Monday, December 06, 2004

Utterly, utterly dishonest

If anybody needs a further example of Stephen Franks' intellectual dishonesty over the Civil Union Bill, they only need to consider his minority view in the select committee report [PDF]:

Further, as a lawyer, the ACT member is affronted by a bill which establishes a machinery which focuses around the exchange of solemn vows, mimicking the marriage ceremony, without any definded content to the vows. In theory the parties could exchange vows to join in civil union for one day, without exclusivity

Why is this intellectually dishonest? Two reasons. Firstly, because the vows in a civil union are utterly meaningless in a legal sense. The parties could indeed vow to join in Civil Union for one day, without exclusivity - but they would still have to separate for two years before that union could be dissolved (unless they could access one of the specified grounds for immediate annulment - like being under 16). But secondly - and this is what makes it utterly, utterly dishonest - is that there is no legal content to marriage vows either. While people can (and usually do) swear faithfulness and exclusivity in their marriage vows, they don't have to; it is just as possible to swear to a short-term, non-exclusive relationship for marriage as it would be for a civil union, and it would be just as legally meaningless. As laid out in section 31 (3) (a) of the Marriage Act (1955), all that is required to solemnise a marriage is a statement by either party of "I AB, take you CD, to be my legal wife or husband" or words to that effect. The rest of the ceremony is filler.

Stephen Franks continually portrays himself as being the man who actually reads the legislation and understands what it really means. He cannot therefore claim ignorance as a defence for the above - he is simply being grossly intellectually dishonest in order to pander to bigots.