SOCIETY by Ian Goodenough MPNews Weekly
Why marriage cannot be separated from family
, July 4, 2015
Traditional marriage is a long established social norm in Australian society, but it is being challenged by the current debate in Federal Parliament on same-sex marriage.
The theories of evolution, natural selection and Darwinism – in which only the fittest survive – are regarded as counters to religious doctrine. But religious beliefs are not the sole reason for opposing the notion of same-sex marriage – let me articulate an argument from an anthropological perspective.
Since the dawn of human civilisation marriage has evolved, over thousands of years, in societies around the world into what is universally considered the social norm. That is marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of others centred on the family unit.
This social arrangement existed long before religion evolved and certainly before the concept of Parliament or the legislation with which to define it. Prehistoric humans organised themselves into social units and this basic cohabitation relationship evolved as civilisation progressed.
Today, traditional marriage and the family unit are almost universal worldwide. In societies across geography, race and culture, stretching from Asia to Europe, the American continent and Africa, marriage exists predominantly between a man and a woman.
Exceptions exist in some tribal cultures where polygamy and communal living are practised. Nevertheless, in most nations traditional marriage dominates as the norm.
Traditional marriage is not perfect: there are many issues with family breakdown, divorce, and dysfunction, but it is the best social institution we currently have.
Procreation is universally accepted as one of the main objects of marriage, and indeed male-female reproduction is biologically possible.
Ideally, a man and a woman settle down in marriage to have children, which they nurture and care for in a family environment. However, in a limited number of cases infertility exists. Then there is the option of adoption, in which childless married couples accept legal responsibility for the care of children without parents.
Children placed in adoption should have the right to be placed with traditionally married couples, who reflect how they were naturally conceived, and not have to deal with complex alternative lifestyles until they are mature enough.
In some cases, infertile couples turn to our medical system for access to reproductive and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. An alternative approach may involve the introduction of third parties through gamete donors or surrogacy. This can lead to even more complex relationships and legal situations.
Same-sex couples, on the other hand, are certainly biologically unable to reproduce within marriage. By passing same-sex marriage legislation Parliament will create legally married couples who, it is obvious, are by biology unable to have children.
Married same-sex couples will have the same rights as all married couples. As it is biologically impossible for a same-sex couple to reproduce, having children in a same-sex marriage by necessity involves a third-party gamete donor or surrogate.
The legal and social consequences of these three-way relationships must be carefully considered before any changes are made.
The rights of children are paramount. In an ideal society, every child would be raised by a father and a mother. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, even in traditional marriages. However, children should be sheltered from the complexities of same-sex marriages that will involve third parties.
By legalising same-sex marriage, these arrangements will become commonplace. Parliament will be creating a range of consequential social and legal complexities with which society will be forced to contend.
There will be an huge cost to society in terms of dealing with social dysfunction and psychological issues arising from introducing more complicated relationships into an already complex society. The proponents of same-sex marriage are yet to provide a compelling argument as to why civil unions are inadequate in protecting the legal rights of same-sex couples.
Marriage is not a romantic notion – it is an important social institution that deals with progeny.
These days it takes courage and resolve to stand up for traditional marriage. As an elected representative, I stand by the traditional definition of marriage as being a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.
Traditional marriage is a social institution that has withstood the test of time. It has evolved as an institution around which the family unit is based. It provides children with the security of a father and mother, a family unit in which to grow up into well-adjusted adults. Traditional marriage is a social norm that is the foundation of a strong society.
It is worth preserving because it represents the best social institution we have in our society.
Ian Goodenough is Federal MP for Moore in Western Australia.