Leading article Australia

Road to Darlinghurst

4 June 2015

1:00 PM

4 June 2015

1:00 PM

Lo and behold the number of politicians enjoying a last minute Road to Damascus conversion – or should that be Road to Darlinghurst? – on the subject of gay marriage. Even more so than climate change, this is the new, modern religion-lite; demanding nothing of its converts other than a warm inner glow and promising nirvana without consequences or responsibilities. No wonder our opportunistic, poll-driven politicians are so keen to join the ever-growing congregation and supplicate themselves before the rainbow altar.

Yet, as David Flint points out in this issue, and as Miranda Devine and others have argued, the decision to change the meaning (and reality) of the word ‘marriage’ is too important and too profound to leave in the sweaty palms of our political class; those doyens of wisdom who have delivered us over the years such manna from heaven as the Age of Entitlement and the multiple billions of dollars of ongoing debt needed to support it. Clearly, the one institution within the history of our civilisation that has allowed both individuals as well as communities to thrive and co-habit is that of the traditional family, with marriage at its epicentre. One could argue that we should leave this battered and bruised institution well alone, and put our efforts into finding more appropriate legal mechanisms to satisfy the legitimate right of gay couples to express and celebrate their love-with-a-capital-L for each other and for them and their families to be recognized as a lawfully-sanctioned, valued segment of modern society with full rights.

Apparently not.

Regardless of polls supposedly showing 72 per cent in favour of gay marriage, there are two furphies in this debate. The biggest being the idea that ‘marriage equality’ is on a par with other struggles for equality and human ‘rights’, namely those historic battles among the sexes, the races and the religions. This is palpable nonsense, designed to appeal to the ADHD generation and play on their desperate yearning to ‘own’ for themselves an historic revolution with its own catchy logos and slogans. That the young, the idealistic and of course gay people should passionately desire same sex marriage is entirely understandable and predictable. That there seems to be little or no debate within their ranks suggests either that, as they claim, this is an ‘idea whose time has come’, or more likely, simply evidence of emotionally-driven group-think on a twitterised scale.

The second furphy is, obviously, the notion that gay marriage is ‘equal’ to heterosexual marriage; a notion dispelled by the most rudimentary biology lesson.

The much harder question to ponder, and one that perhaps can only be answered through a referendum, is whether the immediate appeal and benefits of gay marriage outweigh the potential, possibly unforeseeable and unintended, long-term damage to our family-dominated, largely conservative, traditional structure of society. If we are honest with each other – which we are not – it is hard to reconcile the evangelical desire to sanctify non or partially-biological family units, and whatever potential consequences these may foster, with the modern scorn for adoption, surrogacy, fostering, the ‘stolen’ generation and other variants of the traditional genetically-based family unit. Our progressive courts would rather see a child with their natural parent(s), even when there is evidence of possible harm, than a foster parent, on the basis that the biological (or cultural) link is critical. Yet with gay marriage, at least one parent is an adoptive parent and a third party has some unspecified role.

None of which may matter a whit in the long run. Indeed, we as humans may well have evolved to the point where the traditional structure of marriage is rendered obsolete thanks to technology, science, and our new social structures. Or maybe not.

Sadly, our political structure is not sufficiently equipped to cope with such nuances. In today’s news-dominated, social-media driven world of fast and furious point-scoring and decision-making, it is unsurprising that increasing numbers of politicians see only the sunny uplands of satisfying the cacophony of voices coming from the baying crowd. Without a doubt, should they go it alone and introduce gay marriage this year or next, it will be a victory not for ‘rights’, ‘justice’ nor ‘equality’, but for those who worship at the feet of ‘compassionate’ identity politics and emotion-based activism.

The demonising of those who question gay marriage has added a sinister note – a warning perhaps – to the nature of the debate. It is hard not to conclude that it is fear of being branded a ‘gay marriage denier’ that is behind most of the ‘changes of heart’ that have occurred with such dramatic fashion recently. Tellingly, it appears no political figure has changed his or her mind the other way around.

Common sense and prudence suggest that the decision to proceed with same sex marriage should be confirmed, as in Ireland, by the people rather than at the whim of opportunistic pollies. In that way, there can be less doubt as to the wisdom of the outcome.

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