I've been Marriage Celebrant for over two decades. I've also been married for nearly three decades. I understand about marriage - both legally, and emotionally. When I hear the 'arguments' put forward for redefining marriage I find it frustrating that what is often just sound-bites and slogans goes almost completely unchallenged by those in the media. Here's some things that most in Media do not know about marriage.
WHAT PROPONENTS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE WANT. . .
Proponents of Same Sex Marriage (“SSM”) are passionate about equality, tolerance and respect for all people. They are deeply hurt by the attitudes of others who are too often unkind toward them. Sometimes those who defend the institution of marriage as exclusively being the union of a man and woman, do so in an ungracious and aggressive manner.
Legislatively redefining marriage to encompass same-sex couples is also a powerful statement that is hoped to bring a sense of validation and endorsement to those who currently feel deprived of this. In this sense, SSM is as much a statement of our society’s value of equality, tolerance, fairness, non-discrimination, and inclusiveness. In fact, arguably, this is actually what SSM is fundamentally about. And because any decent, civilised society is so – because those values are at their core – it sounds hateful, intolerant, and bigoted, if anyone in that society opposes this highly symbolic legislative statement!
THE INTENT OF MARRIAGE. . . But the Institution of Marriage was never intended to be a symbolic ambassador for any political agenda. Neither was it meant to be a government’s – or even a society’s – endorsement of a couple. The government has no interest in its citizens’ various social partnerships – none! You can form a partnership with a fishing buddy, a tennis doubles partner, a car-pooling colleague, and the government has no interest. But when two people intend to form an exclusive, life-long union with the aim of having and/or raising children, the government and society has learned that it must take an interest. This type of union must have individuals (not couples, for the Marriage Act can only apply to individuals) comply with the Act’s five criteria in order for the marriage to proceed (The five criteria necessary for proceeding with a marriage are summed up in the acronym, GRAPE -Gender, Relationship, Age, Person, Eligibility). This interest is designed to protect those who are historically the most vulnerable to abuse – women and children – and this is one of the two reasons why Governments have any interest in regulating marriage in the first place. And in doing so, Legislators did not have to define marriage – they simply describedit and reflected what is the case in reality, that as a group, as a rule, and by nature, it requires the literal wedding (a biological term – not a ceremonial term) of a man and a woman for a child to result. And all the social data states that a child is raised best when raised in a loving home by their married mother and father (cf. Children In Three Contexts in the Journal: Australian Children Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 23–31).
THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE. . . An essential social ingredient in this parenting union has long been observed: that this union provide that highest form of emotional security for each other and their children whom they birth and raise. This union derives its maximum effectiveness when the individuals entering into the marriage union do so voluntarily, to the exclusion of all others, for life, with a view to having and/or raising their children. This is not so much the definition of marriage as it is the description of marriage. Thus, marriage does not submit to redefinition – in much the same way that a shape doesn’t either. A circle is not a circle because it has been defined that way. Things like circles are best described rather than vainly attempting to arbitrarily define them. Any effort to redefine what a circle should now be is completely disregarded by the circle. Marriage is something. It does not invite redefining.
CONCERNS INDIVIDUALS NOT COUPLES. . . Marriage doesn’t grant anything to couples – rather, it requires something of individualsand these requirements are applied equally, fairly, and justly, to every individual (irregardless of gender or orientation). Marriage is not the privilege granted to lovers. Two individuals can love each other without the regulatory consent of Government. In fact, there is no mention of love being a pre-requisite for marriage in the Marriage Act (although love is usually the vowed subsequent responsibility of those who marry). The idea that just because two people love each other they should be allowed to marry and similarly to forbid them this “right”, is to “treat certain people unfairly” is a furphy of enormous magnitude – because this is neither the criteria now, nor even the existing rightof a man and woman who do. This argument for SSM is a classic ‘Straw-man’ argument.
We want everyone in our society to be treated fairly, equally, and appropriately and not to be subjected to hate or spiteful intolerance. But politicising marriage and treating it as political tokenism is not the means to this end. We do not need to endorse the politicising of marriage in this way for these values to be demonstrated in our society.