A bigot is someone who refuses to see the other point of view. A number of columnists in Australian newspapers have smeared opponents of gay marriage as bigots, yet by and large they refuse to see the other point of view -- and that means the point of view of the child.
"Marriage is fundamentally about the needs of children", writes David Blankenhorn, a supporter of gay rights in the US who nevertheless draws the line at same-sex marriage. "Redefining marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would eliminate entirely in law, and weaken still further in culture, the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child."
Here is the heart of opposition to same-sex marriage: that it means same-sex parenting, and same-sex parenting means that a child must miss out on either a mother or a father.
Marriage is a compound right under Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is not only the right to an exclusive relationship, but the right to form a family. Therefore gay marriage includes the right to form a family by artificial reproduction. But any child created within that marriage would have no possibility of being raised by both mother and father.
Obviously there are tragic situations where a child cannot have both a mum and a dad, such as the death or desertion of a parent, but that is not a situation we would ever wish upon a child, and that is not a situation that any government should inflict upon a child.
Yet legalising same-sex marriage will inflict that deprivation on a child. That is why it is wrong, and that is why all laws are wrong that permit single people or same-sex couples to obtain a child by IVF, surrogacy, or adoption.
Australia’s Finance Minister, Penny Wong, recently announced that her lesbian partner is expecting an IVF child. She is an effective politician, but she can never be a dad to a little boy. She and her partner tell us they have created a baby who will have no father, only a mother and another woman. Their assertion is that a dad does not matter to a child.
As ethicist Margaret Somerville wrote in these pages, such assertions "force us to choose between giving priority to children's rights or to homosexual adults' claims." Yet trivial arguments frame the gay marriage debate solely in terms of the emotional needs of adults, ignoring the child's point of view.
Such adult-centred narcissism raises the wider question: if gender no longer matters in marriage, why should number? If marriage is all about adults who love each other, by what rational principle should three adults who love each other not be allowed to marry? Academic defenders of polyamory are asking that question, and no doubt critics will soon be slurring opponents of polyamory as binary bigots.
Warm and fuzzy images of gay couples leave no room for imagining possible harm to society from gay marriage. However the serious minds behind the movement occasionally let us glimpse their wider purpose. US activist Michelangelo Signorile urges gays "to fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely." He sees same-sex marriage as "the final tool with which to get education about homosexuality and AIDS into public schools."
Sure enough, we now have empirical evidence that normalising gay marriage means normalising homosexual behaviour for public school children.
Following the November 2003 court decision in Massachusetts to legalise gay marriage, school libraries were required to stock same-sex literature; primary school children were given homosexual fairy stories such as King & King; some high school students were even given an explicit manual of homosexual advocacy entitled The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century, which the Massachusetts Department of Health helped develop. Education had to comply with the new normal.
Beyond the confusion and corruption of schoolchildren, the cultural consequences of legalising same-sex marriage include the stifling of conscientious freedom. Again in Massachusetts, when adoption agency Catholic Charities was told it would have to place children equally with married homosexuals, it had to close. As Canadian QC and lesbian activist Barbara Findlay said, "The legal struggle for queer rights will one day be a showdown between freedom of religion versus sexual orientation".
Blankenhorn has warned, "Once this proposed reform became law, even to say the words out loud in public – ‘every child needs a father and a mother’ -- would probably be viewed as explicitly divisive and discriminatory, possibly even as hate speech."
The Australian parliament must say these words out loud, because they are bedrock sanity. It must accept that the deep things of human nature are beyond the authority of any political party to tamper with.
Marriage is not a fad to be cut to shape according to social whim. The father of modern anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss, called marriage "a social institution with a biological foundation." Marriage throughout history is society's effort to reinforce this biological reality: male, female, offspring. All our ceremonies and laws exist to buttress nature helping bind a man to his mate for the sake of the child they might create.
Not all marriages do create children but typically they do, and the institution exists for the typical case of marriage. Homosexual relationships cannot create children or provide a child with natural role models. Such relationships are important to the individuals involved, and demand neighbourly civility, but they do not meet nature's job description for marriage.
Homosexual couples now enjoy equality with male-female couples in every way short of marriage. It must stop short of marriage, because the demands of adults must end where the birthright of a child begins. Marriage and family formation are about something much deeper than civil equality; they are about a natural reality which society did not create and which only a decadent party such as the Australian Greens, so out of touch with nature, would seek to destroy.
Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba general practitioner and a spokesman for the Family Council of Queensland. A version of this article was first published in The Australian 29/8/11.