Marriage

Understanding each other is a difficult thing.

Heterosexual people have, for generations, found it difficult to understand homosexual people. Why would a man prefer sex with another man? Even more difficult, why would a man find sex with a woman to be repulsive? Sometimes this lack of understanding has led people to find homosexual activity as repugnant and can lead to fear or loathing of homosexuals. This has been something homosexual people have rightly complained about.

In recent years most heterosexual people have come to accept that some people wish to express their sexuality with people of the same gender although they do not understand why they would want to do so.

Of course, the other side of this coin is the difficulty that homosexual people might have in understanding the feelings and decisions of heterosexual people.

It is inevitable that people will adopt differing opinions and in a democratic society this is recognised. This requires tolerance on the part of those who differ, meaning that each will acknowledge the differences and allow for differing practices. Tolerance does not mean agreeing with each other but it does mean agreeing to disagree. People will be adulterous, blaspheme or vote for a different political party with which I do not agree. In none of these cases do those people need my approval, just my tolerance. Generally this acceptance is extended to each other unless the behaviour of one impacts negatively on the other or is illegal.

In recent times it seems most heterosexual people have come to understand that two people of the same gender could develop a friendship so close that it is what we call love and that they could want to formalise that relationship in the way that heterosexual people do. There are difficulties when they wish to apply the word marriage to that relationship.

Already in Australia laws have been amended to ensure that same-sex couple have the same rights in almost every case as heterosexual couples except that there is no civil, contractual relationship as in the case of a marriage between a man and a woman.

I think there should be such an option available in Australian law.

What I disagree with is the idea of calling such same-sex contracts marriages and I would hope that in the way I respect the wishes of homosexual people I would hope they would respect mine. In other words, I would ask for tolerance.

I entered into a marriage according to Australian law and also in a Christian ceremony. Many people are married by a civil celebrant and their marriage has no religious aspect. In my case a clergyman performed the civil rights and ensured the completion of the marriage contract as set down in the civil law as between a man and a woman. He also conducted a ceremony that meant I was married in a religious sense as well.

If the law is changed so that the word marriage ceases to mean only that between a man and a woman then it is not the relationship I contracted to enter and will cease to describe the nature of my marriage.

The Christian marriage I have is one between a man and a woman. All the Christian documentation and references of the last 2,000 years refer to marriage in this sense and, barring the editing of all this documentation, if the general meaning of the word is changed then the word will have two separate and different meanings. I would expect that those seeking “marriage equality” would not accept this practice.

Some people might believe that a redefined meaning of marriage does not describe a relationship they want to be a part of. They might wish to be released of obligations they entered into under the previous definition so that they are no longer married. The terms of their contract will have been changed in a way they do not accept.

I understand that many homosexual people are satisfied with their sexuality and even express this as “gay pride”, wanting to declare their sexuality. In the same way, I experience “heterosexual pride” and want people to know that mine is a heterosexual marriage. If the meaning of the word marriage is changed as is being argued then I will need to clarify that mine is a “heterosexual marriage” and that my wife is a woman.

I have been told that my wish not to have the meaning of marriage changed is disrespectful of the wishes of others, denying them rights they claim to have, discriminating against them. If this is so, then the wish of those to call same-sex relationships marriages is disrespectful of my wishes, denying me rights I claim to have and discriminates against me. I do not think either of these is the case; the arguments are not valid.

I will respect the views of those I differ with and be tolerant. Those who differ with me should respect my views and also be tolerant.

Grant to homosexual people all the rights they want and see being those given to heterosexual people but please do not use the word marriage to describe the relationship they form.

In the UK laws were enacted allowing for the civil union of same-sex couples and in 2014 it is expected that the law will allow such unions to be called a marriage. This legislation explicitly forbids the Church of England carrying out such marriage ceremonies. However, already a legal challenge is being mounted so as to require Church of England clergy to carry out such ceremonies even if doing so would be against their beliefs and ethics.

In various states in the USA where same-sex marriages are legal a pastry cook has been fined for declining to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony, photographers have been sued for the same reason and others have been penalised for acting according to their views. The change of definition has resulted in discriminatory action against people who hold a particular view of marriage, denying them the right to act according to their minority view.

This has been done on the basis of anti-discrimination but in reality it is an attack on freedom to believe differently. It is discriminatory action in itself. Whereas homosexual people have been discriminated against in the past, now it is heterosexual people who are being discriminated against. Righting one wrong must not be done at the cost of creating another.

If same-sex marriage is legalised there is no way to prevent such litigation even though, as in the UK, it will prove unsuccessful. Assurances to the contrary have proved worthless. The result is expense, trauma, division, waste and hurt.

The debate on this subject is one that will have winners and losers in its result. I hope that each can treat the other with compassion because some people are going to be very hurt.

If same-sex marriage is made legal in Australia it will

  • Take away the meaning of the word marriage as it is now understood
  • Take away the right of people such as myself to call themselves married
  • Result in two forms of marriage and two meanings of the word marriage: civil and religious marriage or require the development of new terminology
  • Lead to discriminatory, divisive and costly litigation.
  • Facilitate and encourage intolerance against a significant part of our society.

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