The gay marriage debate is about to become dinner table conversation in Australia. I’m not pleased and I won’t stop arguing a case. Yet, thinking this through, the weight of social pressure is heavily against those who see wisdom in holding to a traditional understanding of marriage in this lucky country of ours.
There are already a proliferation of articles doing the rounds of Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to add another lengthy argument but I do want to share six initial thoughts. I hope they are helpful for us all as the conversation continues.
1. Disagreeing is different to hating or bigotry. This is an important distinction that we must all hold to – no matter what side you are on – as gay marriage becomes even more a prominent part of our national discourse. While I disagree with one of my staff on the best NRL team. I don’t hate him or his team. Similarly, whilst I disagree with many people on the issue of gay marriage. I don’t hate those who disagree with me and I don’t hate the LGBTIQ community. I fear that we’ve forgotten how to disagree, and instead we’ve rushed to assume bigotry rather than actually try to listen and understand each other. The more listening and understanding we do on this issue the better.
2. People who hold a view sincerely can be sincerely wrong. This includes me. This includes you. Sincerity is not a measure of truth. Neither is the passion with which one holds a view. Matters such as gay marriage must not be decided based on how sincerely people want to be married or how sincerely others don’t want to allow it.
3. Emotional hurt is no reason to say yes. People can be hurt concerning all manner of things, but it must never be a determining factor in decision making. While emotions are useful for helping us express opinions and understand ourselves, they’re not always useful in determining what is right. For example, my doctor doesn’t let me off the hook from a tetanus injection because I am crying. I realise that some people want to be married and the law does not allow it yet. I know many may be grieved by this. Yet, we need to remember that people have been hurt by being unable to be married for generations. Singleness is but one cause of sadness with respect to marriage and yet we have never acted to fix this.
4. Marriage is a thing. Marriage is not like playdough that can be moulded into anything you want it to be. Marriage is. Just like a man is or a woman is or a child is, marriage is. What this means is that any proposed change will actually damage or destroy marriage as we know it. The importance of this is that, for many people who are married, this move changes the nature of what they have entered into and what it actually is.
5. Marriage has a purpose. Its distinct purpose is to bring together a man and a woman in unity such that from their union might come more people. A theological purpose can be added to this (for those who think theology matters) – that it might reflect the relationship and union between Jesus Christ and his people, the church. If marriage is changed in the way proposed, the purpose for which it was instituted will be lost and its purpose will become something entirely different.
6. Marriage equality is a misnomer. A clever and emotive one, but a misnomer nonetheless. By allowing gay marriage, Australia would not actually be embracing equal marriages or, even, equal access to marriage. Instead, it would be embracing a revised and diverse marriage. This issue is not really about giving equal access to marriage, it is about revising marriage so more people can be included. Moreover, as there is no talk of polygyny, polyandry or group marriage and there are still restrictions on age for marriage. Even if gay marriage is passed, we will still have marriage inequality.
So there are six initial thoughts that I hope promote some conversation around your table.
At the end of the day, I would love to see our government lead the way in the world by labeling gay marriage in some new and creative way. Leave marriage as it is and create something brand new that people can sign up for. Surely this has to be an acceptable solution for us all?