August 23rd 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Saving the Internet from itself

EDITORIAL: Australia-US trade deal and the debt crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Marriage law changes: the fight is worth it

AGRICULTURE: Water rights and trading petition launched

ECONOMY: The housing boom: history repeats

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Dictators and dark continents / Get Blair

HISTORY: How political myths are made

Senate calls for EU-style 'Pacific Community'

FAMILY: Governments put gay marriage on the agenda

COMMENT: Feminist arithmetic

NEW ZEALAND: The story behind the destruction of ANZUS

PHILIPPINES: Filipino coup attempt destabilises Arroyo

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Governments put gay marriage on the agenda

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, August 23, 2003
Perhaps the most disconcerting item on the gay agenda is the desire to equate same-sex relationships with normal marriage and family life.

In this the gay lobby has been quite successful. For example, during the International Year of the Family, the Government refused to even try to define what it meant by the term "family" for fear of offending the homosexual lobby.

Federal Cabinet recently decided to include homosexual couples in its definition of families for the purpose of future census taking by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Also, in New South Wales it has just recently been decided that gay couples are to be recognised as "family".

With de facto relationships now on a near par with marriage relationships, the gay lobby feels it can make a strong case for equating same-sex relationships with heterosexual marriage. Indeed, we have managed to strip away the inherent uniqueness of marriage by redefining it and broadening it.

As social commentator Maggie Gallagher puts it, "Over the past thirty years, quietly, and largely unremarked outside a narrow group of specialists, American family law has been rewritten to dilute both the rights and the obligations of marriage, while at the same time placing other relationships, from adulterous liaisons to homosexual partnerships, on a legal par with marriage in some respects. To put it another way, by expanding the definition of marriage to the point of meaninglessness, courts are gradually redefining marriage out of existence."

The identification of gay relationships with heterosexual marriage is the chief example of this. However, it needs to be pointed out that there has been a long debate amongst homosexuals over the question of gay marriage. Some are in favour, some are opposed, and there are many options in between.

One homosexual writer, for example, Andrew Sullivan, writes that if homosexual marriage contracts come into force, they would have to be "different": that is, they would have to allow for "extra-marital outlets" and other major changes. Of course that undermines the very essence of marriage, which is the covenant of life-long sexual faithfulness.

But with three nations now going the way of homosexual marriage (The Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada), the issue has taken on new significance.

With the June 2003 Ontario Supreme Court declaring that it is a violation of homosexuals' rights to restrict marriage to heterosexuals, a new emphasis has been made by some in the homosexual community to push for homosexual marriage in Australia.

For example, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-covenor David McCarthy said that gay marriage should be tested here, now that the Ontario ruling has been made.

He argues that if an Australia gay couple went to Ontario and got married, or a Canadian married couple moved here, the Australian legal system would be forced to decide on whether that marriage was valid here. (Ontario has no residence requirement for marriages celebrated in the province, unlike Holland and Belgium).

Thus it is quite possible that the Australian Parliament could be by-passed altogether with a Court decision clearing the way for gay marriage.

All of these recent developments spurred one Australian homosexual commentator to express amazement at how rapidly and easily the homosexual agenda was being implemented. He said he had previously doubted whether same-sex marriage was a

"worthwhile or attainable objective for gay and lesbian activism. How wrong I was.

"This is clearly now the last great frontier of the 40-year struggle for gay and lesbian equal rights ... Progress in this area has been much faster, and has met much less resistance, than I or anyone else anticipated".

If homosexual marriage were to be legalised here, it would be one of the final nails in the coffin of heterosexual marriage and family. The truth is, all cultures have recognised marriage, but only of the heterosexual variety. And marriage has always been associated with procreation. To strip marriage of its traditional moorings is to effectively destroy it.

As one Canadian University professor put it, legal attempts to redefine marriage will eradicate a tried and tested social good in favor of a risky social experiment. But the new hybrid will not be marriage at all: "Marriage is not merely a union of two person. It is a gendered union with specific social goods attached. The state - which did not invent marriage and has no authority to re-invent it - rightly takes an interest in marriage on account of these goods: stability of community and property, of human reproduction and the care of children, of cross-gender and cross-generational bonding, etc."

To include same-sex couples in the institution of marriage is simply to substitute "for a gendered phrase ('one man and one woman') its genderless one."

As William Bennett has written:

"Marriage is not an arbitrary construct; it is an 'honorable estate' based on the different, complementary nature of men and women - and how they refine, support, encourage and complete one another.

"To insist that we maintain this traditional understanding of marriage is not an attempt to put others down. It is simply an acknowledgement and celebration of our most precious and important social act. Nor is this view arbitrary or idiosyncratic. It mirrors the accumulated wisdom of millennia and the teaching of every major religion."

Moreover, the same arguments used for legalising gay marriage could be used to argue for legalising incest, polygamy, and any number of other sexual combinations. If a man wanted to have a long-term sexual relationship with his adult daughter, or if three women wanted to do the same, how could any society argue against it, if it has already overturned the traditional understanding of marriage?

As Bennett writes elsewhere, "once marriage has been detached from the natural, complementary teleology of the sexes, it becomes nothing more than what each of us makes of it". Or as another commentator says:

"What we are doing by creating this institution to be called 'gay marriage' is smashing marriage and replacing it with a whole new set of arrangements that apply to everybody, not just homosexuals, everybody, in which marriage is a unique contract between any two or more adults who want to enter into it and set by any rules. It makes marriage impermanent, and it turns children into commodities."

That last point is of utmost importance. It is a crucial question that is usually omitted in this whole debate: What about the children? If we allow homosexual marriage and adoption rights, what will be the effect on children?

  • Bill Muehlenberg

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