The outcome of the same-sex marriage poll is probably one of the least surprising things to have happened this year.
It is simply the logical culmination of two streams, which neatly came together last Wednesday at 10.00 am, when the Bureau of Statistics’ chief statistician announced the results in front of a sea of rainbow flags, and balloons spelling out the word LOVE.
The first stream is the fact that the view of Western society on the matter of same-sex relationships has evolved and western society has become increasingly accepting of such relationships, as well as the right of the state to endorse them through civil partnerships.
In Australia, civil partnerships have been recognised for over forty years. De facto relationships, between individuals of the same- sex, and as defined in the Federal Law Act 1975, have had many of the same rights and benefits as married couples. Once recognised as being in a de facto relationship, gay couples have been able to enter into a registered relationship such as a civil union or domestic partnership. When the bill to legalise same-sex marriage goes through, those 47,000 same-sex couples will now be able to tie the knot.
The second stream which explains why the public voted for same-sex marriage, is the long-term denigration of religion and the morality that goes with it, in particular, the Christian faith. This has been taking place since the seventeenth century, when the founders of modern Western thought freed science and philosophy from religion, which they perceived to be based on blind faith, and laid the groundwork for the secular State.
The results of this philosophical revolution have come about slowly and gradually, over the course of the centuries. In the 1860s, Karl Marx famously criticized religion for being the ‘opium of the masses’, which he proposed was being used against the working classes by their oppressors. In his Communist Manifesto, Marx focussed on marriage, proclaiming that the ‘abolition’ of marriage and the family, central Christian ideas, were necessary if society was going to be transformed.
Since then, society has been well and truly transformed as Marx hoped it would. Christianity has become increasingly marginalised in our society, its disappearance accelerated during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when it became very unfashionable.
As Christianity has rescinded, the State has taken over the traditional role once occupied by the church, and having naturally set aside the traditional moral element of marriage, is now involved in tying this special bond between two people; couples no longer need the church to get married. Christians will argue that because marriage is a Sacrament, the State’s actions have no relevance anyway because the law cannot make or unmake a Sacrament.
Now that the State has assumed this function, Wednesday’s result should be viewed as the response by over seven million people to a continuation of social change in the West which has been in motion for over four centuries.
Bella d’Abrera is the Director, Foundations of Western Civilisation, at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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