament. The contentious issue provides a modern 21st century example of “civil-governmental cooperation” (Keane 1998), comparable to 1960 libertarian movements against racism and sexism. Ones right to the institution of marriage is the key distinction between the treatment of heterosexual and same-sex relationships in Australia, and forms the foundations upon which the highly contentious issue is contested. ‘Australian Marriage Equality’ is an activism group partnered with a myriad of pro same-sex marriage organizations around Australia, who collectively fight to end the evident disparity in entitlements between heterosexual couples and same-sex partners. Founded in 2004, the lobbying group was established preceding the Federal Parliament’s amending of the ‘Marriage Act 1961’, which ultimately prohibited lawful recognition of same-sex partners. Opposing the concept of Same-sex marriage is the politically active ‘Australian Christian Lobby’. Publicly condemning the notion of same-sex marriage in the public sphere, the influential group raises moral and religious concerns and assertively promotes the damaging social consequences associated with the potential legalization of same-sex marriage. Both these well-established lobbying groups are key participants of what John Keane (1998) describes as the “third sector” and through their movements and campaigns they provide an explicit example of a non-economic battle in a modern “civil society” (Mackey 2012, p. 19)
John Keane portrays an idealistic civil society as “a political project bent on enabling a genuinely non-hierarchical plurality of individuals and groups openly and non-violently to express their solidarity with and opposition to each others ideals and ways of life”(Keane1998, p.55). It is this terrain in which the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’ and the ‘Australian Marriage Equality’ exercise “epideictic rhetoric”(Mackey 2012, p.20) through a myriad of activities aiming to capture and influence public opinion. Building the foundations and underpinnings on how same-sex marriage is perceived in the public sphere, these activities radically influence the political processes and ultimately the legislative outcomes of parliament. The “agonistic rhetoric” (Mackey 2012, p.20) practiced in parliaments chambers largely stems from the activities exercised by lobbying groups in the public sphere.
The ‘Australian Christian Lobby’s main visualization is to “see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community”(The Australian Christian Lobby 2013). The notion of same-sex marriage evidently contradicts Christianity’s concept of marriage, which is defined in the ‘Marriage Act 1961’; “Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”(Australian Christian Lobby 2012 p.3). Attempting to persuade public opinion and inhibit further legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, the ‘ACL’ has acted as the architect of a myriad of municipal activities and submissions made to parliament, subsequently eliciting anger and drawing criticism from opposing groups such as Australian Marriage...
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