Sunday, November 13, 2011

A few thoughts about the marriage debate

One could be forgiven for thinking that the current debate about gay marriage was between conservative Christians and everyone else. I know Christians who feel under fire in this debate because they are sticking to their principles despite what they feel is a significant amount of pressure to do the opposite - and this applies to people on both sides of the argument. NSW politician and ex-Premier Kristina Kenneally recently pointed out the irony that she, a married Catholic, was for gay marriage and our unmarried, athiest Prime Minister was against it. It seems you can't always assume a person's stance on one subject because of their opinion on others.

As someone with a reasonable interest in both society and politics, my prediction is that same-sex marriages will eventually become legal in this country, as they are in many others. It's only a matter of whether that will be sooner or later that is in question and then, no doubt, history will judge how we stand today. Perhaps God will as well.

What disappoints me in the meantime is the level of real debate that's going on. It's not just a matter of picking sides, but the arguments that you use to substantiate your position matter as well. If you're going to take a position for gay marriage, it's not enough to demonise the conservatives, to call them prejudiced and characterise them all as ignorant fundamentalists. On the other hand, those who are against gay marriage need better arguments than they're currently sprouting about the potential impact on families - there's a lot of stone throwing in some rather thin glass houses going on there. The frequent proclamations about a biblical standard for marriage could also be a little more humble and frankly, better informed by a reading of the Bible.

There are also very real questions about whether this is a religious issue at all. Legally, marriage is a secular institution that takes a wide range of cultural forms - you can be wed under a variety of religious banners or increasingly, choose to avoid a religious wedding at all.

Most importantly though, I think we need to pause and recognise the power dynamics inherent in this debate. We're talking about a decision that will be made by the majority that will affect a minority group. This minority group are frequently the victims of bullying, violence and discrimination. People who are same-sex attracted, particularly young people, also commit suicide in tragic numbers. This, at least, should give us pause before we weigh in and ensure that we've made a genuine effort to understand those who will be most affected. Whichever side you land on, try and voice your opinion carefully, thoughtfully and respectfully. We all deserve that.

1 comment:

The Horse said...

This has been a long term debate going back to the late 80s. People get paranoid on both sides. Its always going to be a difficult debate and yes history will judge us by what happens here. One side see that the exisiting arrangements for marriage are discrimintatory. The other side that marriage is a religious institution threatened by same sex marriage

Even an openly gay former supreme court judge has said the legal implications of same sex marriage could be fundamentally damaging to the legal system. In the end he suggests that a Civial union be the standard form of getting married, and the church status remains for those who wish to use that route.

All in all I think his stand is correct. You dont take the institution of Marriage away from the church, but you ensure that everyone is treated equally under law. After all isnt that the stated aim of this. To give everyone equal treatment ?