A blue collar worked recently said to me, ‘ Most people I speak to don’t have a clue about the Same-Sex marriage issue!’ I hate to say it, but I think he is right. With so many voices out there vying for a space to be heard, many Australians are a little confused, or have simply decided to switch off the noise. In fact, with so many arguments being advanced it has become clear that there is more than one issue involved, or more accurately, the one issue has multiple layers to it.
So, to help ordinary Australians get a grasp of what (I believe) is at stake, I’ll try and present the matter, as if we were discussing it with the metaphor of a multi-layered cake.
The Personal layer: Same-sex marriage
The top layer of the cake with its sugar coated icing, is a debate over Same-Sex Marriage and its potential inclusion in the Marriage Act. ‘Gay’ couples feel that they should be included in the institution of marriage as much as ‘Straight’ couples, because, in their understanding, the most important thing that binds two people together is the love they feel for each other.
As I understand it, a change of the Marriage Act would give ‘legal legitimization’ to a person’s homosexual identity, having the same ‘rights’ as any other person (or more accurately personal relationship) in society. Many of those advocating for this, have had a long battle for acceptance: experiencing rejection, bullying, and humiliation because the majority perceives them as ‘different’. I can imagine for these, a change of the marriage act, would be ’emotionally’ liberating.
On the other side of the issue are, for the most part, people with strong religious convictions (mostly Christian) that affirm from their interpretation of their Bible or Holy texts, that a same-sex union would be a clear contravention of God’s intended purpose for human marriage; the exclusive union of a heterosexual couple, based on the relationship of the first ‘created’ humans Adam and Eve– a view even validated by Jesus and his apostles.
Most Christians I know aren’t personally ‘against’ homosexuals or same-sex couples per se ,but feel to endorse same-sex marriage is to deny God’s standards of human relationships, and by extension deny their loyalty to God. As much as many Christians (or people with similar religious ethics) may ‘feel the plight’ of same-sex couples, they are stuck with a crisis-of-conscience that disallows them approving of a legislation that violates their fundamental beliefs.
This is why, the ‘proposed’ marriage act will (or should) make provision for a celebrant’s religious convictions, enabling them to refuse to solemnize a same-sex marriage on the grounds of conscience. However, it remains to be seen how this will affect non-professional people who hold to the traditional views.
However, it seems that same-sex marriage is not the only issue on this agenda!
The Political layer: A brave new world
It’s the middle layer(s) of the cake that represent the Socio-political domain and the implications of any proposed legislation for the Australian public that is raising the most concern. Many Australians (mostly with no religious affiliations) are concerned that embracing same-sex marriage into law represents the ‘thin edge of the wedge’; the first step toward societal change that threatens what the majority of Australians currently believe and practice.
A prime example of this is the governments ‘Safe-Schools program’. A website formed by concerned citizens, in response to this program, states, ‘ The aim [ of Safe-Schools] is to convince the government, media and the public that homophobic bullying is common and can only be dealt with by affirming, promoting and normalizing homosexual relations…’ In short, Australian parents are very concerned that heterosexual children are being encouraged or potentially coerced to consider alternatives such as transgender issues or homosexual alternatives
Whilst the program has been scrutinized by government after parental protests, an article from the Daily Telegraph on the 17th of August 2017 suggests attempts to secretly reintroduce questionable material have occurred: ‘ Education bureaucrats have tried to sneak Safe Schools back onto the NSW curriculum in defiance of the ban on the contentious sexual and gender diversity program….Entitled the “Practical guide to love, sex and relationships”, the teaching resource includes activities for Year 7 students which require them to swap gender roles.’
Then there is the manner in which public debate has been conducted. Firstly, there is the issue of how some same-sex advocates have used their influence to bully those with an alternate views; one high-profile case being the suggestion that the Margaret Court tennis arena be renamed because of the namesakes support for ‘traditional’ marriage. Also the offices of the Australian Christian Lobby were egged, and subjected to an alleged car-bomb attack (I believe the matter is before the courts) by a so-called pro-SSM activist. This hardly inspires trust in concerned voters.
Consequently, Australians are concerned over issues of: freedom of speech in the public domain, the powers of the state, freedom of religion in the workplace and public domain, and the biased representation of facts or points of view by the media outlets. Indeed, I have even heard suggestions from some quarters that the combination of these factors point to a strong Marxist agenda being imposed on Australian society. Conspiracy theories aside, there remains just cause for concern.
In the ‘fog of war’ it is often hard to differentiate fact from fiction, but there seems to be just enough ‘fact’ out there feeding the ‘fiction’, that Australians are now genuinely concerned about the future arising from any proposed legislation. By voting in favor of same-sex marriage, will they be letting a genie out of the bottle that sets Australia on the path to an uncertain future, or will they be simply voting for a benign piece of legislation that benefits a minority with no discernible ongoing effect on the majority?
The Religious layer: No place to call home
The final layer(s) of the cake represents the declining power of the Judeo-Christian ethic and its primary advocate the Christian Church, within our democracies. The phenomenon called Christendom (the dominion of Christian influence in society), which has, more or less, existed for over 1700 years, has gradually been eroded to the point, where an issue like same-sex marriage (at least in Australia), threatens the final vestiges of the church’s power in the public space.
Christians feel threatened, and given the long history of persecution of Christian groups ( a recent example being Syria), they cannot be blamed for being concerned about the future. The potential legalization of same-sex marriage powerfully symbolizes the destruction of their once ubiquitous influence, making them now question: What next, and where will we go now, and what will the future hold in a society that no longer favours our beliefs?
But I hear you say, ‘ I’m not a Christian, why should I care?’ Well, what are the long term consequences for Christian charities, such as the Salvation Army; charities that do the majority of the heavy lifting in public welfare ? What about quality Christian schools, nursing homes, and private hospitals, how will they (and their staff) be affected? Indeed, Australians should not underestimate the huge residual benefits it receives from Christian organizations, nor the potential negative influence any potential legislation might have on them!
As you can see the issue of Same-Sex marriage seems simple on the surface, but when you drill down through the layers, a more complex picture emerges.
This issue affects three interest groups: same-sex couples who want legal legitimacy, the general Australian population who are concerned about where this is all going, and Christians who are concerned about their future role in this brave new world.
As you can see, its the interests of the Australian population that is sandwiched between two other interest groups. In the end its a vote about interests and their long time effect on Australian society. So, vote wisely.