At the moment Australian law defines marriage as:
the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.That definition of marriage makes sense within heterosexual relationships. If we understand the masculine and feminine as complementary, then bringing one man and one woman together is meaningful in creating a unity out of two complementary parts. On the physical side, this uniting of male and female is what naturally produces offspring, and the care of such offspring underlies the lifetime commitment across generations within a family.
If it is possible for two men or for two women to marry then marriage can no longer be understood in this way. It can no longer be understood as a natural unity of two complementary opposites, and the sexuality within this marriage can no longer be understood, in a larger sense, as serving the purposes of creating new life within a multi-generational family.
Instead, marriage must be understood as a commitment ceremony to celebrate the love between people. But that's an open-ended definition. Why, according to this newer definition, must marriage be exclusive? Can't we love more than one person? And why must it be enduring? If the love goes, then why wouldn't the marriage?
Was I wrong in assuming that marriage was being radically redefined? The evidence is already coming in that I wasn't far off the mark. In the UK, the coalition government headed by the "conservative" David Cameron is attempting to push through same sex marriage. It has been now been revealed that the words "husband" and "wife" will be removed from official forms as part of the push toward same sex marriage and replaced by the gender neutral terms "partner" or "spouse".
That's another step toward the liberal end goal of making sex distinctions not matter in society. But what really grabbed me was a statement by Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat "Equalities" Minister. In defending the same sex marriage legislation she declared:
I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, whatever their gender.
Marriage is a celebration of love and should be open to everyone.
Isn't that pretty much what I warned was happening? Lynne Featherstone has redefined marriage as a "celebration of love" which should be "open to everyone." Even if it's not her intention, that definition of marriage will permit just about any permutation and combination of people to be married.
Let's say I love one woman, so I celebrate my love for her by getting married. But then I meet another woman whom I also love. Why shouldn't I then also marry her? After all, according to Lynne Featherstone marriage is there to celebrate the love I feel and should be open to everyone. So why shouldn't it be open to woman number two?
And what if I meet a woman and fall in love and marry her and have some children. But then I no longer feel the same love for her. Why wouldn't I decide the marriage to be over there and then? After all, according to Lynne Featherstone, marriage is there to celebrate love. If I don't feel the love, then why would I consider myself still to be married?
Lynne Featherstone is mistaken if she believes that you can have the traditional goods of marriage (stable, lifelong commitment) whilst redefining marriage itself to be a celebration of love that is open to everyone. Someone who understands marriage as she does will not have a good chance of holding to a lifelong commitment to monogamy (as it happens, she is divorced).
In opposition to Lynne Featherstone we have to insist that our sex does matter when it comes to marriage and to relationships and that the form of family life also matters a great deal.