December 11, 2017

Stuck between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the marriage plebiscite debate

Sydney writer and mum Marilyn Rodrigues describes her struggle with the marriage plebiscite. PHOTO: Alexander Mils

Like pretty much everyone else in this country I’m being asked, by government survey and by friends, for my opinion on whether the legal definition of marriage should be changed to accommodate same-sex couples.

Try as I might, I cannot reconcile these two things: firstly, my deep desire that the law affirm and protect the biological family based upon marriage between a man and woman, because I believe that it is the most awesome and important thing that we share as a human race; and secondly, my equal desire that same-sex couples, in particular, who are doing their best to raise young children are affirmed and supported in such a way that they actually feel affirmed and supported.

Everyone should feel able to commit to loving relationships in the way they choose because love and freedom is what every human needs in order to thrive. But to people who would choose to marry their same-sex partner, I have to say (for a few serious reasons, which are well-documented elsewhere) that I don’t believe marriage should be re-defined to accommodate them.

How does that work?

What if one of our kids comes to us one day as an adult and says he or she wants to marry a same-sex partner? What will we do, and say, then?

I can’t reconcile any of this in my own mind in a totally satisfactorily way. If I believed in astrology I could just put it down to being Libran (those scales forever kept in the balance, symbolising empathy for both sides and desire for fairness and peace) and leave it at that.

But I’m a Catholic, and being Catholic is deeply wonderful but much of it is dirty and fierce work; fighting for justice for the most vulnerable, seeking out and testifying to the truth, and struggling with ourselves, like Jacob wrestling in the dark with the angel until he received God’s blessing.

PHOTO: Tom Pumford

I’ve been wrestling over this for weeks of reading, listening, and then turning things over night after night, out loud to my husband: How have things got so bad that we find ourselves in what seems to be a confusing, and distressing moment in history for everyone, inside and outside the Church? Am I too set in my own beliefs to see outside them? Am I being fair to non-Christians? Am I being a responsible Catholic? If I’m being a person of integrity by voting according to my conscience why do I still feel so fractured by this? What can I do to help in this situation, without inadvertently causing hurt to someone else? Am I doomed to be a fence-sitter?

I can’t stand the pain, the bile and the lies, and dislike the politicking that daily pours out of the media over this issue. I worry about the damage to young people on both sides of this debate who feel slapped in the face by the opposing campaign and put on the defensive for what they believe and experience.

Everyone wants to be on the right side of history – but some days it seems like history is the truck stuck in the mud in one of my kids’ picture books; wheels spinning and getting nowhere while everyone is splattered with muck.

Then I remembered something while in the chapel at my kids’ school the other day. I will never be able to reconcile this tragic mess of competing needs and creeds and misunderstandings we have got ourselves into and that all our kids are being dragged into.

Who can figure a way out of it which is perfectly just to everyone now, as well as to future generations? None of us can, though we should try.

Jesus Christ is the Reconciler; the son of a Father who is all love and knows the cry of every heart that is wounded because of love. His is the face of love, the face of understanding. Understanding – to have insight, empathy, to judge things correctly. It comes from the root Old English word ‘nter’, which meant to be between, among, or very close to.

Jesus deeply understands every person who has a stake in this current debate, which is everyone. He once stood – not on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side of history – but firmly at the centre of it, and cried out, “Come to me, ALL you who labour and are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest.”

He is finally the one I take all of my complaints to, and I find my conscience finally set at ease. As a Catholic woman, and just as a person with all of the experiences and intelligence and conviction that I have, I must simply vote ‘No’. For others it is different.

And now there is no more efficacious thing I can do for anyone but daily upturn my poor face to his face, and beg mercy for us all.

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