Thoughts on marriage after Yes

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The marriage debate has been very emotive and vitriolic. Why has it been this way? And will the results of the postal vote announced this week lead to an enduring resolution over the question of marriage?

Bride's hand with champagneSome persons in same sex relationships have felt unfairly under the microscope and so reacted strongly to the public survey. They argued that the debate is a matter of equality, acceptance and legal justice. There are others who have argued that marriage is in crisis. Those for traditional marriage have claimed that marriage is a social institution for a man and woman that protects the rights of children and provides the best environment for their rearing.

Arguments are made that to be recognised or not as a specific type of sexual being (with certain rights) is what fundamentally matters to who I am as a person. People on both sides of the debate have made this error. This is a dangerous position that subjects human dignity and identity to a false absolute.

We may invest a lot of our lives and energy in our sexual relationships, but they are not the full sum of who we are. Our deepest identity is that we are human beings with inherent dignity (for Christians, this inherent dignity is founded in our being made in the image and likeness of God). Marriage expresses how we express that dignity in an intimate, bodily commitment.

We should always treat each other according to our inherent dignity. This principle is crucial to a peaceful and civil public life. Yet in this debate it has been challenged, particularly when certain groups on both sides believe they have the moral high-ground in such a way that their position overrides other people's dignity and rights.

Another aspect that has caused the debate to become so heated is the crisis around social institutions such as marriage. The traditional stability of many social institutions has been undermined over the last 50 years, with conventional distinctions and definitions breaking down. Human cultures need clear definitions and differences to survive. 

To cope with this crisis, people on both sides have turned the other into rivals, with each side scapegoating the other for the crisis in marriage. Some have projected all the problems of marriage onto same-sex couples, while others have blamed the No side for barring access to marriage to same-sex couples and constructing false differences. For these reasons, much of the debate has been at cross-purposes, underscored by various unspoken assumptions.

 

"This is not to deny the value in same sex relationships, but to recognise potential distinctiveness. Recognising this distinctiveness could lead to healthier relationships."

 

To have avoided polarisation and an impasse, we needed to have recognised these underlying arguments, so that we could have coped with the questions over marriage posed by such a public debate: What does marriage mean? Is it exclusively about romantic love? Is it about committed families? It is about the rights of children to their biological parents?

To do justice to these questions involves considering the nature of intimate relationships as well as the rights of loving couples and rights of children. For some, these do not conflict, while for others, there are inconsistencies.

On the ABC Religion and Ethics site, John Ozolins provided an extensive critique of the 'romantic' definition of marriage that is solely based on loving feelings or commitment. He pointed out that marriage has been intrinsically connected with procreation and the rearing of children across time and cultures. On the other side, it has been argued that children benefit from stable family relationships regardless of the configuration of their parental relationships.

There are various social studies, many presenting evidence that children parented by same-sex couples do no worse than children of opposite sex couples, while some show some negative results. These studies are limited by their small samples and length of time. In terms of longitudinal studies (that have not yet been able to include same sex families), children with a married father and mother do the best on a range of measures (in comparison to children in other kinds of parenting situations, such as families with step-parents, single parents and de facto relationships).

In addition to these studies, there is the more fundamental question about the rights of the child 'to know and be cared for by his or her parents', which concerns the interpretation of article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There is also the testimony of some children of same sex couples about a gap in their lives because of the absence of one of their biological parents. This can be the case even though the child feels loved by his or her same-sex parents. Moreover, there is increasing evidence of the distinctiveness of men and women in their parental roles, especially of the biological mother.

This is not to deny the value in same sex relationships, but to recognise potential distinctiveness. Recognising this distinctiveness could lead to healthier relationships. It could also help to balance the rights of children. In this sense, an institution which unites a man and woman with each other and with the children born of their union may still express something fundamental about marriage in which the state has a public interest.

If it does, then arguments that differentiate civil law and what is called 'natural marriage' (in philosophical and theological discourse) are problematic. Civil law should conform to the meaning of marriage ('natural marriage'), not only to the rights of one set of parties.

Many would reject that there are still questions to be addressed around marriage. They may be right. However, if they are not, then it could be that misconceived notions of identity have been driving public debate, rather than rational consideration of what is best for children and their parents. If that is so, the questions over marriage and family will not easily go away and may need to be revisited in the future, especially as further research is done on the experiences of children.

 

 

Joel HodgeJoel Hodge is a lecturer in theology at the Australian Catholic University..

 

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Finally, a lucid, non-partisan appraisal of this matter. Why were we not enlightened by this article before the advent of the survey? The only Catholic voice emanating with any authority from the ACU was that of Fr Frank Brennan SJ and it did not proclaim what has been proclaimed here with such clarity. In yesterday's ES a commentator pointed out convincingly, based on the true figures, that only 49.5 percent of the eligible voting public said "yes". (3.1 million did not vote - I was one of them). Truth, however, is not a treasured commodity in this country. The hysteria following the vote will no doubt continue. When it does, please have something more to say, Joel Hodge. You espouse the type of theology we need, devoid of human compassionate gobbledegook often at odds with Christianity. (Incidentally, I didn't vote because I thought it a worthless nonsense).
john frawley | 16 November 2017


I find this critique tentative and vague; I really don't know what you're getting at. For example, you pose a question and allude to research into how children fare under the care of their biological parents compared to SS couples. To turn these most complex of human relationships into simplified statistics, short term or longitudinal, is very problematic. I suspect they say more about the question (and the questioner) than the answer.
Faz | 17 November 2017


The yes vote tells us that the exclusion of people premised upon their sexual orientation is to cease. Part of the dignity of people is the right to their sexuality and the right to live in relationship with other. Both have been too long denied by the rigid adherence to an ideology of what it means to be a person of faith in the Catholic Church.
Jan Victory | 17 November 2017


Marriage functions outside the religious framework and while certain legal opportunities and abilities are tied to legal marriage it is unjust to ban a subset of citizens from having access. (end of life, immigration) This business about children knowing their parents is a furphy. There are adopted children throughout society that have the same ability or lack thereof to know their biological parents. Children from heterosexual unions are just as much likely to be raised by a single parent these days anyway. This mythologising of paired and dutiful heterosexual spouses is a distraction and has little to do with contemporary society. There are just as many firmly committed Christians amongst those betraying the Commandments regarding marriage as the rest of society. Look at the open secrets regarding our religious politicians and their infidelities. Our sexuality is not our identity. However when our sexuality has us banned from certain rights available to other citizens, and has us marginalised and judged, then it becomes much more than our identity. It becomes a badge of exclusion.
Lucy | 17 November 2017


Joel, I don't agree there's a crisis in marriage, at least not from the perspective of marriage as an institution - and the great upsurge of support in this campaign for marriage equality shows that LGBTI want to be part of this institution. So doesn't SSM, instead strengthen marriage. Marriage is an institution - but in essence it's a matter between two loving people committed to their relationship - and that's where crises will always exist as long as human beings remain fallible.
AURELIUS | 17 November 2017


I found this response to be thought provoking and a calming reflection after the vitriol and chaos of the pre survey media hype. I have been married to my wife for 37 years .We have raised our three children who now have their own young families. Joel, I believe that you have canvased some very important points in your essay, particularly regarding the possible impacts on children. We now live very much in an "I" society, which is turning many traditional values on their heads. The consequences still unknown, will take many years to manifest themselves. My own father passed away when I was two years old. My late mother opted not to remarry. I vividly remember the impact of that absence during my adolescence when I really needed his presence during the formation of my identity as a 'straight' male. My younger brother, born a few weeks after his passing has had an even rockier rite of passage. I do think that children need both biological parents at key stages in their development.
Gavin | 17 November 2017


Marriage is a civil contract. Those who enter it are free to bring their faith into the equation. The key is civility, towards civilised people of any or no faith.
Richard LAIDLAW | 17 November 2017


It is not difficult to see which side of the debate you are situated on, Joel. And you speak with the authority and perspective of a straight person who cannot recognise that being gay is a great deal more than who you are having sex with. It's about relationships, intimate relationships including family which is fundamental to being human and in the image of God. The children are alright, despite the limited research that would like to suggest they are not, compared to the more substantial research that has been done. And John Frawley why put your 2 cents in when you did not even vote? Not everyone had the same motivation to abstain from voting as you, and to generalise is pointless after the fact. And yes this is exactly what you end up with when you take human compassion out of theology.
Meaghan | 17 November 2017


Joel, I'm afraid that this disquisition is stuck between two stools. Moreover, it is egregiously untruthful that the children of opposite-sex couples are any better of than those of same-sex couples. The most fundamental flaw in NO vote thinking is the fear of difference (hence 'homophobia'), which once also accompanied marriage between two persons of different cultures or ethnicity. As a theologian, you can't stray far from the fact that in a pre-modern, agrarian society, when most of the assumptions underpinning the NO vote position, whether Judeo-Christian or not, were laid out, human society was (and, in Church teaching, still is) fundamentally patriarchal, regarding women as 'inferior men' (Aquinas). No respectable theological work on homosexuality can be done without reference to scripture, and for Catholic scripture scholars (who cannot by definition be fundamentalists) without reference to anthropology, especially Mary Douglas's. As Douglas - an illustrious Catholic scholar unerringly shows - Leviticus has an edifice complex. Reflecting the architecture of the tabernacle, Leviticus is much more than a stern recitation of the dangers of impurity. With Chapter 19 as its apex, Leviticus is about justice and love in the community of faith. Its relevance in Jesus' ministry profoundly changed Christian scholarship.
Michael Furtado | 17 November 2017


I agree wholeheartedly with John Frawley. The decision by the Catholic Church to enter into an alliance with Christian fundamentalists was taken far earlier than the general public realised and militated against the kind of nuanced and intelligent discussion found in this article. The more public stages of this debate, especially the appallingly dishonest advertising campaign, made me so ashamed that in good conscience I voted yes. The challenge now will be to articulate and proclaim a Christian view of 'holy matrimony' that is worth offering to the world at large as part of that 'potential distinctiveness' that values all committed and loving relationships between humans
Margaret | 17 November 2017


Well said, Joel. I have been appalled by the quality of this debate on both sides. So little impartial focus on children. The YES campaign assured us that the kids are fine. But adoptions even by heterosexual couples are often complex. Voters who happily grew up with a Mum and a Dad have so blithely consigned future generations to be either motherless (with 2 Dads) or fatherless (with 2 Mums) - all in the name of 'love'. By all means give equal respect and legal rights to gay couples. Register and celebrate their committed unions (these didn't need to be called marriage, but our politicians didn't give people that choice on the SSM survey). But it's OK not to have kids. I don't have any myself. The world is not short of kids. There seems to be a lack of good role models - people who don't have kids but take a real interest in kids - eg my childless aunts and uncle were an important influence in my earlier life and fantastic role models.
Mary W | 17 November 2017


A variation on this idea may be that some people seem to passionately believe that their personal identity essentially depends on their primary (adult) relationship - the idea that ‘I’m nothing without you!’ But to have an (adult) relationship, you have to be someone first, and if the relationship breaks up or your partner dies, you retain your identity afterwards, (even though the breakup proves traumatic), though you will have been changed through the relationship.
Paul Burt | 17 November 2017


I agree with Joel: the worth and dignity of the individual should not be defined by sexual or marital status. I married very late; for many years the 'right' man seemed an elusive dream. So I do wonder what this SSM debate says to singles, when same-sex couples claim that their 'humanity' is denied them unless they can marry. This was a key argument for registering their unions as 'marriage' rather than under some alternative name (which could enjoy the same legal rights and celebrations). Given that 20 per cent of Australians didn't vote, there were only 49 per cent of Australians who actually voted YES (61.6% of 79.5% = 49%). I suspect the YES vote would have been a lot higher if an option was offered to convey permanent recognition, rights and respect to same-sex unions through some other legislation, rather than amending the Marriage Act. And I think an official 'Apology' to the same-sex community, acknowledging past wrongs, would have gone a long way towards making them feel included - rather than changing the Marriage Act. It would also have educated Australians about some of the horrors and injustices that same-sex-attracted people have endured in the past. I'm of the view that you are incredibly lucky if you find a great partner (as I finally did) - whatever the union is called, and whether or not you have kids. The important thing is the relationship between the two people. I fear this point has been lost in the divisive debate. I share Joel's concerns about this new model of raising kids with only Mums or only Dads. Single parents have done a great job over the years in difficult circumstances, but no one thought that should be the norm. Most of the people who voted YES would be working hard to be either a good Mum or a good Dad because they think their role is worthwhile, yet they have voted for a new family model that will deny kids the experience of either their biological Mum or their biological Dad.
Meg | 17 November 2017


Firstly, by way of comment to John Frawley, in my view Joel's piece and that of Fr Frank Brennan are both balanced and devoid of hype; they are in my view complementary, and useful for separating out relevant issues. if you ask a question like this requiring a simple "Yes" or "No", you will inevitably find many different reasons behind the respective answers. But seldom have we seen so many issues conflated as here. Just to take one, what do we mean by saying one group of children "do better" than others - academically, socially, what? For another, if marriage is solely about love, what business does the Sate have in legislating about it? In our Commonwealth Constitution, Section 51 gives the answer as "for the peace, order and good governance of the Commonwealth", with respect to both laws for marriage and laws for divorce and matrimonial causes, and in relation thereto, parental rights, and the custody and guardianship of infants. We are much more than our sexuality, but I cannot see any justification for claiming it has nothing to do with it. To me , marriage is a natural social institution, even if religions may add more than that.
Dennis | 17 November 2017


A disappointing & potentially divisive article. Gay people do not want to be recognised as 'sexual beings' they simply want their love recognised under Civil Law. The majority of fair minded people agree they are entitled to that.
Mike | 17 November 2017


Its not as though people decide to be gay
David Baron | 17 November 2017


Very thought provoking and worthwhile article. Gavin, Mary & Meg have voiced my own comments very well. The problem with the whole debate has been the lack of protection for the rights of children to be brought up as far as possible by their biological parents. Children have no say in this matter. It seems like the demands of the contemporary world has forgotten the children. What about future generations who will have no access to part of their parentage? The future of a healthy society looks bleak right now.
Penny | 17 November 2017


@ John Frawley. The start truth, John, is that by historical standards the 'yes' vote is a 'landslide'. A near 80% participation rate in a non-compulsory election, with the 'yes' vote carried in all but a few electorates and every state can't be dismissed with 'only 49.5%'. We can't come to any conclusion about those who didn't vote.
Faz | 18 November 2017


Meg, you asked what this SSM marriage says to singles...... OK, I'll tell you! It says you are not forced by law to remain single just because you happen to be gay. And as many LGBTI people have stated emphatically throughout this debate, it's not about whether I personally want to marry - because many gay people like me will be content to remain single - it's about freedom and equality under the law.
AURELIUS | 18 November 2017


John Frawley, it seems you've missed an essential part of the debate - that is has been entirely non-partisan, which the majority of both government AND opposition MPs supporting SSM reform. If that's not bipartisan enough for you, then what would be?
AURELIUS | 18 November 2017


Joel Hodge locates the dignity of human person where it properly belongs: our being made in the image and likeness of God, an axiom which can readily be obscured when the secular state, having banned religion or relegated it to the margins of moral and social discourse, employs itself in the business of inventing and conferring 'rights' upon its citizens.
John | 18 November 2017


Statistics it has been said, FAZ, support both sides of any debate depending on who is interpreting them! This "vote" in truth means that 49.5 percent of the electorate voted in support of changing the Marriage Act, 30 percent voted against and 20 percent didn't bother to vote. It is impossible to draw any other valid meaning from the result. It seems to me that the controversy would be resolved if marriage was defined in the Act as of two types, civil and religious, both with equal civil status under the law, WITHOUT ANY REFERENCE TO GENDER. The Law could also state that the celebration of marriage in any individual case was subject to the requirements of both the Civil Law and Religious Law as they applied to the participants in marriage and the marriage celebrants. Coercion in either direction could be explicitly banned.
john frawley | 20 November 2017


John, if only you could feel the tears welling when the 'Yes' announcement was made by the ABS last week - you would realise the modern secular state has not "invented" any right. In fact, we've merely caught up with other liberal democracies in liberating LGBTI people in a way the religion can truly learn from. I'm Catholic, and I don't feel this move has in any way 'relegated' or 'banned' my faith. My moral decision making process has not changed.
AURELIUS | 20 November 2017


An academic from a Catholic tertiary institution ventures into a public controversy, in a public forum. I wish more others would occasionally take a similar risk.
David Moloney | 20 November 2017


I find it hard to comprehend that more people were not upset by the principle of having a survey / plebiscite on the rights of a minority being determined by the majority. Many No voters are now aware what it feels like to belong to a minority and are calling for their “religious rights” to be protected. I trust they see the irony. Australia was lucky that the yes result won comprehensively.
Tim | 20 November 2017


Aurelius, it's doubtful that Catholics the world over applauded the Australian survey result and felt a sense of liberation from Catholic teaching, or that conscience creates its own norms as you appear to imply.
John | 20 November 2017


Thank you Joel Hodge and Eureka Street for this article. After all the hype, the emotion and vitriol this article is a veritable tonic! I agree with much of what Joel says about why this debate generated more heat than light, especially with regard to the unspoken (perhaps unconscious) assumptions underlying people's passionately-held viewpoints. Now, as we move on to questions about the need (or otherwise) for protections of religious freedom, I think the essential thing is to see our opponents as PEOPLE, not as obstacles to creating the sort of society WE want. The important thing to concentrate on is not "Who is right?", but how to create a social reality where everyone (except maybe for uncompromising extremists!) can feel at home. But I'm probably dreaming!
Cathy Taggart | 21 November 2017


As you explicate in this article, the Catholic Theology of the Person has far, far wider implications than marriage. It applies to all aspects of human life, including IVF, surrogacy and euthanasia. A Catholicism without it would not be Catholicism at all but the sort of watered down 'Liberal Christianity' purveyed by the dying Protestant Churches of Western Europe.
Edward Fido | 21 November 2017


Why on earth John Frawley would you want civil law to 'state that the celebration of marriage in any individual case was subject to the requirements of both the Civil Law and Religious Law' when the latter is beyond the power of the State to control?
Ginger Meggs | 21 November 2017


John, SSM legislation doesn't change Catholic teaching or change the moral decision-making at all for LGBTI people any more than it does for heterosexual people in their personal and intimate relationships. And on matters of conscience and what you or I regard as "norms" - this is a comment column, not a confessional, so I will leave it to a high power to judge.
AURELIUS | 21 November 2017


Quite so, Edward Fido. And there is also an Orwellian element: failing adequate legal protections of religious freedoms, staff in Catholic schools who uphold the Church's teaching on marriage could find themselves vulnerable to charges of discrimination, an issue of justice so far ignored by advocates who promote same-sex marriage under the banner of social justice.
John | 22 November 2017


Ginger. By making individual cases subject to civil and religious law I was trying to suggest (probably poorly!) a solution to the religious freedom question. Those who did not wish to have a religious ceremony could not be obliged to undergo one and those celebrants constrained by religious belief could not be obliged to perform one.
john frawley | 23 November 2017


John, staff in Catholic schools have presumably been 'upholding the Church's teaching on marriage' in respect of pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, divorce, marriage after divorce, etc and yet to my knowledge none has ever 'found themselves vulnerable to charges of discrimination'. What is that you want them to be able to say about marriage equality that could make them vulnerable? What are these 'freedoms' that are suddenly at risk?
Ginger Meggs | 23 November 2017


Ginger Meggs, I believe staff in Catholic schools should be able to express what the Church teaches on marriage without having to deal with complaints of the kind brought against the Archbishop of Hobart for doing the same thing.
John | 23 November 2017


Thank you John for the specific example. But aren’t you being a bit sensitive? The complaint was not upheld, indeed it was withdrawn after conciliation. Surely you don’t want to prohibit even the filing of complaints?
Ginger Meggs | 24 November 2017


I think we agree john f on the desired outcomes. The problem perhaps is that in celebrating a religious marriage, in Australia, the celebrant also acts as an agent of the state and registers a civil marriage. It would be better, perhaps, if the two functions were separated as is the case in France and other European countries. It would be very clear then that one is regulated by civil law, the other by religious law.
Ginger Meggs | 24 November 2017


Ginger. Could I add to John's last post, that the rainbow sash delegation at the Mass in St Patrick's Melbourne openly stating their sexual practices at odds with Catholic teaching and demanding reception of the Eucharist from Archbishop Pell, contrary to his obligation as a priest, is a good example of the type of abuse the Church is open to from some parts of the LGBTIQ community. I am sure you, however, would not advocate such and are probably too trusting of all parts of the gay community! Can't trust all of the people all of the time, Ginger.
john frawley | 24 November 2017


John is spot on in his comments. If the Dean Smith Bill is passed without appropriate amendments it will have very far reaching and eminently foreseeable consequences. Sorting out the implications for religious liberties later is not a good thing. If the Bill is passed unaltered I fear we collectively will be doing the equivalent of paying the first instalment of the Danegeld.
Edward Fido | 25 November 2017


Would you please help me, Edward, to understand what are the 'very far reaching and eminently foreseeable consequences' of the Dean bill unamended? And what do you mean by the reference to the 'Danegeld'? It was protection money, wasn't it? How is that relevant here?
Ginger Meggs | 25 November 2017


I think, GM, your argumentation on this issue is very like that of the classical Sophists. You appear to understand full well what those on the other side to you in this discussion are saying. This includes my reference to 'the first instalment of the Danegeld'.
Edward Fido | 27 November 2017


Thank you Joel. I’m troubled that the issue of freedom of conscience is being postponed. Humanity has muddled along without same-sex marriage for a while now, and I don’t see how a few more months can matter, since the rights of LGBT+ people are not the only rights to be considered. It would be better to legislate for both dimensions of the topic at the same time: it’s just better law-making. I infer, from the fact that there is a debate at all (and from other public discussion), that the aggression of the Yes campaign continues, even though their victory is an opportunity to be visibly gracious. For example, the proverbial wedding-cake baker who is a conscientious objector could be left in peace, as there are plenty of bakers to go around. My impression, though, is that the Yes campaign will encourage LGBT+ couples and supporters to go out of their way to place orders with this baker in order to expose him/her and have him/her forced into line. I hope I’m wrong – and that the constituents of LGBT+ advocates are gentler souls than their advocates.
Gavan O'Farrell | 28 November 2017


Gavan, a cartoon in The Australian last week solved the dilemma of the wedding cake baker you mentioned. It depicts a baker telling a gay couple across the shop counter that he's happy to make their cake, but they can put the little decoration with 2 men on the cake themselves. And no, I don't know any gay couples who would actively seek out a homophobic baker just so they can make a discrimination complaint. Have a bit of faith in human nature!
AURELIUS | 28 November 2017


I'm sorry Edward but the Classics is not one of my long suits, although I have noticed that the Sophists have had bad press in Catholic circles. But no, I don't really understand what 'the other side' is saying perhaps because I'm looking in from the outside and don't share the cultural experience. That is why I was seeking specific examples of the perceived threats. I can understand why John Frawley's example of the rainbow sash incident could be disruptive and disturbing especially given the significance of the celebration of the Eucharist but my understanding is that that was an internal Church matter in that the protesters were actually disaffected but otherwise faithful members of the Church itself. But I may be wrong in that assumption, and had it been repeated or had it become an ongoing offensive nuisance (like the Right to Lifers' stalking of abortion clinics), then I would understand the need to make it a civil offence. But it hasn't (unlike the Right to Lifers' stalking) become a problem yet so I do wonder at the expressions of urgency in legislating for greater 'freedoms of religion'.
Ginger Meggs | 29 November 2017


Ginger Meggs, I hope you don't think it is just some idiosyncrasy of Catholics that gives short shrift to sophistry: they were exposed as intellectual charlatans by one of their best known contemporaries, Socrates, who demonstrated their abuse of language and philosophical untenability of their 'teaching'.
John | 30 November 2017


Aurelius, you're obviously not aware of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CCRL now before the U.S. Supreme Court: tinyurl.com/yasx6g7c . Background to the case here: tinyurl.com/ybcbrw5d . There are many other analogous cases in other jurisdictions in the West. It's one thing to have faith in human nature. It's another thing to refuse to recognize that human nature is fallen ... maybe even in Australia.
HH | 30 November 2017


No HH, I am not aware of the details of the case - but I prresume it's simple a case at this stage and no verdict has been reached. And I hope the US still lives by the rule of law and we can look at the details and make an informed decision, and the one with the biggest legal budget doesn't decide the outcome of the case. On face value, it's hard to see how someone could simply refuse to acknowledge someone as a client/customer based on their sexuality. If that were the case, Gloria Jeans Coffee Shops would be out of business! (owned partially by Hillsong Inc!)
AURELIUS | 05 December 2017


Aurelius, it's clear from the link that the baker didn't refuse because of the sexual orientation of the clients, as you surmise. He refused because they wanted him to create a wedding cake to celebrate their ssm, to which he has strong moral and religious objections, as did almost the entire Western World (at least) up to a moment ago. He even pointed them to other bakers who would not have his objection. But that wasn't good enough for them. The cake had to come from HIM. So now he has had to stop making wedding cakes (so vindictive activists can't pick him off again), retrench 6 of his 10 staff, and is facing the Supreme Court, following earlier decisions and having to pay legal fees. And don't imagine this epitome of leftist "tolerance" is a one-off. There are analogous cases here in Australia (e.g. Phillip Is case), N.Z., and hundreds across the world in recent years. I have some faith in human nature. I have no faith in the "Yes" campaigners and their useful idiots in the Church.
HH | 05 December 2017


Mary, when those of us who voted "yes" did so, we made no commentary on the matter of children. The postal vote was about marriage - solely about marriage. Same sex couples are unable to conceive children together, therefore the matter of children was not part of the equation. Many people tried to conflate the issues you raise with the SSM vote. They are unrelated and it is unhelpful to try to discuss them together. Of course there are ethical issues involved in surrogacy and artificial insemination but that was not what was being discussed in the postal vote.
BPLF | 05 December 2017


HH, where do you stand on Rosa Parks? People have been making a stand for a long time in situations where they believe stuff is just plain wrong.
BPLF | 05 December 2017


HH, as I said - no verdict has been reached..... and if the facts as you stated are such, I would hope the baker is not convicted. But from a moral point of view, I can't see the difference between discriminating against a gay person in general is any different to discriminating in the context of a gay wedding. The moral objection is simply because in the case of a wedding, it's evident the people involved are gay, whereas in any everyday superficial passing of generic cake over the counter, the person's orientation would be irrelevant. The difference lies in the fact that creating a wedding cake requires a more in-depth relationship/interaction with the customer that the business person obviously found objectionable.
AURELIUS | 06 December 2017


BPLF, You wouldn't prohibit a discussion of marriage from canvassing the topic of parenting, surely. LGBT+ people may see the two topics as distinct (necessarily), but I believe heterosexual people generally see a connection - not that they all have kids, of course, but they "get" the rather obvious connection. The connection may be bothersome to SSM proponents, but that doesn't make it less true or valid. The connection isn't attitude (much less any kind of phobic attitude), it's just "there".
Gavan O'Farrell | 06 December 2017


It's good, Aurelius, that you acknowledge the baker in question is being treated unjustly, but merely hoping that he will not be convicted won't redress the injustice already perpetrated by his accusers' failure to respect his conscientious objection, not to mention the consternation and disruption to his and his employees' livelihoods.
John | 07 December 2017


Aurelius, the refusal of the baker has nothing to do with the couple being homosexuals. It’s clear from what he says that Mr Phillips would just as staunchly refuse were the customers a heterosexual same-sex couple trying to “marry” each other (for whatever reason), or a heterosexual man trying to marry many heterosexual wives, and so on. Likewise, if a homosexual man and a homosexual woman wanted to marry each other – and this does happen, as does a homosexual person marrying a heterosexual person of the opposite sex – I’m sure that like me, he’d have no objection whatsoever. He will refuse to bake if the marriage is not a case of one man marrying one woman. It's that simple. Sexual preference is irrelevant. As you can read, he also refuses to create cakes for celebrations of Halloween, and divorces, and for bucks parties, because of moral objections he has to aspects these events. And yet he’s happy to sell cakes to gay people when there’s no moral objection to the event they’re being made for (I would assume birthdays, etc). His position is entirely coherent, and reflects the traditional Christian morality that the Church upholds (though he’s not a Catholic). To accuse him of singling out gays for prejudicial treatment here is to manifest the very property - intolerance - being objected to.
HH | 07 December 2017


Aurelius, since no verdict has been reached (as you point out), it may be premature to speculate about how comfortable the baker felt about interacting with his/her gay customers over their wedding cake. We have no reason to believe that it was the interaction that bothered him, as distinct from the intended use of the cake. It may suit you to focus on the idea of “objectionable interaction”, because then the objection seems more personal and arguably truly homophobic. However, if he is just a conscientious objector to the marriage, it is surely understandable that he wouldn’t like to be seen as endorsing the marriage by baking a wedding cake in its honour. For all we know, the gay couple and the baker are not strangers, and we know nothing about their other interactions (if any). I object to same-sex marriage, but I find that I enjoy my interactions with gay people as much as with anyone else, and I don't think I'm an unusual case. Whatever you think of this distinction, it does exist.
Gavan O'Farrell | 07 December 2017


Gavin O'Farrell, I'm not sure I follow you're point. I didn't write anything about prohibiting a discussion of surrogacy or of artificial insemination. I said they were separate moral issues from SSM. They are moral issues for infertile heterosexual couples as well, and separate from the couple's right to marry. Your comment: "LGBT+ people may see the two topics as distinct (necessarily), but I believe heterosexual people generally see a connection", further confuses me. Why would LGBTI people "necessarily" see something one way and those who are not another?
BPLF | 08 December 2017


Why is that throughout all the social, cilvil and human rights reforms in my recent (informed) knowledge, SSM seems to be the only legal reform that leads some people to think that granting one sector of society a right deprives another of their right? And now that SSM laws have been passed, why should there be a trade-off between rights of LGBTI people and "others" ie the proverbial baker/florist?
AURELIUS | 10 December 2017


BPLF, I understood you to say that marriage and parenting "are unrelated and it is unhelpful to try to discuss them together", so that one shouldn't discuss them together. That's how it sounded to me. I may have misunderstood you. I say that marriage and parenting are "necessarily" distinct issues for the LGBT+ couple, but are connected for the heterosexual couple only for the trite reason that the former, by its nature, will not generate a child and will necessarily have to make arrangements to do so, while the latter will or can generate a child, by direct cause and effect, unless something is amiss, in which case they might also make arrangements to procure a child. I wasn't saying anything at all sophisticated.
Gavan O'Farrell | 10 December 2017


HH, what's to stop a Christian who (wrongly) objects to interracial marriage or Muslim marriages from refusing to serve a customer? Or a Catholic baker refusing to serve ex-divorcees?
AURELIUS | 11 December 2017


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