The Telegraph columnist, Miranda Devine, joins the list of Christians making hyperbolic claims about same-sex marriage. It was only a matter of time before someone drew a wobbly line between the London riots and the fact that Finance Minister Penny Wong and her partner, Sophie Allouache, are expecting a baby. I would have just laughed Devine off – I mean, who takes Tele columnists seriously? But then I read the phrase, “As a Catholic…” and went, “Oh no, you don’t”.
Check these links and try to tell me that all Catholics think the same way Devine does:
My position on this matter is covered in the original post below, and an earlier post [Letter from a gay-friendly Christian] covers some basics as well.
I should add that Devine’s concern — offensively and inebriatedly articulated — that children need to have some contact or relationship with both biological parents, is perfectly valid. Human rights lawyer and Jesuit priest, Frank Brennan, says as much (though he couches it as a serious question that needs to be sensibly explored: “When children are created in future, that as far as possible we maintain the ideal that a child would have a known biological mother and a known biological father”).
I agree. Our sense of identity, crucial to success in life, has very strong links with our past, including our biological lineage. Why else would adopted children, even those who grew up in happy homes, seek this connection? In this regard, that Wong’s child will know her father is a step in the right direction. But it is a step that many same-sex households already take, as well as those led by single or remarried parents: maintaining the connections that form the fabric of a stable, affirming childhood and adolescence. This is what all couples with children should ensure.
As Tom Ballard points out, this is one of the flaws that underpin Devine’s argument. The ‘fatherlessness’ that is offered as one of the causes for the riots in England is a world away from the issue of gay parents.
More than being fatherless (as many people manage to survive paternal abandonment to become healthy adults), it is the sense of disconnection that has unhinged that society, as it does many societies.
The complete opposite of this is the intentional desire to marry, and by extension, to commit to raising another person to the best of parental ability.
As momentum gathers in the campaign for marriage equality, it is worth pondering why it meets such resistance from Christian figures.
Their arguments can be quite hyperbolic. Same-sex marriage, claimed Wendy Francis during last year’s election, is “like legalising child abuse.” Outgoing Family First senator Steven Fielding said that it is comparable to incest (“a bloke cannot marry his brother”). Even Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, has expressed concerns that it “could open the way for… polygamous marriages.”
It is no big deal for these claims to emerge from the Christian lobby. After all, the institution of marriage undeniably emerges from religious tradition, which upholds the union between a man and woman. This is the framework for Christian opposition to same-sex marriage. It is a fairly legitimate view.
However, it is a big deal to make scurrilous claims in expressing such views.
There is no correlation between child abuse and parents’ marital status or sexual orientation. Children get abused in a variety of home environments, including ones where parents are married and heterosexual.
In fact, straight couples do not have a monopoly on what makes a good home. The elements of an ideal childhood – stability, security, opportunities to excel and explore one’s identity, unconditional love – are in fact already being provided by gay parents, single parents, and grandparents.
The Christian lobby is also incorrect in conflating support for same-sex marriage with approval for polygamy and incest. Not only are these patently different concepts, it is a gross distortion of the campaign for marriage equality.
Gay unions are not illegal, prohibited, or criminal. In fact, gay de facto couples have been legally recognised in every jurisdiction since 2009, including superannuation, social security, health care, aged care, and taxation.
Of course, the fear-mongering by the Christian lobby is lost on anyone outside its constituency. But that does not mean that that constituency is closed to persuasion. They need to examine where their resistance lies.
First of all, gay couples seeking the right to marry are not asking religious institutions to marry them. Even if they were, churches cannot be compelled to perform rites that do not align with their traditions and beliefs. Christians need to stop arguing as if this is the case. They should also note that their ministers do not exclusively hold the license to marry couples.
Secondly, they need to abandon the idea that same-sex marriage would undermine the status of marriage. Many couples are choosing not to get married or are getting divorced; some of these couples are Christian. This has been going on for a while now. Any number of economic, environmental, and psychological problems can be said to erode a marriage, no matter how well-meaning the couple. It is unreasonable to blame gays for these.
In the age of dispensable relationships, a gay couple deciding to get married is probably more countercultural than gay marriage itself.
It is a public declaration that the relationship sits within a community, not outside it. Rather than undermining the status of marriage, it affirms its life-changing properties. It bolsters the idea that an exclusive, committed union is something to aspire to and grow in. This is a bigger, truer definition of marriage. Christians can support it in good conscience.