Why Marriage is a Hetero Thing

by Tim Cannon, Spokesperson for The Australian Marriage Forum

As first seen in 'The Punch'

What with New York legislating same-sex marriage, and Labor state conferences toppling like dominos, it appears that same-sex marriage activists have adopted a new tack: “momentum rhetoric”.

We mustn't comb over the big issues.

The most blatant momentum rhetoric sprang up around the recent Galaxy Poll, wherein 75 per cent of respondents agreed that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia.

It was an odd poll - more Nostradamus than Aquinas - on what really is a complicated political and moral issue. No engagement with the issue itself, just speculation as to where we might end up.

Then again, perhaps the poll sits comfortably with a debate in which two sides spend a great deal of time arguing about completely different things.

For same-sex marriage advocates, it’s about equality. Or as Senthorun Raj put it with crystalline clarity yesterday: “Marriage equality is an issue about respect and visibility.”

Activists like Raj want to use marriage law to achieve the social and cultural objective of increasing respect and visibility for men and women who identify as homosexual.

As far as the objective goes, Raj is unlikely to court much opposition. He certainly won’t get any from me: I too believe that respect and visibility must be accorded to all members of society, without regard to gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc.

What concerns me is the means that Raj and others are advocating for achieving this outcome, namely, the radical modification of the institution of marriage.

This is why those on my side of the debate tend to focus our argument on the institution itself: why it is the way it is, and why changing it is a bad idea.

And so while the recent momentum rhetoric is all clinking champagne glasses and anticipatory excitement, allow me to offer a glass of cold water to the face, and a snap back to the reality of the institution we call marriage.

But first, an analogy. There is a scene in the 2003 Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty, in which Carrey’s character, in a bid to woo the girl of his dreams, decides to use his (temporarily acquired) divine omnipotence to drag the moon a little closer to the balcony on which he is undertaking said wooing.

All goes to plan. By the dazzling light of a closer, brighter moon, romance is mightily enhanced, and the woo-ee robustly woo-ed. Happy ending, right?

Not quite: there are other consequences too. Massive tidal disruptions ensue around the globe. Thousands are washed away. Homes are ruined. All to be expected when you tinker with the moon.

See, the moon may well have formidable romance-enhancing capabilities, but it also performs a whole lot of other far more important functions. Meddle with it to enhance romance, and everything else gets out of whack.

We take a similar approach on marriage.

For although redefining marriage may enhance visibility and respect for those who identify as gay or lesbian, the primary function of the institution of marriage is not to enhance visibility and respect for those who enter into it. Using marriage as a means to that secondary end - and modifying the institution in the process - seems a frightfully reckless manner of proceeding.

I have said that “enhancing visibility and respect” is not the primary function of marriage, and a closer look at the institution itself supports such a conclusion.

According to section 46 of the Marriage Act, marriage is a “solemn and binding” institution. It is meant to bind two people, by force of public law, in a permanent relationship.

Why should the law bind two people so? To enhance their visibility and respect in the community? Not likely. Rather than enhance the status of the couple, marriage seems rather to place them in a position of lifelong subservience, both to one another and to the state.

As they say, you get less for murder.

No, the only conceivable reason for binding two people in a lifelong union is because marriage anticipates procreation.

Activists deny this. But why else would Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirm a compound right “to marry and to found a family”? Why not have two separate rights, if marriage is not about procreation?

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights unequivocally supports the conflation of marriage and procreation. In its General Comment (no. 19) on Article 23, the Commission states: “The right to found a family implies, in principle, the possibility to procreate and live together” (at par 5). All of this is bound up in the one right, under Article 23, “to marry and to found a family”.

But it doesn’t take a human rights commissioner to figure out that it is by reason of the inherent baby-making character of heterosexual unions that the state encourages permanence in those unions.

At the same time, there is no reason to suggest that the permanent quality of marriage accords the couple any special status. Rather the permanence of the union is directed towards pre-emptively safeguarding the interests of any children that the marriage may (or may not) produce.

Marriage is the state’s best and only direct means of trying to ensure that children are born into a family where they are raised by their own flesh and blood; their own mother and father. And to quote a 2009 Galaxy Poll, 86 per cent of Australians believe that children should, wherever possible, be raised by their own biological mother and father.

See, every child that has ever existed had both a mum and a dad. Marriage is how the state imposes upon the spouses an obligation to see their responsibility to their progeny through. This is the sine qua non of a flourishing civilisation: in-tact families taking their responsibility to care for one another seriously.

In a world of increasingly casual, fragmented and confused relationships, the institution of marriage still says to the community: when it comes to the life-generating heterosexual union, permanence is vital.

But same-sex marriage advocates don’t want marriage to propagate that message anymore. As far as they are concerned, marriage is a tool for enhancing the status of same-sex couples; a means to an end.

And yet even as activists demand fundamental alterations to the institution of marriage, it is the intact biological family, headed by a mum and a dad in a permanent union with one another, which continues to be the foundational unit and fundamental building block of society. Always has been, always will be.

That’s the story of our species, whether it is reflected in our legal and social institutions or not.

Share Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Follow us Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

Comments are closed.