Truth has stumbled in the streets (Isaiah 59:14)
The rhetoric employed by campaigners for marriage change has increased significantly in Australia since Ireland and the United States altered their laws, and yet the arguments remain just as unconvincing as before.
It has been an impassioned debate and sadly at times it has been an aggressive and spiteful one (from people on both sides of the debate). I wish we could speak on this subject without the cheap and slanderous interjections from some disputants, but one thing emotions demonstrate is that this subject is important to some. I suspect however that for most Australians this is not among the most pressing issues on their minds. While a Crosby-Textor poll showed that a majority of respondents favour same-sex marriage, less than half felt strongly about it. And a more recent Gallup Poll has revealed that Australians are more concerned about the rights of children to have both a father and a mother than they are for notions of same-sex marriage. Even among homosexuals there are vocal opponents of same-sex marriage; the fashion icons, Dolce and Gabbana among them, who have now famously retorted, 'The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging'.
I acknowledge that this debate evokes strong feelings in people, and in no sense am I wanting to dismiss them. It is has been my privilege to meet, listen to and befriend lesbians and gays. In others words, I remain committed to a society who respects and loves its people, even when there is disagreement. But in the midst of the multifarious opinions and emotions, it is nonetheless critical that arguments for legalising same-sex marriage are assessed in a judicious and rational manner. The argument most frequently proffered is summed up in the phrase, equal love. As a stand-alone slogan it sounds appealing and persuasive, and it is designed to evoke feelings in us of our need to love and to be loved. But is the argument adequate for introducing into our society one of the most radical deconstructions in our history?
President Obama epitomised the 'equal love' mission statement when he spoke after last week's Supreme Court ruling:
Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times-a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American…if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.
First of all, I agree with President Obama's proposition that all people are created equal. This is a biological and theological fact. Despite differences in gender, in personality, in culture and race, every human being is equal. Indeed, this is one of the most basic tenets of Christianity, that every person is made in the image of God and has inherent worth, and when our society talks of universal equality it is speaking with a Christian accent. To treat persons who are different to ourselves with anything less than respect and love is to deny the faith. Importantly, the corollary of this principle of equality is not that marriage is a pliable relationship that can be defined by whatever the prevailing trends in society might be yesterday, today or tomorrow.
Secondly, it remains the case that marriage equality already exists in Australia: any man and any woman is free to marry. The issue at hand is not marriage equality but the intended radical reinvention of marriage, such that biology and gender become irrelevant to the institution. This view itself lacks cogency for it is the differentiation of the two genders that makes possible the birthing of children, which is one of the inherent purposes of marriage.
Thirdly, President Obama relies on the catchphrase 'equal love' to explain why same-sex marriage is to be enshrined, and so do proponents of change in Australia. Just last week, Teresa Gambaro MP espoused the same argument, saying 'Marriage is fundamentally an expression of love and should not be an issue that divides us.'The problem with this view is that it is inadequate and therefore misleading.
Let's think about the logic of this view:
If the parameter for defining marriage is 'equal love', then why are we not broadening the definition to include polyamorous marriages and incest? Why should marriage be limited to only two persons? Why should we deny the heartfelt love of other minorities in our society? Why shouldn't we permit fixed term marriages? After all, surely we should be free to change whom we love? If equal-love proponents are serious about their clarion call, then they would be arguing for any and all kinds of relationships to be considered marriage. But they are not.
Both the amendment that Bill Shorten has tabled for Parliament and the newly proposed private members bill both retain these two exclusionary and therefore discriminatory ideas: that marriage is between 'two' and it is 'for life'. So much for equal love. If these two elements are integral to understanding marriage, then this entire debate is not about 'equal love', but it is about monogamous gay love limited to two persons. What is it about marriage that we believe marriage should be only for two people and for life? Are there factors apart from love that are necessary for marriage?
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