A remarkable editorial, below, from The Australian today, showing the dramatic change - for no apparent reason other than the power of PR - in assumptions concerning the desirability of same-sex marriage.
Thoroughly modern marriage
The Australian, 20th August 2013, editorial
BRIAN Greig, the first self-declared homosexual in federal parliament, claimed that in 10 years as an activist he had not met a lesbian or gay person who wanted gay marriage.
"My experience is that the vast majority of gay and lesbian citizens do not support the notion of marriage as it currently stands," Mr Greig, then a senator, said in December 1999. "They see it as a very heterosexual and outdated institution that should be modified and not copied." In the pages of The Australian, the phrase "gay marriage" cropped up once every two months on average between 1996 and 2002; in the past three years it has been appearing almost daily. When the idea was floated by the then governor-general Bill Hayden in 1996 it was regarded as curious. The Age editorialised against it and prime minister Paul Keating told cabinet that two gays and a cocker spaniel did not a family make.
Tony Abbott is therefore on solid ground in categorising gay marriage arguments as fashionable. Its adoption as a universal moral imperative is a recent twist to the civic conversation. There can be no tolerance for discrimination on the grounds of any lawful sexual preference. The Australian fought strongly for equal legal entitlements, such as transferable superannuation, for same-sex partners. Yet marriage is not a right; it is among other things a contractual set of obligations attached to the raising of a family. The Australian is agnostic about extending the Marriage Act to incorporate same-sex couples. Encouraging stable relationships is good public policy. Yet it would be reckless to shout down concerns about the status of biological parenthood. Same-sex couples can make loving, principled parents and biological parents can be very poor at raising children. A society in which a biological mother's or father's relationship with a child was not regarded as a bond worth preserving when humanly possible would be a troubling world for many.
We must be cautious too of elevating the sensitivities of one minority group above those of others. Same-sex marriage is not easily embraced by Islamic and other non-Western cultures where loyalty to family and tradition trump Western notions of liberties and rights. Dogma sits awkwardly with pluralism, since a moral argument implies that counter arguments are immoral or amoral. Respect for those who come to different views should never fall out of fashion.
Dennis Altman in The Australian, March 1, 1997: THE heated debate in the United States over "gay marriages" has been less relevant here, where most gay organisations seem more interested in winning legal equality for relationships without necessarily demanding the religious sanction of marriage.
Martyn Goddard in The Australian, April 3, 1996: NEITHER side supports gay marriages - but nor do most gay people, for whom such marriages represent an inappropriate and rather tacky imitation of someone else's custom.
Senator Brian Greig in parliament, December 9, 1999: I WOULD also make the point that, in my 10 years as an advocate and an activist with Australia's gay and lesbian community, I have never met one lesbian or gay person who wants gay marriage. In fact, my experience is that the vast majority of gay and lesbian citizens do not support the notion of marriage as it currently stands because they see it as a very heterosexual and outdated institution that should be modified and not copied.
Not to forget "progressive" opinion, even in the Age:
The Age editorialises, June 23, 1995: THIS newspaper does not agree with some of the views expressed by Mr Hayden. We have argued against allowing same-sex couples the right to adopt children, for example. Indeed, it is likely that Mr Hayden's views are out of step with those of most Australians on this issue. Nor do we agree with him on same-sex marriages.
Perhaps the turnabout from disdaining to embracing same-sex marriage occurred when the serious strategists in the homosexual rights movement realised that laws to normalise same-sex marriage would achieve the cultural goal of normalising homosexual behaviour - especially in the school curriculum - with the full force of anti-discrimination law. Further, strategists knew that laws for SSM would be the big legal stick to beat churches and conscientious critics of homosexual behaviour into submission.
Yes, there is reason to ponder exactly what has motivated gay lobbyists over the last 15 years moving from rejection of marriage as "repressive and out-dated" to demanding it as a "human right"...