As you might have noticed, I’ve changed the background colour of my blog and twitter account to rainbow-coloured. I’m going to leave them like this until Australia joins countries like New Zealand, Ireland and the USA in legalising gay marriage.
I struggle to see why some people seem to be so threatened by the idea of gays and lesbians marrying. I guess it partly depends on your priorities. Priorities for me in this debate are the best interests of the child, inclusion, social justice and love. Given the different priorities of people who oppose marriage equality, I am generally not convinced by their arguments.
The Family Research Council lists ten “science-based” arguments against same-sex marriage:
- Children hunger for their biological parents.
- Children need fathers.
- Children need mothers.
- Evidence on parenting by same-sex couples is inadequate.
- Evidence suggests children raised by homosexuals are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders.”
- Same-sex “marriage” would undercut the norm of sexual fidelity within marriage.
- Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.
- Same-sex “marriage” would further diminish the expectation of paternal commitment.
- Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles.
- Women and marriage domesticate men
Ignoring the fact that I question the “scientific” basis of their arguments and don’t believe some of their claims, these arguments mostly do not address my priorities (except for the best interests of the child, but I’ll come to that soon).
The Center for Public Justice argues that it is the start of a slippery slope. They argue that legalising gay marriage would mean that:
There will be no legal basis for restrictions against a homosexual couple obtaining children in any way they choose, for such restrictions would constitute discrimination. And it will mean that when a mature mother and son, or father and daughter, or trio or quartet of partners come to the courts or to the marriage-license bureau to ask that their sexually active relationship be recognized as marriage, there will be no legal grounds of a non-arbitrary kind to reject the requests.
Maybe it could lead to further challenges to the definition of marriage, but again that isn’t a priority in how I look at the issue. Legalising gay marriage may lead to unintended consequences (although I don’t agree allowing gay marriage means there are no legal grounds for rejecting other unions) but for me this isn’t grounds for denying people the opportunity to have their love publically recognised.
The best interests of children
An Irish Catholic Bishop, Kevin Doran, argued that defining marriage in the Irish constitution as a relationship between two people without distinction as to their sex would be a major change.
It would mean that family law could no longer give preference to a mother and father relationship as the form of parenthood best suited to the needs of children. It would make it increasingly difficult to speak in public about marriage being between a man and a woman. In the absence of any conscience clause, I would be concerned, for example, at what teachers might be expected to teach our children.
Marc de Castella also argues that traditional family structure is indispensable because of the moral, practical and emotional role mothers and fathers play at different stages of a child’s development.
Judeo-Christian marriage, with its commitment to heterosexual monogamy and its inherent focus on the family unit, is the bedrock of Western culture. In the typical heterosexual marriage, children absorb, assimilate and learn to appreciate the gender-specific qualities of a man and a woman.
These arguments do address one of my main priorities: the best interest of the child. I would probably agree that there are benefits for children in having both a loving and involved mother and father BUT there are so many other factors involved besides the gender of the parents. For a start, I’m not sure what a “typical” hetrosexual marriage is and some marriages can lead to quite oppressive gender roles. But more importantly, I’m sure the having loving and involved gay parents is better for a child than having a mother and father while also experiencing family violence, drug abuse, child abuse or maybe even absent parents (e.g., parents who work very long hours and aren’t able to be involved in their children’s lives).
Providing a loving stable situation for children is vital and arguing that only a man and a woman can do that, is clearly not sustainable. There can be loving, supportive gay or lesbian parents and abusive, violent straight parents. (And of course there can also be abusive gay and lesbian parents and loving straight parents.)
If we really want to address the best interests of the child we will make domestic violence and child abuse a high priority, we will remove refugee children from detention camps, we will increase social security payments and the wages of lowly-paid workers, and we will address climate change as a matter of urgency. I know that these aren’t arguments for supporting gay marriage, but I get angry when people oppose marriage equality on the grounds of what’s best for children but don’t support much more significant changes that could improve the wellbeing of children.
I will continue to support a more inclusive society which allows gays and lesbians to express their love for each other through marriage. And until that happens, my backgrounds will remain rainbow-coloured.
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