Recently I received a letter from a couple with whom I am relatively friendly, outlining their vehement opposition to Marriage Equality. The letter described gay people as ‘unnatural’, as raising ‘confused children’, and explained that same sex marriage would lead society down ‘the slippery path to ruin’.
As though Marriage, so easily disolved by the courts these days, were the glue holding society together. What follows is my response:
I would like to make a distinction between the Sacrament of Marriage, which, of course, is entirely the responsibility and domain of the Church, and the legal definition ‘Marriage’.
Arguing that the dictionary defines a term in a particular way does not make for a strong case — dictionary definitions shift and evolve all the time. New words are added, meanings are changed, language is an evolving, transforming medium. The word ‘text’ was not a verb until the advent of SMS. The term ‘google’ was not synonymous with web searches until 2006. Likewise, the term ‘Marriage’ as currently defined in most major dictionaries does not make reference to being ‘between a man and a woman’, but rather union and matrimony.
I don’t doubt or contest the Church’s definition of Marriage. Of course it is between a man and a woman, within the context of that sacrament. However the proposal currently before the Parliament, a proposal which I expect will be defeated, is that the definition of Marriage in the Marriage Act, which was altered by the previous Government in 2006 to include the caveat ‘between a man and a woman’, be returned to its state prior to John Howard’s interference – enabling full legal recognition of couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.
I don’t think this discussion impedes upon the sacrament of marriage; the members of parliament moving the legislation have been quite explicit in making sure the proposed changes do not impact the Church’s right to define Marriage as it sees fit. What they are proposing is that a secular act of parliament, an act that applies to all Australians, should treat all Australians equally.
So I would argue, yes, this ruling can be changed, even though some people have a different point of view. To paraphrase our local member, a wonderful woman who has also been quite vocal in her opposition to same sex marriage, “how we hold these diverse views in our society is what defines our democracy”.
I believe in the separation of Church and State. In order to maintain a critical stance towards Islamic theocracy and other injustices overseas, I must be consistent in my application of this principle. So I do not think the definitions of the Catholic Church should be enforced upon the 70% of the Australian population that do not identify as adherents of that faith.
Instead, I think a rational, compassionate and fair approach to public policy should be the way in which we govern this country.
A rational approach does not tell gay parents that their child will grow up ‘confused’ and that their relationship is not ‘normal’. Is this the message good Labor Senator Penny Wong should be passing on to her child?
The only reason a child would grow up to feel confused and alienated is because people in our society impose contradictory values on them, tell them that they are the product of an inferior love, and reinforce intolerance and inequity towards gay couples.
I do not want to live in that society. I do not tolerate injustice. I believe we create injustice, intolerance and inequality, and I believe we have the power to change it.
I did not choose to be gay, it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s as fundamental a biological urge as heterosexuality, or the need to find meaning, or to love your family. And despite all of the rank bigotry, prejudice and injustice I have seen directed at my friends, all the bashing and abuse that I have seen with my own eyes, I would not change anything about myself for the world.
This law needs to change to send a message that we can change laws, regardless of religious, political or cultural background, and we can move past the things that divide us in order to say to those minority groups “I accept you for everything that you are: a person, just like me.
That may offend some people, and I suppose this is one of those times where we have to learn to live with our different opinions. But hatred, intolerance, bigotry or even just exclusivity offends me.
And that must end.