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Marriage equality: the cold, hard facts

By Rodney Croome - posted Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The same-sex marriage debate needs a shot of hard empirical evidence to counter the fantasies peddled by the opponents of change.

The most recent meme from the religious right is that when lesbians like Finance Minister Penny Wong have kids it leads to riots, London-style.

Not unexpectedly, this link has been mocked.


But it is a mistake to dismiss the ideas behind it. They form a kind of morality tale that may be superficially appealing to social conservatives who might otherwise be supporters of marriage equality.

The pattern of thought behind the Wong/London connection is this:

Marriage is not about the "selfish needs" of adults, it's about providing children with the best possible start in life through a secure and stable family life.

Children need a mother or a father to have the best start in life. In particular, boys suffer from not have their biological father around.

Their "father-wounds" lead to "existential angst", addiction, self harm, disrespect for authority, delinquency and imprisonment (insert reference to London riots here).

Thus, as you'd expect in this rotten, fallen world, a minor vice like selfishness leads, via the absence of a manly authority, to the chaos of children rioting in the streets.


But the facts don't sustain this Hobbesian narrative.

First, it's not possible to separate the benefits of marriage to parents and the benefits of marriage to children.

The author of When Gay People Get Married, Professor Lee Badgett, has spent many years studying the lives of same-sex partners and their children in several places where same-sex marriage is allowed.

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About the Author

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and national advocacy group, just.equal. He who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his LGBTI advocacy.

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