Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Let me make an opening confession. I do not share their experiences, nor have I lived their story. I must also confess no little bit of guilt in this matter.
I have been quick to judge how LGBTI views adversely affect me without me considering how my views might adversely affect them. I have often clung onto a particular vision of society, a society that feels like it is crumbling before my eyes, but without ensuring the welfare of the most vulnerable in that society.
In addition, part of me has been selfishly worried that some of the perks and privileges that my tribe has enjoyed in Australian society are being taken away. While I have been pre-occupied with how to preserve a Christian witness in a post-Christian society, I know I have neglected to love all the people in this society as my faith requires me to. I also know that the history of LGBTI people in Australia is a tragic saga about the struggle for existence, acceptance, and equality amidst the heaping of shame, barrages of abuse, and experiences of rejection.
I have seen it and must ashamedly confess that I have before failed to speak out against it. I say with genuine contrition that I genuinely do not wish to add to the history of hurt that LGBTI people have experienced. There are people who honestly think that the only reason for opposing same sex marriage is because you are either a radicalised Muslim who sleeps at night with an ISIS flag for a blanket or else you are a Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalist who hates LGBTI people like Donald Trump hates Megyn Kelly.
But what if there was a parallel universe where it was possible to set forth a reasonable, sensible, and non-homophobic case against legalising same-sex marriage. Even though it is obviously impossible in our world, perhaps, with a bit of science-fiction, maybe there is an alternative reality where a case for traditional marriage actually makes sense. So I invite you to hop into my reality-alternator-machine for just a moment and to hear me out.
There are a diversity of opinions about marriage and sexuality between these religions and diverse opinions even within these religions. In any case, we must countenance the fact that a majority of Australians identify with one of the Abrahamic religions, characterised by belief in one God, who made the world, and often has something to say about human behaviour including marriage.
For persons of faith, marriage is not simply about formalising my relationship status or getting my domestic partnership legally recognised. Rather, marriage is a divinely created institution that exists for the benefit of men and women. Marriage is a divine gift whereby men and women are joined together in a relationship characterised by love, self-giving, and fidelity.
Marriage is a sacramental union, a holy covenant of commitment, a celebration of love, an exclusive intimacy, and directed towards helping each other flourish as human beings. For people of faith, marriage is anchored in a sexual ecology; it reflects the divinely designed complementarity of man and woman, at both the biological and relational level. In marriage, a man and a woman are united to love each other in heart, mind, and soul. On the specifically Christian side of things, marriage between men and women is meant to reflect the self-giving and lavish love that Christ has for his Church.
I do have another argument, unrelated to religion, that I think makes a good point. So let me ask again: What is marriage and why does the government regulate it? I have an answer, largely following Sherif Gergis and Ryan T. Anderson, that marriage is different to other human relationships and living arrangements.
Marriage is a comprehensive union of a man and a woman in an exclusive life-long relationship. In terms of content, marriage is a union of the will by consent , of the body by sexual intimacy , ordered towards procreation and the broad sharing of family for the wider community. In other words, marriage is about partnership, procreation, and the promotion of the family.
And because marriage normally results in family, and families are the building blocks of society, that is why government takes an interest in the legislature and licensing of marriage.
I am aware that there are various types of relationships between people, friendships, bonds of fraternity, partnerships, romances, some related to sexual intimacy, and they are deeply meaningful for people. I would not for a minute want to disparage the wide variety of friendships and relationships that people have outside of traditional marriage. My point is that a marriage between men and women is unique as there are things true of it that are not true of other relationships, the natural formation of a family being an obvious one.
While governments can legislate to protect the rights of same-sex partners, de facto relationships, and so forth, marriage will always remain unique as a comprehensive union of a man and woman. Nobody thinks that issuing a marriage license is contingent upon producing off-spring within a couple of years or else your marriage license gets cancelled.
Couples can be infertile or simply choose not to have children. However, since marriage is about a loving relationship and typified by sexual expression, it is fit for and oriented towards the creation of family, and family is the building block of society. That is true of traditional marriage but not true of same-sex relationships. The Consequences If Same-Sex Marriage is Legislated To be brutally honest, if same-sex marriage is legalised, my own marriage will not suddenly fall apart in an apocalyptic blaze of gay pride.
That said, I can definitely see some very negative consequences down the road. First, if same-sex marriage is legalised, then it means that you can take any relationship you like, stick a ring on it, and demand that people recognise it as marriage. The main thing driving same-sex marriage is a strong belief in personal autonomy and the intent to establish the equality of relationships analogous to traditional marriage before the law. The principal argument is: I want to be married to this person, so law and conventions be damned, start calling it a marriage!
If we legalise same-sex marriage then the only arguments against incestuous marriages or polyamorous marriages will be aesthetic rather than legal. So, can anyone tell me where the cut-off point is for marriage? Moreover, the logic of equal recognition and radical choice [in same sex marriage] means that the boundaries of any new definition will be far more vulnerable. Challenges to its exclusivity, its permanence and even its sexual nature will be unavoidable.
Marriage risks becoming any formalised domestic arrangement between any number of people for any length of time. On such a trajectory, marriage will eventually unravel altogether. If marriage is redefined, then what marriage is or can be will inevitably change as well.
Second, I think we have to seriously look at negative implications as well for religious freedom. If same-sex marriage is legislated, then people of faith, including houses of worship, faith-based charities and schools, will inevitably face litigation, prosecution, and other punitive actions for their beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
The religious charities sector do great work domestically working with refugees, the homeless, in aged care, drug rehabilitation, and facilitate several foreign aid programs too. In addition, religious schools take pressure off the state school system and make private education affordable to groups of people who otherwise would never be able to aspire to it. We are already seeing in Australia political policies and proposed legislation to force faith-based charities and schools to abandon their hiring restrictions and to change their views of sexuality and marriage, under the threat of litigation, prosecution, and the cancellation of state funding.
Conclusion I want my LGBTI friends to understand that when it comes to social equality, a fair go for everyone, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, I can proudly walk with you in the way.
But when it comes to same-sex marriage, we have come to a fork in the road, and I cannot join in your journey. For in the precincts of my own conscience, I am not able to affirm same-sex marriage for the reasons given above. I am not convinced it is marriage and I am convinced that the consequences of redefining marriage will be socially injurious in the long term. While I earnestly believe in legal rights and protections for same-sex couples, I remain unpersuaded on the case for same-sex marriage on the whole.
If you want to understand me then know this: I see in the marriage debate one of the enduring structures of human existence being thrown onto the pyre of human desire.
Of course, if worse comes to worse, and mobs of progressive activists pursue me with pitchforks for my heresy, I can always seek refuge in that alternate reality.
At least they know me there!