The debate over same-sex marriage is about the function and purpose of the law in relation to marriage and not a discussion that goes to personal motivation and attitudes. We ought to deal fairly with every member of the human family and their needs, including people of homosexual orientation.
In the same spirit, ad hominem attacks on defenders of traditional marriage spiced by the use of pejoratives such a "homophobic" and "bigot" do not add to understanding of the issue. It is significant that everywhere the issue has been debated it begins on the issue of fairness and justice and with majority support but that soon changes when people realise that there are deeper issues involved. After their legislature experimented with same-sex marriage, the people of California voted against the revisionist concept of marriage.
The main claim in favour of changing the law in this way is that the current law unfairly singles out people who experience same-sex attraction not allowing them to have the same status as people who are married. It is important to note that the federal law in Australia has already been changed to give same-sex partners the same legal rights as those who are married and in an increasing number of states to register their unions.
The remaining issue therefore is the definition of marriage. Changing the law so that marriage includes same-sex unions would be a change to what marriage means. Currently marriage involves a comprehensive union between a man and a woman, and norms of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage has a place in the law because a relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of relationship that may produce children.
Marriage is linked to children, for the sake of children, protecting their identity and their nurture by a mother and a father.
The State would have no interest in the permanence and exclusivity of marriage if it were not the fact that marriage may produce children. Marriage protects the rights of children There are many variations of households that nurture children, including those that can only have occurred through the use of technology.
In all circumstances in which children are nurtured, the State has a parens patriae interest in the welfare of children. It is for that reason that the State is involved with legislating to ensure the identity and status of children. The law determines who are a child's parents in circumstances in which reproductive technology has created ambiguity by separating reproduction from the biological relationship between a man and a woman.
In the same way the State has an interest in marriage because the relationship between a man and a woman is capable of generating children. The State supports marriage because children may result from it. The State lacks a reason to legislate to promote relationships that do not produce children. The State has an interest in the exclusiveness and permanency of marriage because they are needed to protect the identity and status of any children who result from marriage, in the first instance, and to preserve their rights to know, to have access to and to be cared for by both a mother and father.
Altering the definition of marriage to include relationships that are not the kind of relationship to generate children removes the primary basis and justification for the State's interest in marriage.
If children happen to be in a same-sex household they will always have come from outside that relationship, either through an earlier relationship or through the use of some other biological parent and technology. In the case of a same-sex male household, that would be through someone else being the child's birth mother.
The law already operates to secure the relationship of that child to social parents. There is no direct relationship between a same-sex relationship and children, and those relationships are of no more interest to the law than any other kind of relationship. If the law were to be changed so that marriage included same-sex relationships, then marriage would no longer be about children. It would be about adults only. Marriage links a child to a mother and father Changing the definition of marriage would thus be a blow to parenthood generally, with the State withdrawing its interest in promoting the stability of parenthood.
It is interesting that when Victoria legislated to permit surrogacy, through the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act , it introduced the concept of "substitute parenthood" and the first casualty was fatherhood.
There are no fathers in the legislation, just mothers and parents. Everything turns on the woman who gives birth and her relationships and those whom she appoints to be the substitute parents. The significance of being a father to a child has been completely lost in the new law. Those who are most harmed by that are the children who no longer have a right to both a father and a mother, and their biological connectedness to a father no longer has any status in the law.
By declaring a legal equivalence between same-sex relationships and marriage, the revisionist approach would further bury the rights of children, because they would cease to be the focus of marriage. Marriage would be about adults only and, in that sense, self-serving for them.
The significance of the current legal concept of marriage is about securing the relationship of the child to both a mother and a father.
Marriage involves the couple committing to be parents together through their love for each other. If you take that out of the meaning of marriage it becomes just like any other relationship, of meaning to the couple, but of no direct relevance to anyone else. In redefining marriage, the law would teach that marriage is fundamentally about adults' emotional unions, not complementary bodily union or children, with which marital norms are tightly intertwined.
Since emotions can be variable, viewing marriage essentially as an emotional union would tend to increase marital instability.
It would also blur the distinction between marriage and friendship. Ordinary friendships are not always permanent and exclusive.
Emotional unions need not be either, and so the expectation of marriages to be permanent and exclusive will make less and less sense. Less able to understand the rationale for these marital norms, people would feel less bound to live by them. And less able to understand the value of marriage itself as a certain kind of union, even apart from the value of its emotional satisfactions, people would increasingly fail to see the intrinsic reasons they have for marrying or staying with a spouse when one's feelings for the other change.
In other words, a mistaken marriage policy would distort people's understanding of the kind of relationship that spouses are to form and sustain. And that is likely to erode people's adherence to marital norms of permanence and exclusivity that are essential to the common good because children need them. The State records marriage to ensure it is not taken lightly.
State involvement tests a couple's mutual consent to each other and to the purposes of their marriage. But this State involvement can only make sense if one of the purposes inherent in marriage is children. Through the State, society discourages marrying people from failing their obligations to each other, and hence to their children. Likewise, the State records the births of children, the deaths of their natural parents, and marital dissolution, all in the best interests of children.
Similarly, the State now tracks the complexities of assisted reproductive technology - the use of donors and surrogates - again for the sake of children. However, we think these technological practices fragment parenting. When a child gains a committee of parents, her origin and identity lose definition.
She is put at risk by practices that dissipate the security of relationship to her natural mother and father. Revising marriage at home and at school Marriage has been placed under strain through other social and legal developments.
Easy divorce for example has already worn down the ties that bind spouses to something beyond themselves and thus more securely to each other. Endorsing same-sex marriage would mean cutting some remaining but most important threads. The attraction of the marital norms is the deep if implicit connection in peoples' minds between marriage, bodily union, and children.
Enshrining the revisionist view would not just wear down but tear out this foundation, and with it any basis for reversing other recent trends and restoring the many social benefits of a healthy marriage culture. Because children fare best on most indicators of health and wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents, the further erosion of marital norms would adversely affect children, forcing the State to play a larger role in their health, education, and formation more generally.
As for adults, those in the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society would be hit the hardest by the weakening of marriage. Protecting and supporting marriage is an economic advantage in the rearing of children. Supporting marriage as a relationship between parents or potential parents is in the interests of the State. A factor to be considered is that if the concept of marriage is revised in the law so that it is no longer about relationships that may produce children, then our schools will be obliged to teach that revisionist concept.
It is one thing to say that the law has nothing to do with what two men or two women do in their private life, it is quite another to change the law to promote those relationships. If marriage is redefined, then that is what we are going to have to teach and affirm to our children and in our schools. Why should a minority lifestyle so influence curriculum? Why should teachers be prevented from teaching that marriage is primarily about children? Marriage is a union of difference The traditional concept of marriage is consistently found across cultures throughout history.
This is not to say matters such as customs and rituals have not changed over time. It is simply to say that marriage has always been understood in every society throughout recorded human history as being between a man and a woman. As a comprehensive union of spouses, marriage means a sharing of lives and resources, a union of minds and wills, and hence the requirement of consent for forming marriage. It also means something more as well: With one exception, a person is complete within themselves as to bodily organs and their functions: In other words, for any of these functions a person does not require a contribution from anyone else.
The one biological function for which individual adults are naturally incomplete is sexual reproduction. In sexual intercourse, but not in any other form of sexual contact, a man and a woman's bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. In this way they perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Their bodies become one by coordinating for the biological good of the whole, thereby securing future generations at the same time as they give unique expression to their love one for the other.
This way of viewing marriage has become less persuasive only because widespread contraception has masked the connection between marital sexual activity, and the rearing of children. That in turn conveys the impression that all modes of sexual expression seem equivalent.
But marriage remains deeply and uniquely orientated to bearing and rearing children. By contrast, two men or two women cannot achieve the same kind of union, since there is no child-oriented outcome or function toward which their bodies can coordinate. Same-sex partnerships lack any essential and natural orientation to children: A child's relationship to both mother and father is inherent to marriage.
Children conceived by other means may find themselves with people in parental roles who are in a same-sex relationship, but such relationships are not the origin of the child. It is possible for children to be nurtured in such a household, but however good that nurturing, it will not provide the biological link and security of identity and relationship that marriage naturally demands and confirms.
Marriage also provides children a role model of the human love of their parents relating as man and woman. Its complementarity ensures the unilateral love of each parent to the child and the necessary differences between motherly and fatherly love.
In contrast, the revisionist case asserts that there is no necessity for a child to experience both fathering and mothering within the family. These arguments are not negated by marriage breakdown, the early death of a parent, the adoption of children, de facto relationships, or the practice of step-parenting.
The complications and tragedies of an imperfect world do not justify the redefinition of marriage. Children need marriage Given the marital relationship's natural orientation to children, it is not surprising that, according to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every indicator of wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents.
Studies that allow for other relevant factors , including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes fare best on the following measures: The bodily union integral to marriage helps to create stable and harmonious conditions suitable for children. Consider the conclusions of the reputably progressive research institution Child Trends: