A mortal threat to marriage

Same sex marriage can only succeed in a society where traditional marriage is already weak.
Michael Cook | 6 December 2011
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Saturday, December 3, was a landmark day for Australia’s gays and lesbians. The nation moved a big step closer to the legalisation of same sex marriage. Delegates to the Australian Labor Party’s annual conference voted resoundingly to make gay marriage a plank in the party platform.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had publicly opposed this, was politically humiliated, but managed to salvage some of her authority by allowing a conscience vote when it comes before Federal Parliament early next year. Although the ALP is the governing party, with the support of the Greens, the passage of a bill to “amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life” is far from certain. But the vote will be close.

Marriage law is a Federal matter in Australia. The best that the states can do is to legalise civil unions. But the homosexual lobby will not settle for anything less than “full equality”. It craves the social recognition that marriage confers. As Peter Tatchell, a Melbourne-born UK gay rights advocate, says on the Marriage Equality website:

“Marriage is the internationally recognised system of relationship recognition. It is the global language of love. When we were young, most of us dreamed of one day getting married. We didn’t dream about having a civil partnership.”

“The global language of love.” That could have been a song from the 60s. In fact, what sympathetic politicians have in mind when they link the word “gay” to “marriage” is the syrupy hit by the Dixie Cups, “Going to the Chapel”:

Goin' to the chapel and we're
Gonna get married
Goin' to the chapel and we're
Gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we're
Gonna get married
Goin' to the chapel of love

Bells will ring
The sun will shine
(whoa-whoa-whoa)
I'll be his and
He'll be mine
We'll love until
The end of time
And we'll never be lonely anymore. 

“We’ll never be lonely anymore” – if only. Top of the pops are seldom good relationships handbooks.

What sort of recognition are gays and lesbians seeking to acquire through marriage? Let’s start with the amended 1961 Marriage Act: “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” Thus marriage is a legally recognised, monogamous and heterosexual, and permanent union. No purpose is mentioned, but the common understanding (until fairly recently) was that that marriage is intrinsically connected with procreation.

The rewards of marriage flow from fulfilling these defining features. In an admirable marriage the partners are faithful to each other for their whole life. In an admirable marriage the commitment is permanent for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. In an admirable marriage new life comes into the world through the mutual love of the spouses. The virtues which give traditional marriage its well-deserved prestige are fidelity, fortitude and fruitfulness.  

But legalised same sex marriage in a legal system where adultery is a crime and divorce is banned is inconceivable. In fact, the reason why same-sex marriage has become conceivable is that the prestige of heterosexual marriage has sunk so low that anyone can take it on. As Amanda Vanstone, a former minister in the Liberal (conservative) Howard government put it, “It is not convincing. It is a triumph of hope over reality. Marriage long ago stopped being to the exclusion of all others and for life. If we don't care about those two elements being disregarded by so many, why should we care about the ‘between a man and a woman’ part?”

In other words, the currency has become so debased that paupers can pretend they are millionaires. It’s all just make-believe.

What gays and lesbians want is marriage lite, not real marriage. This confers the right to do karaoke versions of  “Going to the Chapel of Love” in public, but little more. Divorce is an ever-present possibility, fidelity is unnecessary and children are optional. Big deal.

What compelling reason is there for the state to support such an impoverished institution? Traditional marriages nurture children, who are the future of society and deserve protection. But why should the state get in the business of supporting what is little more than friendship with benefits?

Marriage is in a terrible state in our society. More and more couples are cohabiting; nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; children are treated as optional extras; extra-marital affairs are common; pornography is a scourge.

The absurdity is that gays and lesbians don’t regard this as a disaster at all. In their eyes these are precisely the conditions which make same-sex marriage an attractive option.

The whole thing has an alarming similarity to the Euro crisis. Basket cases like Greece joined the Eurozone in the hope of modernising their economies. Instead they are sucking strong economies dry and have brought the Euro to the brink of collapse. Same-sex marriage threatens to do the same thing to the global language of love.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

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