Thanks for the Reminders
Well, I did it. I wasn’t going to, but with all those friendly reminders, how could I not? I filled out the Government’s marriage survey (which closes today, by the way).
I don’t know whether it was someone forwarding me a letter by Jim Wallace that was the final straw, or the assumption that because I am a Christian I would automatically share the same views as my Christian family members. Or maybe it was that I’ve been marking all week and one of the topics for the assignment was gay marriage.
I’m pretty ambivalent about the institution of marriage to start with. Not my own marriage, mind—given my time over again, I would absolutely make the same choice—but the institution as a whole. You see, I’ve seen too many bad marriages; bad marriages where people turned a blind eye to inequality and abuse because it was a marriage. Many pockets within the Church hold views of marriage and gender that, when they come together, enable a blind eye to be turned to bad relationships. These views don’t create much problem where the relationship is strong and loving, and each partner puts the other first, but they can certainly cause problems when difficulties arise in the relationship, or the social or financial circumstances change and one partner considers themself to have a God-given right to be head of the household. I’ve also seen strong, loving, and equal relationships, not all of which have been legally recognised as marriage in Australia.
I don’t hold that enabling same-sex marriage will devalue marriage. I devalue my own marriage when I don’t consistently love my partner; when I don’t consider his needs when making choices; when I put other activities and priorities ahead of our relationship and spending time together. The Church has devalued marriage for centuries: when it has required people to make their vows before God even though they have no personal faith; when it has sanctioned marriage that equates to little more than a property transaction (Who gives this woman to be married?); when it turns a blind eye to inequality and abuse in a relationship because the couple are married and marriage is “sacred”. Our society devalues marriage when it allows a situation where the time and financial pressures of work and living increase to such an extent that couples and families are under constant strain and don’t have adequate time to spend relaxing together; and when it cuts funding for social services such as counselling and mental health. So, don’t tell me that letting loving, same-sex couples marry will devalue marriage.
Of all the arguments that I have seen against same-sex marriage that are supposedly based on religious principles, this one from the Australian Marriage Forum is perhaps the one that really gets to me:
The task of this forum is to engage the public in a more mature debate than the gay lobby’s adult-centred narcissism of “feeling the love”. A debate on “equal love” misses the point if it does not also consider the ”equal love” a child needs and deserves from both a mother and a father. To normalise ‘marriage’ without a woman is to normalise ‘families’ without a mother – and that is the central offense of same-sex marriage.
I’m reading quite a lot between the lines here, but my experience leads me to read this as coming out of a cult of motherhood within more conservative branches of the Church that is used to maintain and justify the lower position of women. It runs along the line that men and women are equal but different and that each has appropriate roles that are equally valued. Interesting, though, that the appropriate roles for men are the ones that are socially valued, and the ones that are appropriate for women usually lead to them having less social influence.
In fairness, the AMF does mention fathers a few paragraphs later, but it really seems to be a bit of an afterthought, maybe trying to cover themselves against women deciding to be single parents?
This forum will think beyond the adult-centred arguments of ‘feeling the love’ and think from the child’s perspective as well. We must consider the primal harm we would do to children if we validate a model of marriage & family where a child is compelled to live without a mother or without a father.
I’ll believe that one when conservative Christians start voting for parties that legislate and enforce sensible maximum working hours for people on salaries as well as wages.
So, from my perverse reading of this document, it isn’t the idea of same-sex marriage that worries them so much, as the fact that same-sex marriage might lead to equality for women. And we can’t have that now, can we!