Last Thoughts on Redefining Marriage
I have gay family members, and have had gay friends all my life; people who are dear to me, whose feelings I value, and whose opinions I respect. I have been to gay bars, events and festivals with gay friends, been propositioned by men more times than I can remember, and am happy to greet my gay friends with a kiss on the cheek. In the same way as my other friends, they deserve my love, loyalty and support.
Nonetheless I will be voting No.
These are some of the issues:
1.We are told that if Australia does not legislate to redefine marriage we will be falling behind other civilised countries.
2. We are told redefining marriage is a matter of justice and equality.
3. We are told that nothing else will change. The only thing that will be different is that gay couples will now be allowed to marry. It won’t affect anyone else, so no one else has any right to have a say.
4. We are told there is no “slippery slope,” that no further changes to the definition of marriage will be made after this.
5. We are told there is no connection between same sex marriage and the teaching of gender fluidity.
Let’s consider these claims.
1. The fact that some other society is doing something is not in itself a reason for us to do it. Even if it were, so far approximately ten percent of the world’s nations, representing less than ten percent of the world’s population, have legislated to change the meaning of marriage. This is a long way from an overwhelming or compelling majority.
2. To claim that redefining marriage is a matter of justice is to prejudge, to take for granted, what is being discussed. To say something is just is to say it is right. That is exactly what is at issue.
Things can be equal in different ways. People are equal in dignity and value, regardless of gender, race, intelligence or physical ability. But that is not to say they are same in every way. Men and women are different. People have different levels of intelligence, different abilities, different interests. It is entirely reasonable and fair to distinguish people on the basis of these factors. If you are short and slow, you probably won’t get picked to play basketball. If you have never sat down at a piano in your life you probably won’t be invited to perform a piano concert at the Sydney Opera House.
Marriage has varied from society to society, for example in the permissible difference in ages, the degree to which the partners may be related, or sometimes, the number of people involved. What has never changed is that it is a permanent bond between male and female. Even in societies with a high degree of tolerance for homosexual acts, it has never been suggested until twenty years ago that a relationship between two men or two women was identical to a life-long commitment between a man and a woman with openness to new life, or that it had the same meaning to society.
Recognising this difference, that these two things are not the same and therefore not equal, is not unfairly discriminatory any more than saying a dog cannot be a cat, no matter how much it wants to be, or that a square cannot be a triangle.
This not to suggest that same-sex relationships cannot be as loving, as stable, as worthy of respect as a marriage, but simply simply to note that they are different things. This is similar to the argument employed by some of the many same sex attracted opponents of the re-definition of marriage. “We know our relationships are different,” they say, “so why do we need to appropriate hetero-sexual institutions to feel validated?” Not better or worse, just different. It is ignoring reality to insist they be called by the same name.
3. Since the early 2000s a number of countries have redefined marriage to include same sex partnerships. Of these, only Ireland has made the change as the result of a vote by the people. In all others it was changed by judicial fiat, as in the United States, or by government without direct reference to the people, as in New Zealand and the UK. Fifteen years is not a long time over which to study impacts on society, but some things have become clear.
The first is that redefining marriage does not change what same sex attracted people can do. In Australia, same sex partnerships have exactly the same protections under law as marriages. The have the same rights in relation to superannuation, succession, taxation and government benefits. Same sex attracted people can find a celebrant, get dressed in white, invite their friends, go through a ceremony, and say they are married. They can claim their relationship is exactly the same as a relationship between a married couple, and means the same thing to wider society. The legalisation of “same sex marriage” does not change that at all. What does change is that everyone else is now obliged to agree.
The promised protections for conscience and free speech in Ireland have been undone two years later. The US has seen a seemingly never-ending targeting of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim bakeries, florists, venue operators, printers, photographers, etc, etc, etc, or anyone who still believes about marriage what everyone believed until twenty years ago. No one is permitted to disagree. Last year there were demands that Fixer Upper, a popular house renovation TV show, be taken off the air because activists had discovered that the couple who made the show went to a church whose pastor had expressed the view that marriage was between a man and woman. In 2014 the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his position after it was discovered that he had made a donation in support of the traditional view of marriage. In Denmark Lutheran pastors are now forced by law to conduct marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.
Redefining marriage changes nothing that same sex people can do, or the protections they have under law. It simply forces everyone else to comply.
4. Once the essence of the meaning of marriage – a lifetime commitment between male and female – is removed, It is difficult to see how further changes can be avoided without cries of unfairness and discrimination. This story sent to me by a friend sums up the situation:
Good morning. We want to apply for a marriage license.”
“Names?” said the clerk.
“Tim and Jim Jones.”
“Jones?? Are you related? I see a resemblance.”
“Yes, we’re brothers.”
“Brothers? You can’t get married.”
“Why not? Aren’t you giving marriage licenses to same gender couples?”
“Yes, of course, that’s the law. But we haven’t had any siblings. That’s incest!”
“‘Incest?’ No, we are not gay.”
“Not gay? Then why do you want to get married?”
“We love each other. Besides, we don’t have any other prospects.”
“But we’re issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who’ve claim they’d been denied equal protection under law. If you are not gay, you can get married to a woman.”
“Wait a minute. A gay man has the same right to marry a woman as I have. But just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I want to marry a woman. I want to marry Jim.”
“And I want to marry Tim, Are you going to discriminate against us just because we are not gay?”
“All right, have it your own way. Here’s your license. Next.”
“Hi. We are here to get married.”
“John Smith, Jane James, Robert Green, and June Johnson.”
“Who wants to marry whom?”
“We all want to marry each other.”
“But there are four of you!”
“That’s right. You see, we’re all bisexual. I love Jane and Robert, Jane loves me and June, June loves Robert and Jane, and Robert loves June and me. All of us getting married together is the only way that we can express our sexual preferences in a marital relationship.”
“But we’ve only been granting licenses to gay and lesbian couples.”
“So you’re discriminating against bisexuals!”
“No, it’s just that, well, the traditional idea of marriage is that it’s just for couples.”
“Since when are you standing on tradition?”
“Well, I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.”
“Who says? There’s no logical reason to limit marriage to couples. The more the better. Besides, we demand our rights! The law guarantees us equal protection.”
“All right, have it your own way. Here’s your license. Next.”
5. If men and women are different, then a relationship between two men or two women is different from a relationship between a man and a woman. Claiming equality between same sex relationships and marriage can only be maintained if men and women are interchangeable. This depends on the claim that gender is fluid, can be changed, and is largely a matter of choice. A man can become a woman, or a woman a man, because there are no essential differences between the two.
Once marriage is redefined to include same sex relationships, general acceptance of gender fluidity becomes a necessity. This needs to be taught. And taught it will be. In the UK, couples who believe marriage is between a man and a woman are no longer considered suitable to act as foster parents. But in an astonishingly hypocritical policy, children can be taken from ordinary English families which are in trouble, and sent to be fostered with Muslim families, despite the fact that under Sharia law homosexual acts are punishable by death. In Canada children can be removed from families which do not support their children’s gender choices, or facilitate gender transitions if desired. California is currently considering legislation which makes it a jailable offence to call someone by other than their preferred pronouns.
I love my gay friends and family members. I would oppose any legislation which gave them less protection under law, or limited their choices.
Demands to redefine marriage are not about tolerance for homosexual acts, or for same sex attracted people. Their relationships already have equal status in every way relating to succession law, benefits and taxation, etc.
If same sex attracted people want to say their relationships are exactly the same as a life-time commitment between a man and woman, and mean the same thing to society, most people would not be bothered about this.
If they want to go through a ceremony and say they are married, most people would wish them well.
But if they want to get the government to force everyone to agree with them, that moves over the line from the rightful and realistic expectation of tolerance, to Stalinist enforcement of compliance.
The campaign to redefine marriage is not about letting same sex attracted people do what they want. They already can. It is about demanding the government create a society in which no one is permitted to disagree. That is not tolerance and freedom. It is the exact opposite.