Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gay marriage - what is at stake?

Why should we resist the push toward gay marriage? The answer is set out best by Andrea Burns, in an article for the Melbourne Herald Sun ("Why do we fear love?" 11/06/06 - not online).

Andrea actually writes stridently in favour of gay marriage. But she does so in a way which betrays the destructive nature of progressive thinking on the issue.

Andrea follows the liberal line that what matters is that we are unimpeded in choosing who we are and what we do. Therefore, she advocates the idea that sexuality and gender are not fixed and unchosen, but fluid and individual. She writes:

The fluidity of sexuality is more relevant to this young generation than ever before. Gay, straight and bisexual are all labels that have become less applicable in a young society where roles are changing and gender ideals are being questioned.

What sort of message does the Government’s stance send to so many young Australians?

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Mr Howard is saying it is not acceptable to follow an individual path and you will be disadvantaged if you question the norm.

Similarly, for Andrea Burns the traditional family is the oppressive fixed impediment which ought to make way for more open, freely chosen living arrangements:

Young people are growing up in all kinds of family environments these days. Mr Howard is our Prime Minister and yet he seems unaware that the days of the white bread, nuclear family are over. There are many ways to commune, love and create a home.

All young people want is a loving and supportive environment in which to grow up. It does not matter who that love and support comes from, as long as it is there.

It’s inconsequential who makes up that circle of love, whether it’s one widowed old lady and her Jack Russell, or a lesbian couple and their gay male friend expecting their first child together.

What matters is that there is a loving home, a stable environment and a legal contract that protects that commitment.

The first thing to note about this liberal way of justifying gay marriage is that it confirms the slippery slope objection. It is not only gay marriage which Andrea Burns wants to institute. The logic by which she accepts gay marriage also leads her to accept any kind of living arrangement in which there is a “loving and supportive environment”.

Andrea has argued herself into a position in which there is no principled way to object to polygamy. On what basis can she discriminate against a man who wants legal recognition for his relationship with two women, if all that matters is that the three of them make up a “circle of love.”

Note the examples that Andrea herself gives of possible “circles of love” forming a family: a lady and her dog, and two women and a man.

However, it’s not only the slippery slope which reveals the inadequacy of Andrea’s argument for gay marriage. There’s an even deeper problem.

Andrea’s liberal ideal is that we should not be impeded in determining who we are according to our own individual will. This leads her to assert that the nuclear family is redundant; that ideals of gender should be overturned; that there are no certain forms of sexuality; and that it is not especially useful for a child to be raised by both a mother and father.

These assertions, though, are a frontal assault on heterosexual culture. The heterosexual norm is to be attracted to the opposite gender in a relatively fixed and uncomplicated way; to have an innate sense of what is masculine and feminine; to find traditional gender qualities sexually and romantically attractive in the opposite sex; and to understand fathers and mothers as having distinct and necessary roles within a family.

So the liberal position outlined by Andrea Burns is incompatible with a society in which heterosexual norms dominate culturally. It is actually more in line with homosexual norms, in which gender identity, sexuality and family arrangements are relatively uncertain.

Ultimately a society has to choose which culture is to be “normative”. It’s not possible to reconcile both, one must dominate. For instance, is a child generally advantaged if it lives with its biological mother and father? A heterosexual culture will answer in the affirmative.

But what if the state accepts a homosexual union as an equal basis for family life? This means that the state has consented to the idea that children don’t do best with both a father and mother. The state has accepted that a father is redundant in the life of a child or that a mother is redundant in the life of a child.

It is right for the heterosexual majority to resist the state accepting such notions. First, because of a conviction that it is untrue that fathers or mothers can be considered merely optional. Second, because a 97% majority forms such a basis of a society that it is both reasonable and necessary that the culture it operates by be accepted as normative.

You cannot abolish discrimination on this issue. Someone is going to be discriminated against. Heterosexuals will find their own lives best fulfilled when their own understanding of family, gender, sexuality and morality is allowed to form the social norm.

The only way you can not discriminate against gays is by discriminating against heterosexuals: by forcing heterosexuals to abandon their own norms, and substituting other norms in their place. There is no "justice" to this and it would be foolish for heterosexuals to accept this process, whether it is driven by liberals like Andrea Burns or by homosexuals themselves.


  1. Good post Mark you may be intrested in the post at my blog which considers the same issue .
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  2. Mark, your slippery slope arguments are weak. I don't hear any strong cases forthcoming for inter-special marriage or polygamy, so I don't think there's that they'll be riding in on gay marriage's coat-tails any moment soon.

    I rather wonder how you can be bothered devoting so much time and effort, thought and emotion into campaigning against it! I'm not in favour of it myself, but it doesn't really bother me if it's allowed. For the record I am a gay man in a long-standing monogomous relationship, and I don't really need the sticky-beak of the state and (god forbid!) the church poking around in my private life. My relationship is just as real with or without the rubber stamp and legal hocus pocus of marriage. It doesn't really make a jot of difference to me. To the rational eye, it's clearly a bit of an absurd, vaguely medieval sort of an institution: harmless enough, just not for me.

    I couldn't really be bothered campaigning against it. I'm too busy getting on with my life.