OPINION: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Why we must defend the institution of marriage
, September 1, 2012
This is the address given by the president of the National Civic Council, Peter Westmore, to the National Marriage Day Rally outside federal parliament on August 14, 2012. I wish to thank every one of you for coming to Canberra today to celebrate National Marriage Day and, more particularly, the institution which is the bedrock of our society: marriage.
I also wish to express my grateful thanks to the members of parliament who have joined us here today. Our rally today has particular significance, because shortly our parliament will be called upon to vote on bills designed to change the definition of marriage.
All of you will have heard the saying, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee”. I want to take that metaphor today in a different direction. Horses and camels are, in many ways, similar. They look somewhat similar. They are large animals, with four strong legs capable of carrying heavy weights. Both are able to move quickly. The bodies of both of them are covered in hair.
But if someone said to you that a camel is a horse, you would rightly say: it is not. And even if a parliament were to define a camel as a horse, it would remain a camel.
So it is with natural marriage, the union of a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life, as our parliament unanimously reaffirmed in 2004, and as every society has recognised since time immemorial.
To recognise this is not to demean other relationships. It is simply to say they are different.
Australian law on partnerships has existed since the colonial era, and it is common to call people who cohabit — whether married or unmarried, heterosexual or of the same sex — partners. Same-sex couples are not husband and wife, and they are not married, because marriage refers to a different type of relationship.
We often hear media commentators say that the push for same-sex marriage is inevitable. If we listen only to the chattering classes, we could believe this to be true.
But in fact, it is not true. There were over 200 countries competing in the Olympic Games, but same-sex marriage is performed in only 11 countries, most of which are in Western Europe, and in a small minority of states of the USA.
In other words, same-sex marriages are not performed in over 190 countries, including Australia, which cover around 95 per cent of the world’s population. We are in the majority.
Nor is this a religious issue. There is not one country in Asia which has adopted same-sex marriage; yet in general, they are not Christian, and their cultures go back thousands of years. Moreover, they are also more technologically advanced than we are. There is not one country in the Islamic world, there is only one in the whole of the African continent and one in South America where same-sex marriages are performed and recognised.
It is sometimes said that opinion polls support same-sex marriage. I note that Australian Marriage Equality commissioned a Galaxy Poll recently, which found that 64 per cent of people said that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Various polls in the United States over the past couple of years have found the same thing.
Yet in over 20 states of the US, when the American people have been asked to vote on whether they support same-sex marriage, they have voted against it. There is not one state in the United States in which the people have voted directly for same-sex marriage. It has been adopted through either legislation or judicial interpretation.
The United Nations recognises the importance of the natural family. In Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it states: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the state.”
It is important to note that the institution of marriage precedes government and parliaments, and even written laws. This is because marriage has been the natural starting point for family formation, although we must recognise that there have always been families in which the parents are not married, or in which one of the parents is not present, and, in some extreme cases, where both parents have gone.
There is a weight of human experience, as well as sociological evidence, which demonstrates that children brought up in stable families are better off — physically, intellectually, psychologically and spiritually — than those who are not.
Conversely, it is a sad fact that among the causes of juvenile crime, drug-taking, mental and emotional problems, the absence of a loving and stable family life ranks highly.
Governments and parliaments around the world have enacted laws to protect this pre-existing institution and to strengthen it.
And this is why we are here today. We are here to celebrate marriage, the union between a man and a woman, because it provides the foundation on which every successful society, from time immemorial, has been based.