There are a number of reasons why many Australians are against same sex marriage – ranging from religious beliefs to secular arguments and the fact, ignored by those pushing the ‘yes’ vote, that there are those within the LGBTQI community not interested in marriage as they prefer a less restrictive lifestyle.
Listen to those advocating same-sex marriage and the overwhelming impression is that the LGBTQI community fully supports the proposed change. The public is told again and again that gays and lesbians, in particular, are clamouring to validate their relationships by being entitled to marry in the same way heterosexual couples are.
The ALP’s Bill Shorten and Penny Wong as well as Liberal gay activists like Tim Wilson base much of their argument in favour of same sex marriage on the assumption that it is widely accepted by the gay and lesbian community.
Not true as the evidence suggests there are many within the LGBTQI community who are either opposed to getting married or do not see it as beneficial or worthwhile. Jessica Merritt on Sydney’s Heaps Gay website describes the push for same sex marriage as “myopic” and argues “Equality isn’t an issue that the community itself is united on”.
Drawing on the publication Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage Merritt notes many LGBTQI people oppose same sex marriage as it is “essentially conservative” and that it represents an “unnecessary validation of a relationship that is authentic in its own right”.
Merritt also notes that those in a same sex relationship are already protected under Australia’s civil law and that the debate about same sex marriage has been high jacked by “self-appointed leaders” guilty of imposing “heteronormative equivalency” on the LGBTQI community.
Two national surveys, Private Lives A Report on the Health and Wellbeing of GLBTI Australians and Monopoly, Monopoly? Polygamy? A Study of Gay Men’s Relationships 2014 provides additional evidence that not all within the LGBTQI community want to be married.
The first survey notes “Only a very small percentage of men and women (between 5-10%) reported formalising the relationship with a marriage or commitment ceremony, while most others had no wish to do so”.
The second survey, dealing principally with gay men, concludes “Few men had experienced any public relationship ceremony, and only a minority expressed a clear interest in marrying their primary regular partner”.
And contrary to the arguments put by the same sex marriage lobby that there are a multitude of Australians who are gay and lesbian a national survey carried out by La Trobe University puts the figure at less than 2% with 98% of Australians identifying as heterosexual.
Those advocating a change to the marriage act to include same sex couples, in addition to ignoring the fact that many within the LGBTQI community are happy to lead a more open and promiscuous lifestyle, ignore the true meaning of marriage.
Not surprisingly, as marriage between a women and man is one of the foundation stones of Western culture, the Shorter Oxford dictionary defines marriage as “the action, or an act, of marrying: the ceremony by which two persons are made husband and wife”.
The dictionary also describes a wedding as becoming “the husband or wife of (a person) by participating in a prescribed ceremony or formal act”. For hundreds of years across all the major religions and cultures the reality is that marriage has always involved a man and a woman.
The fact that marriage involves a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation where children, overwhelmingly, are raised by their biological parents also suggests that while gay and lesbian couples can have a loving and sincere relationship their union is not a marriage as defined.
No amount of wishful thinking can deny the reality is that conceiving a child requires a man and a woman and that explains why gay and lesbian couples have to rely on a third person if they are to have a child.
As argued by the American College of Pediatricians, “human sexuality is an objective biological trait” and “Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species”. Something that gay and lesbian couples are unable to achieve.
And it should be noted that while gays and lesbians are not able to be married they receive the same rights as de-facto couples in terms of superannuation and other financial and legal affairs. It’s also true that long gone are the days when gays and lesbians suffered injustice and were discriminated against.
Events like the AFL’s Gay Pride match, the number of corporations advocating gay and lesbian rights such as Qantas and the major banks and the prevalence of gay and lesbian relationships in mainstream movies and TV shows how society is now more tolerant and open.
As argued by Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Anthony Fisher, there is also the real and present danger that if same sex marriage is legalised then religious organisations and individuals committed to the Church’s teaching will suffer discrimination and injustice.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of the Culture of Freedom.