Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard Tuesday voiced strong support for the institution or marriage, saying same-sex unions would do nothing to ensure human survival.
Speaking at a time of an unprecedented drive in Western societies to promote and legalize unions between homosexual couples, Howard said he "certainly would not be initiating any moves to change the law to that effect."
The conservative prime minister, who is married with three children, told a radio station during a visit to the country's remote Northern Territory his view was not an expression of discrimination.
"It's just an expression that marriage, as we understand it, is one of the bedrock institutions of our society. It's very much about the raising of children, the having of children, and the continuation of our species.
"And the idea that you can treat a gay relationship in precisely the same way as you do a marriage as we understand it, is not a view that I support."
Recent rows over homosexuality have exposed deep divisions in several church denominations, including the Uniting Church in Australia and the Anglican/Episcopalian churches in Britain, North America and elsewhere.
Australia has a strong homosexual lobby and its largest city, Sydney, has one of the world's largest homosexual communities.
But the country also boasts outspoken conservatives in senior positions in the Catholic and Anglican churches, who have made their mark in the international debates over the homosexuality issue.
Howard, a practicing Christian, declined to be drawn into the church issue, saying that whatever happens inside individual churches were a matter for those churches' members.
In other interviews during his travels Tuesday, Howard said that marriage, "as we have traditionally understood it, [is] the voluntary union between a man and a woman, hopefully for life."
Two other federal government ministers have also been speaking on the marriage issue.
Treasurer Peter Costello, the minister responsible for economic and fiscal policy, told a Sydney radio stations that marriage "has to be people of the opposite sex."
Costello, widely regarded as a prime ministerial hopeful when Howard finally retires, said he respected that some homosexual couples had long-term relationships, but the right legal definition was a partnership between a man and a woman.
Earlier, the government's minister for ageing, Kevin Andrews, called for a national inquiry into ways of strengthening marriage, which he said was being "undermined."
"Australians believe that people should be permitted to live their private lives as they choose, however there is a consequent trend that we cannot ignore," said Andrews, a conservative Catholic.
"These are the issues we must address, without being distracted by debates about private living arrangements. It is important that we uphold those institutions and values which are most likely to meet children's needs and safeguard their interests."
Andrews said he did not wish to belittle single parents, but he believed that every child needed the love of a mother and father.
"The loving husband-and-wife family remains the optimal condition for the socialization and education of children's character and values."
Howard said Tuesday he would consider Andrews' proposal.
"I'd like to do anything I can to encourage people to marry and to preserve the institution," he said.
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