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Same sex marriage: an agnostic's view

By Don Allan - posted Friday, 14 October 2011

As a former Canberra Branch President of Friends of the ABC, I write, reluctantly, that ABC radio and Radio National in particular, seems to have become the propaganda arm of the same sex marriage movement. But what finally made me overcome my reluctance to write was 'Encounter,' Sunday morning 9 October.

My decision was influenced also by how often the word 'gay' manages to crop up in many ABC radio programmes that have nothing to do with same sex issues. Indeed I am tempted to think of it as subliminal advertising.

The panel of speakers convened to discuss same sex marriage on Encounter contained no surprises. It comprised Rodney Croome spokesperson for the Tasmanian and Lesbian Rights Group and campaign co-ordinator of Australian Marriage Equality; Lee Badgett, Director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration and Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts; Benny Hazlehurst, Anglican Priest and a founding member of Accepting Evangelicals; Rod Benson, Baptist Minister and ethicist at Sydney's Morling College; Peter Comensoli, an auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney; Frank Brennan, Jesuit Priest and Professor of law in the Public Policy Institute, the Australian Catholic University; Sandy Miller and Louise Bucke, a Lesbian couple living in Sydney with their children; and David Riddell and Peter Kingston a homosexual couple living in Sydney.


Unfortunately this panel lacked balance, the pro group outnumbering the anti group. But why no Aborigines, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Taoists, declared Agnostics or Atheists or other non - Christian groups?

The premise of the programme – a wrong premise- was that Christians were the only people who opposed same sex marriage. This premise disturbed me as did host Gary Bryson who, in his summing up at the end of the programme, seemed to suggest that Christians were fighting a losing battle trying to prevent same sex marriage becoming legal.

Rodney Croome was the panel's opening speaker. In presenting his case for making same sex marriage legal he spoke as if marriage was a Western Christian concept whereas it has existed for millenniums. His other arguments: the marriage act is based on property; it is discriminatory; and that the early Christian Church had hijacked it to ensure a continuing source of adherents.

But had he researched more thoroughly, he would have found that marriage was common in civilisations long before 2000. And had he looked up Hammurabi's law, of 3,500 years ago, he would have found that while the law allowed homosexuals to enjoy sexual freedom and gave them rights, same sex marriage was not included. The list goes on.

I also found it odd that Mr Croome was not questioned on his statement that the vast majority of Australians supported same sex marriage. So let me ask: How was this information gained? Had it been gained through surveys? If so, where had they been carried out and who carried them out? And, last but not least: who framed the questions?

These same questions should have been put to Professor Badgett from Massachusetts University. With Massachusetts the first US State to legalise same sex marriage, Professor Badgett's arguments, based on economic, health and welfare issues said surveys had shown that same sex marriages were beneficial rather than harmful to children. Coming from Massachusetts one might be inclined to think' she would say that.' Unfortunately she didn't say how many of the people surveyed were heterosexual couples with children.


Next came Anglican priest, Benny Hazlehurst, a supporter of same sex marriage who said he came to this view after being anti for a long time. The reason for changing his mind seemed less than convincing. He changed his mind after re-reading the bible and studying the sections that commented on homosexuality. As a result of his reading he came to the conclusion that marriage was not exclusive to a man and a woman.

The next three speakers, Baptist Minister Rod Benson, Catholic Bishop Peter Comensoli and Jesuit lawyer Frank Brennan presented their arguments as to why marriage could only take place between a man and a woman. But as committed Christians the comments applying to them are as those for Professor Bagget, 'they would say that', wouldn't they?

My reason for raising this issue is because there seems to be view that agnostic and atheists must be on the side of same sex marriage. Not so. I am agnostic and against same sex marriage. My view is that same sex marriage is not a religious matter but a legal matter and that marriage should be the subject of a legal contract specifically for a man and a woman. It seems to me also, that if the men and women who sign such contracts are of strong religious belief, they will try to keep to the contract's conditions. As for a church ceremony: that will be between them and their Church.

An identical legally binding contract conferring the same social benefits on same sex couples as a marriage contract confers on man and a woman should also be created. What should it be called? I am in no doubt that sensible homosexual, lesbian and transgender couples could suggest an appropriate name. And if they were of strong religious faith they would also observe the terms of their contracts. A church ceremony is also a matter for them and their Church. But what is of importance is that both contracts are equal under these arrangements.

During the discussion the subject of children was raised On this question it seems to me more care needs to be taken when the wording accompanying pictures of two homosexuals, two lesbians or two transgender people posing with children suggest that the couple's sexual coupling was what caused their conception. The fact is, and much as they might otherwise wish, this cannot be. I also think acceptance would be easier if they stopped using and displaying children in their care like trophies won in what seems to have become an unseemly sex war.

Finally, perhaps both the religious and same sex groups should cast aside their prejudices for a moment and consider the following: in the future religion might disappear but without children there will be no future.

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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