Till death do they part ...

RODNEY CROOME:  THE argument in favour of marriage equality

‘‘For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.’’

According to these time-honoured vows, marriage is a relationship in which partners stand by each other through thick and thin, sharing life’s hopes, joys and sacrifices.

Same-sex partners do that just as well as their heterosexual counterparts, so why aren’t we allowed to marry?

The ban on same-sex marriages causes a lot of problems and pain.

Without a marriage certificate it can be harder for same-sex partners to prove their legal rights, especially in an emergency.

I recently spoke to a Tasmanian man whose male partner died suddenly and who was denied the chance to see the body in hospital, and attend the funeral, despite having the legal right to do both.

The trauma this caused could have been avoided by if the bereaved partner had a certificate to show they were married.

Exclusion from marriage sends negative messages that hurt young gay people and the children of same-sex couples.

It re-inforces old stereotypes about same-sex unions being less loving and stable, and about gay people growing old alone.

It says gay people don’t deserve to be treated equally, and is used as an excuse for further discrimination.

Because marriage is closely associated with family, exclusion from marriage sends the message that gay people are not fully members of our families, and are even ‘‘anti-family’’.

Former Tasmanian Social Inclusion Commissioner David Adams understands the link between marriage equality and social inclusion:

‘‘Marriage remains an important bridge between inclusion and exclusion for many people. It can represent increased commitment to spouses and bring increased feelings of acceptance by family and community. Children of same-sex parents feel happier having married parents and feel more secure and protected. Parents of same-sex people feel happier and more included in their community when their children can marry.’’

Marriage as an institution also suffers from the exclusion of same-sex couples.

Many young Australians either declare during their wedding that they don’t agree with the current Marriage Act, or refuse to marry until their gay friends can.

To stay relevant, marriage must open its arms to those same-sex couples who want to uphold its values.

For all these reasons support for marriage equality is growing.

It is allowed in the UK, New Zealand, most of Western Europe, most of the US and much of Latin America.

Even in Alabama, same-sex couples are marrying.

According to the Liberal Party’s go-to research company Crosby|Textor, 72 per cent of Australians support the reform, with majority support among Christians and older people.

So, returning to my question, why do we ban same-sex marriages?

According to the Australian Christian Lobby, it’s because children have the right to a father and mother.

The problem with this argument is there’s no legal link between marriage and children.

That’s why we allow elderly and infertile heterosexual couples to marry.

Furthermore, thousands of Australian children are already being raised by same-sex couples (very well, according to the research).

As David Adams noted, these children would benefit from having their family treated equally in the law.

Groups like the ACL also talk about the slippery slope to polygamy and the widespread persecution of religion.

This hasn’t happened in any other country with marriage equality.

Under Australian law, churches that are against same-sex marriages will not have to perform them.

In return I ask those churches to respect the fact we live in a democracy where the people make laws, not God, where no group should impose its values through the law, and where everyone should have the same opportunities in life.

Rodney Croome is the National Director of Australian Marriage Equality

MARK BROWN: The argument against same-sex marriage

ARISTOTLE is claimed to have said: ‘‘The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal’’. I believe this statement in essence sums up the fallacy of the same-sex marriage debate – the argument that says an intimate relationship between two men or two women is the same as a husband-wife relationship. Clearly they are not the same.

Not wanting to state the obvious – there are considerable differences in these relationships, the most apparent one being that men and women are undeniably dissimilar. ‘‘Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus’’ as one author put it. The union of a man and a woman brings a complementarity at a completely different level to that of two men and two women. The strengths and weaknesses of each gender offer a ‘‘completing’’ like no other relationship.

The second elephant in the room is the fact that a male and female can reproduce. It is a general truth that children are a natural product of a marriage relationship. Marriage brings a permanence and stability to a couple and the children they bear that impacts the whole of society – that is why governments have an interest in regulating marriage.

We live in an imperfect world and due to things like death and divorce children do experience the tragedy of broken relationships. However, in the case of children entering same-sex relationships, brokenness is a necessity. This occurs either relationally, from the separation of their biological parents, or through the genetic and biological brokenness of assisted reproductive technologies where mums or dads are very often unknown gamete donors.

Putting it succinctly, condoning same-sex marriage normalises brokenness in children’s lives. The question begging is ... is it acceptable for the rights of children to be put second to the desires of adults? ‘‘The rights of children trump the right to children’’ say gay fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana. Forums like anonymousus.org, which tell the often painful stories of donor-conceived children, confirm that answer.

These two distinctives of marriage – complementarity and children – have been contested in this debate from day one. ‘‘Equality’’ necessitates that these differences be delegitimised – and that’s exactly what has been happening.

The removal of gender-differentiating language is one example. Words like wife and husband have been replaced by gender-neutral ‘‘partner’’. Mums and dads have been superseded with parent one and parent two.

Other differentiating language has also been in the firing line. ‘‘Discrimination’’ used to be considered at least somewhat positively – after all we all do it every day – which shops we choose to buy from, who we allow our kids to have sleepovers with. Not any more, the ‘‘D’’ word is always a negative and is often the first word heard from the mouths of traditional marriage dissenters.

Another battle has raged in the area of research. If these two kinds of relationships are really the same then outcomes for children in married homes should be equivalent to children raised by same-sex couples.

As you would expect there is an overwhelming body of research pointing to the fact that children do best across the spectrum of sociological indicators with married, biological parents. Those who have published credible studies highlighting deficiencies in same-sex parenting have been savaged by gay lobby groups.

Twenty years ago, the arguments against redefining marriage were taken for granted. Today due to the ‘‘new tolerance’’, boundaries are construed as bigotry and commonsense as backward thinking. I have hope that as a society we will come to our senses and once again appreciate and protect the universal cultural norms like marriage that have made civil society what it is today.

Mark Brown is the Tasmanian Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.