MARRIAGE: by John ElsegoodNews Weekly
US battle to preserve traditional marriage
, December 6, 2008
Citizens in three American states have voted to prevent traditional marriage from being redefined, reports John Elsegood.The greatest threat to marriage and family is the attempt to legalise same-sex marriage, according to Lynn Wardle, law professor from Brigham Young University in Utah. He warned the October national conference of the Australian Family Association in the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia, that marriage was a national treasure and the most important of social institutions.
He warned that clashes would be inevitable if the core definition of marriage was changed to accommodate the whims of social activists and engineers who considered any opposition to their views as coming from "mere bigots".
A fortnight later, citizens in three US states voted to support traditional marriage from being redefined. Immediately afterwards, the attacks that Professor Wardle predicted became very much a reality, with violent demonstrations launched by gay activists against Christian churches, companies and individuals that had urged a yes vote for traditional marriage.Sustained attack
The church that came under the most sustained attack was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), better known as the Mormons, the dominant fund-raising force in the California ballot to ban same-sex marriage (Proposition 8), although the Catholics and some Evangelical Protestants, such as Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, were also targeted.
The initiative came about because an activist Supreme Court of California ruled that an existing ban, enacted by referendum in 2000, was unconstitutional. Hence, the most populous state in the Union became a political battleground. The LDS, allegedly, contributed up to 40 per cent of the $15.5 million raised in the pro-marriage campaign. Some sources attributed as much as $20m to the LDS expenditure overall.
Since the three state referendums rejected same-sex marriage, the LDS has come under sustained attack and vilification from activists who have labelled that church's involvement as bigotry and prejudice at its worst. In fact, it was a copybook example of democracy working, after the LDS and others put forward a logical and moderately expressed case for the support of traditional marriage.
Some of those well reasoned arguments were patiently explained by Professor Wardle to his large Australian audience. He said that the defence of marriage was not designed as an attack on homosexual relations and lifestyle but rather a defence and defining of marriage — full stop. Attempts by activists to redefine marriage would result in a very different social institution and effects.
Warming to his theme, Professor Wardle said marriage is not just a piece of paper, nor a matter of legal positivism, but rather a pre-state and pre-legal institution. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. Nor does a union of two women make it a marriage in nature, characteristics or social consequences.
The issue was indeed a civil rights issue, but not as homosexuals would argue. Rather, marriage was an inalienable feature of life and not to be the subject of judicial or legislative whim.
Same-sex marriage is presented as a claim for tolerance, but tolerance is quite different from preference. "The law treats human relations in three ways: many relations are prohibited, others tolerated and a few are preferred and privileged."
Professor Wardle said that society had moved away from prohibition to tolerance on homosexual matters, but that conjugal marriage had always been given historical preference because it is the foundation of society. "The claim for same-sex 'marriage' moves beyond a claim for tolerance and seeks special preference."
Such a claim, he said, was a "demonstrably false assumption ... all relationships are not equal; marriage produces good and beneficial effects for individuals, children, families and society that are unmatched by the effects of all other relationships".
The flow-on effect, if the homosexual push was successful, would undermine freedom of religion and speech, while children in public schools would be taught the moral relativism of equivalency — and any argument with that "principle" would not be permitted.
In what was surely a prescient point, he claimed defenders of traditional marriage did not want controversy and division but that "the advocates of radical redefinition and deconstruction of marriage have aggressively taken steps to change public law and policy and have forced the issue on us".
The attempt to capture marriage is hardly new. The Nazis tried it with the infamous Nuremberg Laws of 1935 that, in part, prohibited marriage between Aryan Germans and the Jewish so-called untermenschen
(subhumans). The law professor reminded his audience that US racial eugenicists used thuggish tactics to advance their program of racial segregation, something that pervaded Southern society for a century after the end of the American Civil War (1861-5).
As Lynn Wardle reminded his Western Australian audience, there are times when you have to stand up for what is right regardless of cost — and not just simply pass on by on the other side, like those who preceded the Good Samaritan.— John Elsegood is a freelance journalist and a teacher of history and politics in Perth, Western Australia. (He has never been a member of the LDS Church.)