Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Best of 2013: It's time to recognise secular same sex marriage


Rainbow-painted hands forming the shape of a love heartThe US Supreme Court and our newly installed Prime Minister have put their weight behind legal recognition of same sex marriage.

Kevin Rudd before resuming the prime ministership wrote that he had 'come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage. I also believe that this change should legally exempt religious institutions from any requirement to change their historic position and practice that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.'

Change is still some way off here in Australia and the arguments are still a little confused. But change is coming.

On 26 June 2013, the US Supreme Court gave two decisions impacting on same sex marriage under a constitution which vests in the states, and not Congress, the power to make laws with respect to marriage. Here in Australia, the Commonwealth Parliament, and not any state parliament, has the overriding power to make laws with respect to marriage. So Australian states are not assured the constitutional mandate to go it on their own.

One of the US Supreme Court decisions cleared the way for same sex marriage in California, the 12th state of the union to recognise such marriages, and the other struck down the Congress' Defense of Marriage Act which provided that in all federal rules and rulings 'the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife'. Writing for the majority in US v Windsor, Justice Kennedy striking down Congress' attempt to limit marriage to the exclusive union of a man and a woman said:

It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage. For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilisation.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, described the Supreme Court decisions as a 'tragic day for marriage and our nation', saying, 'The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so.' He and his fellow bishops said, 'Marriage is the only instituion that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.'

Australia's bishops have been fairly quiet on this issue. But in April, Australia's most theologically literate bishop Mark Coleridge appeared on the ABC Q&A opposing not just same sex marriage but any civil recogntion of same sex unions, describing homosexuality as 'a warp in the creation' and as an impossibility in God's plan.

It is high time to draw a distinction between a marriage recognised by civil law and a sacramental marriage. In deciding whether to expand civil marriage to the union of two persons of the same gender, legislators should have regard not just for the wellbeing of same sex couples and the children already part of their family units, but also for the wellbeing of all future children who may be affected, as well as the common good of society in setting appropriate contours for legally recognised relationships.

Same sex couples wanting to create their own children may in the forseeable future be able to use only their own genetic material, precluding the possibility that such children will have a biological father and a biological mother. Whether or not we legislate for same sex marriage, we should restrict artificial reproduction of children such that they will have a biological father and a biological mother, and hopefully able to be known by them.

Legislators making laws regarding adoption ought be able to demand that adoption agencies continue to consider the best interests of the child. In the case of a child unrelated to any prospective adopting couple, the adoption agency ought be able to have regard to the desirability of a child being brought up in a family with an adult male and an adult female.

If these concerns were met or at least weighed in the balance against the claims of children already in same sex families deserving respect and nurture by the state and society, society could properly move to recognition of civil unions or same sex marriage if and when the overwhelming majority of the population (including those who are presently married civilly) supported such change.

In the US proceedings, the Court was told that there are already 40,000 children in California alone who are being brought up by same sex couples. We need to be mindful of the wellbeing and dignity of these children as well as the handful who will be up for adoption and the unknown number in future who will be created in a test tube.

There has been a clear divergence of view within the Catholic Church on civil unions as a means of doing justice and according dignity to gay couples, while leaving unanswered the questions about adopted children and children created with advancing reproductive technology, and maintaining a distinction from marriage even in civil terms.

In June 2012, Coleridge had written to Campbell Newman the new Premier of Queensland urging a repeal of the law recognising civil partnerships. He spoke of 'the evidence that seems to be emerging ... that there is a slippery slope from registration to civil partnerships to same-sex marriage. I would urge you therefore to honour the promise made before the election — to repeal the civil partnerships legislation in order to safeguard marriage and the family as they have been known through the millennia.'

On Q&A Coleridge then said:

But what the Church has to do is to remain faithful to our understanding of homosexuality and yet, at the same time, to work in every way we can to ensure justice for homosexual people. Now, clearly this doesn't mean to say, for instance, that we support gay marriage. The Church's position on that is very well known and controversial. But in every other way, to work to defend the dignity of homosexual people, just as we work to defend the dignity of other people.

How to do that and to maintain fidelity to our understanding of homosexuality, which is grounded upon a particular vision of what the human person is and what human sexuality is within that context. How to hold those two things together is the conundrum that we are dealing with. I don't think it is an Achilles' heel but I think it is a real conundrum with which the Church has to continue to grapple at this time and in this culture.

The Archbishop was right to insist on the need 'to work in every way we can to ensure justice for homosexual people' and 'to work to defend the dignity of homosexual people, just as we work to defend the dignity of other people'. It would be just and a service to the common good for the State to give some recognition and support to committed, faithful, long-term relationships between gay couples deserving dignity, being able to love and support each other in sickness and in health, until death they do part.

Should legislators in our pluralistic democratic society withhold such just and dignified recognition of civil unions because this might be a slippery slope to same sex marriage? Pope Benedict XVI when at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opposed even civil unions. However Pope Francis when Archbishop of Buenos Aires had told gay rights activists that 'homosexuals need to have recognised rights' and that he 'supported civil unions, but not same sex marriage'.

I am with Francis on civil unions but, unlike him, I now accept that we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage. That will be the long term consequence of last month's US Supreme Court decisions which will impact much further west than California.

Frank Brennan headshotFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at Australian Catholic University, and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University. This article was originally published on 11 July 2013.

Rainbow hands image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, same sex marriage, gay rights, civil unions, Kevin Rudd



submit a comment

Existing comments

Whether or not marriage is a God shared sacrament, marriage between a man and a woman is a unique relationship that for historical reasons 'owns' the word 'marriage'. I have experienced this for 52 years and deeply resent having 'marriage' appropriated by any other meaning. Do what you like, call it how you will, but traditional marriage is too important to civilisation to be discarded in a futile attempt to include two opposed meanings to the one word.

donn byrne | 08 January 2014  

Happy New Year, Fr Frank! The time has come I think to stop using the term "marriage" in the public debate regarding the campaign for civil recognition of same -sex unions. For Catholics and indeed all Christians within Western Civilisation same-sex unions are de facto - a contrived event evident in the fact of living in a sexual relationship but not the real thing and reasonably should be recognised in civil law on the same terms as are heterosexual, unmarried de-facto relationships, in accord with the role of the Civil Law in the ordering of society. Surely, for Catholics, marriage is a God-sanctified event mediated through his priest in the sacrament of Matrimony, where a man and a woman formalise a partnership or union with God the Creator as instruments of the creation of human life. The marriage contract carries with it the moral obligation to care for any human life, both temporarily and spiritually, that may arise from the sexual union of man and woman. To propose otherwise or to seek to use the sanctity of true marriage to promote the normalcy of homosexual relationships simply cannot be part of Catholic Christian rhetoric , quite apart from the sad illogicallity that it represents. Let's call same-sex sexual unions de facto civil union - not marriage.

john frawley | 08 January 2014  

"We need to be mindful of the wellbeing and dignity of these children..." And how do we do that? By suppressing the a priori natural right of children to be raised in their biological families, and the a priori natural duty of parents to nurture their offspring. Great!

HH | 08 January 2014  

I agree with Donn and John. Marriage, based on the anatomical complementarity of men and women, is fundamental. It's what keeps the human race going. If marriage were redefined as the union of (any) two people we would need a new word for what we call marriage today. Christian or not.

Gsvsn Breen | 08 January 2014  

What an excellent article! I was pleased to read how & why Frank's position on same sex marriage had changed. I was similarly struck by PM Rudd's statement distinguishing civil from religious (or sacramental marriage) & thought it was a very fair comment, offering a wise way forward. I gather that historically civil & church marriages have sometimes taken different paths. In Shakespeare's England, for instance, common law marriages were the norm for ordinary people & proceeded the proclamation of the bans. Frank's nuanced consideration of the status & wellbeing of any children who might be born to or adopted by a same sex couple sensitively raises wise ethical questions. Frank's positive position on same sex marriage is predicated not on a simple 'change of mind' but on a serious working through of these issues. It would be good to see Mark Coleridge, whose position is even more conservative than Pope Francis', take seriously an argument like Frank Brennan's. But that may be wishful thinking on my part!

Ruth Dunnicliff-Hagan | 08 January 2014  

Good afternoon, Ruth. It is true that common law marriage was common in Shakespeare's time. The protestant reformation did away with the sacramental Church, a process that was completed over five years from 1547 to 1552 when Cranmer produced the second Book of Prayer and the new English Church was enshrined in Law through the Second Act of Uniformity 1552. Thereafter, there was no saramental marriage in England and identified practising Catholics ran the risk of losing their heads along with their priests, the instruments of the sacraments. Billy Shakespeare was baptised in 1564, 12 years after sacramental marriage was abandoned. (Baptism was retained by Cranmer and Wolsey simply because it was a centrepiece of continental European prostestanism which Cranmer needed to support him in his dismantling of the Catholic Church in England. There was no sacramental marriage in his day and all marriage was essentially registered under civil law. Ref: Culkin G. The English Reformation. Paternoster Press, London 1954

john frawley | 08 January 2014  

Thanks, Frank, for applying some common sense to this unnecessarily and inappropriately emotive discussion. As you say, society needs to "have regard not just for the wellbeing of same sex couples and the children already part of their family units, but also for the wellbeing of all future children who may be affected." I have great difficulty in understanding the discriminatory attitude in much of society to homosexuals who happen to have been created as such by a loving God. I happen to be heterosexual and live in a marriage recognised by society with all the acceptance and privileges that go with that. This acceptance should not be withheld from other genuinely loving couples who happen to have a natural same-sex attraction. Gay people cop enough discrimination from a heterosexual culture without being prevented from a public loving relationship.

Peter Johnstone | 08 January 2014  

During these holidays, I'm enjoying re-reading a favourite novel - Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea". The protagonist at one point says "It was true that marriages were secret places." A most apt description. Somehow "de facto civil unions" doesn't quite have the same impact. Denying two people who love, and are committed to each other, this "secret place" is very wrong.

Pam | 09 January 2014  

As a Christian in a committed same sex relationship, I don't understand why the Church would fight so hard from helping to celebrate and solemnize a loving, committed relationship between consenting adults. Why on earth would you want to prevent people from making a commitment to a faithful relationship, particularly if they are going to have children together?

Bronwen | 09 January 2014  

Peter Johnstone, There is absolutely no evidence that homosexuals were "created as such by a loving God". All medical research places far greater credence on environmental factors as determinates of sexual orientation. To date there is no identified gene. If you have an alternative experience of the research you should quote it so those ignorant of that work can become informed. You are struggling, I would suggest, under a misunderstanding of the essence of creation, and the means whereby God creates human life.

john frawley | 09 January 2014  

To John Frawley. Postmortem and imaging studies over the past two decades have revealed structural differences in both global structures and sexually-related brain structures between heterosexual and homosexual subjects. Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is known to be involved in sex differences in reproductive behavior, mediating responses in menstrual cycles in women and specifically the anterior hypothalamus of the brain helps regulate male-typical sexual behavior. Recently, the hypothalamus has been linked to gender identity and sexual orientation. A seminal paper by Simon LeVay found that the an interstitial nucleus of the hypothalamus INAH3 was found to be dimorphic according to sexual orientation not gender. These results were obtained from postmortem analysis of hypothalamic nuclei of known homosexual subjects compared to heterosexual patients. The hypothalamus is also linked to sexual orientation through findings that show that activity of aromatase, an important enzyme converting androgens to estrogens, is high in the preoptic hypothalamic region of mammals during the pre- and neonatal periods. This activity is linked to sexual differentiation and may be a basis in structural and functional sexual differences playing a role in mediating the sexual orientation development due to prenatal hormonal exposure. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus has also been found to relate to sexual orientation, with homosexual men having twice as large of a vasopressin-containing subnucleus of the SCN than heterosexuals. This might be a neurological explanation for the finding that homosexual men arise and retire earlier each day than heterosexuals, as it is known that the SCN is involved in modulating human circadian rhythms. Analogously, in a rat model study, it was found that male rats treated with an aromatase inhibitor showed a partner preference for females when tested in the late dark phase but showed homosexual mating preferences when tested in the early dark phase, implicating the involvement of the SCN in sexual orientation in other species. Cerebral asymmetry: The size of the brain’s hemispheres is a sexually dimorphic trait in which men tend to show asymmetry in the volumes of their hemispheres while women show volumetric symmetry. A recent volumetric MRI study indicated that homosexuals showed sex-atypical symmetry: homosexual men showed hemispheric volumes to be symmetric similar to heterosexual women and homosexual women showed asymmetry in hemispheric volumes as heterosexual men do. These findings demonstrate a global neurological difference in brain structures showing sex-atypical characteristics associated with sexual orientation. Anterior commissure:The anterior commissure, a bundle of white matter fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres, was found by Allen and Gorski to be larger in homosexual men and heterosexual women than in heterosexual men. This finding provides a possible anatomical basis for higher inter-hemispheric functional connections in homosexuals explaining why homosexual men and heterosexual women show language circuit functional symmetry in out performing heterosexual men in verbal tests. Biology and sexual orientation, Wikipedia...“Beware the man of a single book.” - St. Thomas Aquinas

Annoying Orange | 09 January 2014  

I'm with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on this one. “We struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about -- our very skin. It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given. I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups... Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice. It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all -- all of us -- part of God's family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honor. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy... ...The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority. To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.”

Christopher McElhinney | 09 January 2014  

Theological anthropology tells us that we are spiritual beings on a human journey, so if the full meaning of incarnation is found in the person of Jesus Christ then His attitudes and teachings are what the Catholic Church should practice. Marriage is a cultural institution and sexual identity and preference stem from the very essence of personal gender issues and nature. Jesus taught that transcendent love cuts across cultural norms and nature so to ban homosexuals and divorced persons (who live in relationships) from inclusion at the Eucharistic table because they live in sin is wrong. If we can believe Scripture then Jesus knew that Judas was about to betray him at the end of the Last Supper, however Jesus still included Judas at this First Eucharistic meal despite his sinful intentions. I feel Church attitude bestows shame upon people and detracts from their dignity by banning them from the table where spiritual food is supposed to bring a sense of transcendent love and equality (regardless of relationship preferences). Children are very astute when it comes to personal dignity, if the church refuses dignity to the parents then it cannot hope to earn the respect and trust of their children.

Trish Martin | 09 January 2014  

Sorry guys, but you've (again) missed the point of Frank's article. The game is over, your cause is lost; (civil) marriage, even in Australia, will eventually include same-sex partnerships. You may delay it happening, but you won't, in the long run, stop it. I suspect that it will fall on deaf ears, but could I, in the words of Cromwell, 'beseech you in the bowels of Christ to consider that you may be wrong'?

Ginger Meggs | 09 January 2014  

"Why on earth would you want to prevent people from making a commitment to a faithful relationship, particularly if they are going to have children together?" Because lots of relationships are about love that are not married relationships. Love is not, at least as far as I can tell, the crucial aspect of marriage, because love is present in many other relationships. Marriage is instead a sacred bond of kinship intrinsically geared towards the growing of love and the be-getting of life. Such openness to life as an intrinsic part of marital relationships are what makes the sexual complementarity of a male-female marriage fundamentally distinct from a same-sex one. Now, if, as I think, marriage is not so much about love (which can be found elsewhere) but about the comprehensive union of man and woman, made one-flesh in the marital consummation, an act which is in-itself open to life, then stability, two people loving each other, or two people being attracted to each other, are not in themselves sufficient grounds for that relationship to be institutionalized in marriage - and if so, then not sacramentalized in the Church, which (I think) understands matrimony more along the lines of my sketch.

Lobi | 09 January 2014  

Thank you John Frawley for bringing up the point that God does not 'create' homosexuals. I am gay but have never wanted to be. But I know beyond any doubt that my 'gayness' is completely a result of sexual abuse as a child and as a teenager. But try to say this in today's politically correct approach to homosexuality and you'll soon find out who the unreasoning people are. I have suffered so much because of the common but unscientific perception of homosexuality being 'created by God'. But having said all that, I also believe that homosexuality being created by abuse or even lesser dramatic events such as child rearing events, such early onset homosexuality is very difficult to change and as such gay people need to be treated without any discrimination and be given the right to a happy and fulfilling relationship with another human being of their choice. To demand anything less is just plain cruel. For myself, I chose marriage with a woman I love deeply and while there have of course been issues, I have learned a great deal and even over time have started to become more attracted to female sexuality. I don't fit anyone's stereotype of agenda or mis-construction. I am just me. And as a priest once said to me, "everyone has to work out their own sexuality".

Dave | 10 January 2014  

Dear Dave, Thank you for being such a wonderful example of God's creation. I am greatly moved by what you have written and admire you enormously for what you have had the courage to state in a public domain such as Eureka Street. You are what I consider a great human being. All the best. To annoying Orange, Thank you for pointing out the research with which I was not familiar and will now look up with a view to my better understanding. I suppose that as in all matters of human science, it remains to be demonstrated whether the changes or differences you have described are variations of normal or abnormalities. That is the nitty-gritty of the matter.

john frawley | 10 January 2014  

There is no such thing as normal. It may help understand what I mean by this: if you compare something normal, yes, but compared to what? Were the words our biology teacher told us at the beginning of our first class. Words not easily forgotten. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, medicine and allied disciplines, philosophy, physics, and psychology. For an inking of the complexity of the human mind. And why we do what we do in life because of who we are. Neuroscience is the best place to start. Therein you will find the true nitty-gritty of the matter.

Annoying Orange | 10 January 2014  

This is an old article but I've only now read it. Let them eat cake, I say, civil marriage is plenty enough for same sex couples. It provides security for partners and children, social recognition, acceptability and puts paid to any public discomfort. The Church, by which I mean Catholic, has no need to sully its sacraments even if the C of E (does such an anomaly even exist in Australia?) wishes to. The C of E and its ilk did away with most sacraments anyway, and as for the others institutions who claim Christianity, they, too, dismissed sacrament. Sooooo, I'm thinking slowly here, why not encourage them to conduct the marriage ceremonies gay couples desire? Sacraments then will remain unsullied. Is that too simple? We can all enjoy our cake and eat it; same cake, different plate.

Zoé | 10 January 2014  

Why is there a need to demonstrate anything about homosexuality or heterosexuality through science? Surely morality is universal and covers all of our human conduct - both sexual and our everyday platonic relationships. Surely it's our sense of the sacredness of our fellow human beings and seeing the godliness in their sexuality as a gift rather than a commodity - leading to faithfulness and respect.

AURELIUS | 11 January 2014  

True Aurelius! However, the godliness in human sexuality resides in the fact that the natural law and Catholic teaching degrees that the sexual union of man and woman is the instrument of God's creation and that any sexual union outside that is by definition un-Godly and contrary to the natural law. Rhetoric cannot change that.

john frawley | 13 January 2014  

To John Frawley, and what exactly do you mean when you say: variations of normal or abnormalities? Every person has there own personality and no matter how hard someone tries, there is no way for one person to be exactly the same or as another. That is what makes people unique. If no one person can be exactly the same then there is only one normal person in the world, and the rest of us are abnormal. We were created to be different, which is what makes us who we are.

Annoying Orange | 13 January 2014  

For Zoe who says "The C of E and its ilk did away with most sacraments anyway, and as for the others (sic) institutions who claim Christianity, they, too, dismissed sacrament." This is not correct. The C of E has retained sacraments dividing them between those instituted by Christ, - Baptism and Eucharist - and those not instituted by Christ, for example, matrimony, Holy Orders etc same as Catholicism. Seven all up. As for the other Christian denominations to which you refer, the Presbyterians for example, have two sacraments - Baptism and Eucharist, and, the Methodists, (aka, Uniting Church (Australia) United Methodists (USA)), the Seventh Day Adventsist etc also recognise Baptism and Eucharist as sacraments. The Orthodox churches have the same seven as Catholicism.

Christopher McElhinney | 13 January 2014  

To Annoying Orange. Normal human beings have two eyes. If someone ends up with three, that is abnormal. To Christopher McElhinney. The English Reformation abandoned all but Baptism and Marriage, and within Protestantism the greatest of all sacraments, the Eucharist, is considered symbolic, not evidence of "God truely present amongst men" which is the Catholic definition of a sacrament. Except in Lutheranism where Eucharist is not considered merely symbolic.

john frawley | 14 January 2014  

In reference to: Annoying Orange 09 January 2014 Hi. Could you please explain whether you believe the many scientific aspects you mentioned are "variations" or "abnormalities". Also, do you think what happened to my own psycho-sexual development a variation or abnormality? I can tell you, after having three children and one stillborn daughter, one thing has become very, very apparent to me: There are so many things that can go wrong, be abnormal, be a variation from what most people would deem as the norm, the average. One thing that really distresses e is that the gay political lobby will NOT acknowledge the possibility of homosexuality being a result (sometimes, if not often) of things 'going wrong'. I can fully appreciate why this might be the case - their whole agenda rests on the 'normalisation' of homosexuality and in one way, as I said before, who can blame them? But, have we simply been asked to swallow a meme without truly allowing for fully objective research. Try doing any research which might suggest 'abberation' and see what happens to you. This is dogmatism as bad as any Catholic "homosexual behaviour is a sin" mentality. The odds are seriously stacked against true scholarship in this area and more and more gays, thank God, are starting to realise this. One thing I have come to believe that some search for a singular etiology as to the reasons for homosexuality is erroneous. Why can there not be both biological AND/OR psycho-social 'causes'? And if so, let those who believe their homosexuality is psycho-social in cause say so and deal with it accordingly instead of branding them homophobic or the like. A phobia is an 'unrealistic' fear. Many have very realistic concerns that truth is not being allowed to be researched.

Dave | 14 January 2014  

One more issue: If there is an acknowledgement that homosexuality is caused by psycho-social environments which causes the 'normal' psycho-sexual development of a child to 'abberate', often as a result of parenting issues, then, well, all hell will break loose in regards to gay parenting, I suppose. But does that we wee stop researching - OBJECTIVELY. And please, no comparing 'best case' scenarios for gay parenting and 'worst case' scenarios for straight parenting. That is not objective or unbiased. Trust me: The issues that children of gay parents face are just as tumultous if not more so as 'normal' family life. Time will tell, I suppose: Time will tell. But we cannot, for the sake of all children, be blinkered about this, we, as in both gay and straight people.

Dave | 14 January 2014  

For John Frawley. Thank you for your interest in my comments. I respectfully disagree with your comments re Anglicans, Lutherans and Sacraments. The (Anglican) Thirty-nine Articles (The Articles of Religion) article XXV on Sacraments has seven as in my post and with the notion of those ordained by Christ and those that are not. Whatever the theology behind these and the retention of the Roman Catholic understanding of them was not my point. It was that Anglicanism retains seven as in Catholicism. The Lutherans actually have three not two as you suggest: Baptism, Eucharist and Penance though not all Lutherans accept penance as a Sacrament. The other four of Matrimony, Holy Orders, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick are considered non-sacramental ‘rites’ by Lutherans.

Christopher McElhinney | 14 January 2014  

To Christopher McElhinney. I have a notion that controversy is the engine room of argument and properly predicated argument is the machinery of progress. This long running discussion I think can only speak of progress. I have never seen such a long running commentary in ES, NEVER SEEN ANYTHING, ANYWHERE TO COMPARE WITH DAVE'S CONTRIBUTION, and have even after many years re-read the Anglican Articles , with which I have (expectedly I suppose) more than a little disagreement. However, I somehow feel that in the spirit of the debate here we have all made a little progress despite the controversy. God Bless. And a special "God Bless to Dave and his family.

john frawley | 14 January 2014  

A further thought: It is a scientific fact that the brains of children who are abused and/or negelcted, develop 'abnormally' or 'differently' than those that aren't. How does this factor into the studies mentioned by Annoying Orange. And, did the scienctific research only look at adult brains? If so, how can any conclusion about biology be made when we know that our brains can develop abnormally due to either traumatic events or other factors. It is very difficult, actually next to impossible to conclude anything about so called childhood homosexuality from the study of adult homosexuals. But, having said all this, I still believe that gay people have every right to a free and moral relationship with whomever they choose. I know many men and women in thiese relationships. Trouble is, I also know men men and women in gay relationships, perhaps more so, that are far from ideal for both adults and children in those 'families'. Again, time will tell. But see, I have a very serious issue with childcare as well (a la Leunig). But again, sacred ground - must not discuss or speak out against the holy cows of current society. But, the pendulum will swing again (it's already started) as it is for many women who are starting to wake up to the fact that 'liberation' was in the end, just another form of entrapment, where they had to deny themselves even more.

Dave | 14 January 2014  

Hi Dave, how’s it going? D: Could you please explain whether you believe the many scientific aspects you mentioned are "variations" or "abnormalities". AO: I personally believe they are neither. The only “abnormality” is the incapacity to love. D: Also, do you think what happened to my own psycho-sexual development a variation or abnormality? AO: No, as you seem to have married a women you love enough to bear your children. Having children is a huge reasonability, and as you know parenting the hardest job in the world. Having said that, I also disagree had you formed a loving homosexual relationship with another man and had adopted children. Or had been single, devoted to a partner, friends or/and family. The “norm” is an ideal we propose to reach. We aim for what would fall into the “normal” range in our society, to have a generally happy productive life, with meaningful relationships, meaningful work or activity, and a way of supporting ourselves, friends and families we form. D: as a priest once said to me, "everyone has to work out their own sexuality". AO: Yes I agree. D: One thing I have come to believe that some search for a singular etiology as to the reasons for homosexuality is erroneous. AO: Yes, absolutely.

Annoying Orange | 14 January 2014  

Yes, AO, I believe you are right. And the very reason why Frank Brennan is calling for a secular same sex marriage law (although I personally disagree with calling it marriage), and this would then leave the church to deal with the 'transcendent' teaching of the 'ideal'. To live simply by the 'norm', is more than inadequate in a society that holds nothing sacred anymore, particularly when it comes to children, and is the very hard lesson it is learning now, because it went with the 'norm' of the day, and relied on social opinion to lead it.

lilly | 15 January 2014  

All life is sacred. Who are we to say otherwise. Let a loving, supporting and secure relationship be your guide, not an institution's perception that dictates that 'the good' meet our standards and all others outside that box receive condemnation.

BuddhaBoy | 15 January 2014  

Furthermore, John Frawley, have you realised by saying: "I suppose that as in all matters of human science, it remains to be demonstrated whether the changes or differences you have described are variations of normal or abnormalities". You are simply reaffirming: "The very concept of “scientific truth” can only represent a social construction invented by scientists (whether consciously or not) as a device to justify their hegemony over the study of nature"? Stephen Jay Gould.

Annoying Orange | 16 January 2014  

Thanks for your revealing response Annoying Orange. However, it is like so many others who start with science and end with mere opinion. Why, because, in the end, the science which is attempted to be used to 'prove' the right to 'normalise' homosexuality, (and odd term given that there is no 'normality), just doesn't hold the kind of weight when transferred to the everyday lives of people. You also need to define what happens in some way. If not a 'variation' or 'abberation' then what. I definitely see abuse caused homosexuality as a serious abberation in a person's psycho-sexual development. If you cannot see that even on a human level then I fear for all your other theories and opinions.

David | 17 January 2014  

Dear Annoying Orange, It has been an interesting discussion but must really come to an end !! I cannot however accept that magnetism and gravity, for instance, as "scientific truths" represent a "social construction invented by scientists" to demonstrate their dominion over science. The sort of stuff expected from Gould amongst his many ramblings. There was probably more truth to be found in his science fiction writing than in most of his work! Happy days, AO.

john frawley | 17 January 2014  

To John Frawley . A prejudiced man's report of what an egalitarian man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

Annoying Orange | 17 January 2014  

You obviously do not have any Indian gay friends, do you JF? - Lord Shiva, also called Tryambaka Deva (literally, "three-eyed Lord"), is depicted as having three eyes: the sun is His right eye, the moon the left eye and fire the third eye. The two eyes on the right and left indicate His activity in the physical world. The third eye in the center of the forehead symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power, and is thus called the eye of wisdom or knowledge. Like fire, the powerful gaze of Shiva's third eye annihilates evil, and thus the evil-doers fear His third eye.

Sic transit gloria mundi | 17 January 2014  

Eurekastreet- If you want those most need of equal rights in this country to feel at all as if you are in the slightest way supporting them amidst their troubles, you can not let the last comment on this page finish with the words: ‘Happy days, AO’. Maybe one of your writes- AURELIUS, could bring it all back on track.

Annoying Orange | 17 January 2014  

Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person's opinion, ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. described bigotry in the following quotation: "The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract."

Contra john frawley | 18 January 2014  

It could be said that almost every person (some more than others) has at some point in their life been taught that because of their personality, gender and sexual expression or because of their social, sexual and political attitudes that they aren’t a real man or real woman and not only is this unacceptable, it is illogical, inaccurate and dangerous. We all need a gender-neutral Marriage Act because we need the law to reflect the fact that our biological sex doesn’t determine our personality, the sex/s you are attracted too, or the roles you play in a relationship. If we want to combat homophobia, sexism and other forms of de-gendering, and bring about a long overdue culture shift, then it is fundamentally important that we enshrine an understanding of gender and sexuality that is not just inclusive of the natural expression of our individual citizens but one that is accurate and most importantly healthy. A gender-neutral Marriage Act is a necessary step that our society must take so that in generations to come there will also be no more people who shamelessly ostracize others by insinuating they are ‘abnormal’.

Robert Best | 20 January 2014  

AO, I agree completely wirh Aurelius' comment above. To me, Dave also has it right. Sic transit gloria mundi, I have many Indian friends and as with friends of all other nationalities and races have no idea if any of them are homosexual - none of my business and it doesn't worry me in the least - "such is life". What I do know, however, is that none of them, all human beings, have three eyes! Robert Best. Your comments on biological sex and personality are simply wrong - a little reading on human sexual physiological and psychological maturation may be helpful. AO. It is hardly ES's fault if I made the error of wishing you all the best in the words "Happy days". My apologies! Contra john frawley. Couldn't agree more - bigotry is a state of mind, most often pointed out in others by those who have nothing else to offer in support of a contrary opinion. Crikey ! I'm going to have to stop now before I cost ES its entire readership!!

john frawley | 20 January 2014  

As a gay man, I can assure you I didn't grow up wanting to be teased, bullied and outcast by society. Who in their right mind would? It AMAZES me the intolerance of other people. First with women, coloured races and finally sexual orientation. I have yet to find a REAL argument against same sex marriage. All I see is thinly veiled bigotry. Do you really need a 2000 year old book to hide your views behind?

Michael Novotny | 20 January 2014  

Michael. trust me, I deeply dhare your pain of growing up not wanting to be teased etc. But I now have discovered a new pain, and from the most unlikely quarter - gay people who do not want me to acknowledge my self-deteremined and deeply analysed understanding of my 'homosexuality'. I in no way am about comdeming homosexuals for who they are but I am deeply concerned that we are not fully appreciating individual stories and instead absorbing a stereotypical concept of what homosexuality is, how it comes about and people trying to tell other people who they are at their core. If your not sure what I am talking about find out about the gay backlash against a singer (Pavio) who won a song contest in Italy with a song called Luca era Gay (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-1G12wV0c8) as just on example. (http://www.allthelyrics.com/forum/italian-lyrics-translation/61584-povia-luca-era-gay.html)

Dave | 20 January 2014  

I really need to add something here. JF, you said I have the right idea. Maybe. I just want to add two words to that point: I have the right idea - for me. My path, and that of my wife's has been a very, very difficult one. We could have gone our separate ways three times and nearly did. I had gay men telling me I wasn't being true to myself. Others saying just have a guy on the side. Others saying I was supressing myself or in denial - actually, I have almost every possible thing thrown at me except, go for it in the way I am. The only person who has said that to me is a therapist who had no agendas except mine. In the process of my life and relationship with my wife, we have explored places and concepts of relationship and sexuality together and grown so much together as a result. We have come to a point where I just suspect so many don't even come close to because they give up trying or follow those outside voices who say, 'do this', or 'you are that'. If my not living up to my homosexuality was wrong what was even worse was abandoning my wife and children AND the incredible journey of discovery I/we have been on and continue on. And why would I abandon it? For some possible supposedly self-fulfilling relationship. I’m already in one. At my age, it all just seemed like such an absurdity even though I may have considered it once or twice. No, I wouldn't change my choice and struggles for anything even though it was all 'caused' by sexual abuse. Should I tell others to do the same as me? I can't do that but I do fear that many people suffer under mis-representations of themselves. We all have to dig deep into our truths.

Dave | 20 January 2014  

Dave, The fact is that you have had the courage to dig deep into your truths unlike the many who don't like to face the truth and like all those who suffer because they expound the truth.

john frawley | 20 January 2014  

Dave and others eloquently remind us that you don't have to be homophobic to challenge the politically correct line on homosexual issues. As everyone with any knowledge of the matter knows, there's a huge number of admitted homosexuals, even outright gays, who for various reasons reject without cavil the notion of same sex marriage: Camille Paglia, Justin Raimondo and Brendan O'Neill, just to name three. The notion that attacking the concept of same-sex marriage is a "homophobic" endeavour may terrorise naive fans of E.S. into submission but it's one of the cheapest of cheap shots from the PC gay lobby. In the end, of course, we all suffer.

HH | 20 January 2014  

Opponents of marriage equality are not necessarily homophobic and may well include gay people themselves. Gay people are like every other group - not one solid block but positions across the spectrum. Let people get on with their lives. Gay marriage will never be compulsory.

Brett | 30 January 2014  

What about the children whose right to be raised by their biological parents is a priori forcibly denied by legalized ss marriage (and donor insemination), Brett? Something many of those gay opponents of ss marriage also acknowledge.

HH | 03 February 2014  

You have raised this furphy before HH and it is hardly “a priori”. It does not detract from the fairness of marriage equality but argues against every family where the biological parents are not present in the relationship – including all single parent families, those of widowed or divorced parents who have remarried and families with adopted children. The fact is children cannot always have a family with both biological parents. The quality of parenting is not related to the gender of the parents but to the character of the parents and their capacity as parents. I should also add that not all same sex marriages will involve children and for all those cases your point is irrelevant.

Brett | 04 February 2014  

Brett, you continue to misunderstand what "a priori" means in this context. Children have a natural right to be born into a family with their biological mother and father. (Indeed, also to be nurtured in utero by their biological mother-married to their biological father). And biological parents have the corresponding obligations. If such an event doesn't happen through accident (parents, one or both, die, or must separate for unforseen but prudentially compelling reasons) then the child's right hasn't been intentionally (and so a priori) repudiated. There hasn't, in this case been the procreation of a child with the simultaneous intention to prevent that child from being raised in the future by its biological parents. But a legal regime which allows for the intentional creation of situations where the child will 'a priori' be denied this right - donor insemination, same sex marriage, or indeed any situation in which the biological mother and father together are not assumed to be those parenting the child - is denying the child a natural right. It creates a 'stolen generation'. Your point about same sex couples who choose not to have children is bizarre. On your reasoning, it would be an argument in favour of a law allowing the slaughter of blondes to say "But most people wouldn't want to slaughter blondes!" As legally "married" couples, same sex partners who choose not to have children would still be LEGALLY ENTITLED to acquire children, and thus participate in the assault on children’s rights. The quarrel is not with such couples per se, but with the LAW which so entitles them, regardless as to whether they take advantage of that entitlement. By the way, another coercive aspect of "same sex marriage" is all too prevalent just about everywhere "same sex marriage" is introduced. Those business owners who refuse to provide services for same sex couples on the grounds of conscientious objection are being fined or otherwise deprived of their living by the state. Bakers, dressmakers, B&B owners, etc etc... the list grows by the day. But I suppose that doesn't count as coercion to the modern advocates of "tolerance", does it?

HH | 04 February 2014  

I do get “a priori” HH, I just don’t think it is accurate in your context. The “natural right of the child” normally refers to the right to a family that is loving, nurturing and all the other good things that should go with families. It also includes the responsibilities of parents who bring children into the world to provide for them in similar terms. Many children for various reasons do not have families with one or both of their biological parents. This in no way reduces the right of those children to parents or a family. You have twisted the meaning of the term to argue against marriage equality, but it doesn’t work. By your logic a same sex couple where one of the partners is the biological parent of the child would have a greater claim to parenthood than an adopting couple with no biological link at all. This is of course nonsense, as is the opposition to marriage equality because they might do something they are legally entitled to do further down the track (children are not possessions so you word “acquire” is inappropriate).

Brett | 05 February 2014  

On your final point about discrimination against same sex couples HH, I take it you would feel the same degree of sympathy if the bakers, dressmakers etc refused to do business with you because you are Catholic.

Brett | 05 February 2014  

Brett, the 'a priori' natural right of a child is not just to "a" family, but his or her own family - her biological mother and her biological father, living together looking after her and her siblings as parents, then grandparents of her children, and so on. And, as you point out, the parents have corresponding duties to their biological children (plus of course any children they adopt - for whom this 'a priori' right is no longer possible to be honoured due to some unintended tragedy). So Tom donating semen so his child conceived with his seed can be brought up by others (eg a same sex or heterosexual couple) is fundamentally breaching his a priori responsibilities to lovingly parent all his offspring. And the biological mother of Tom's child is breaching her a priori responsibilities as a mother to raise this child together with the child's biological father, Tom, as her husband for life. The result of this abdication of responsibility is frequently very distressing for the children concerned well into their adult lives, as research into the identity issues donor-conceived children have to deal with strongly attests. That's just one aspect of the matter.

HH | 06 February 2014  

You are avoiding the point with your repetitive arguments HH and I think your words about Tom and his wife being husband and wife for life show where you are coming from. I’m glad you support the right of children to live with their biological parents. Children are entitled to be brought up by their biological parents and to know who their biological parents are and nobody should argue against that. But as you say that is just one aspect of the matter. The reality is that not all husbands and wives are there for life, so not all family models have mum and dad and the kids. To argue against marriage equality on the grounds that children have a right to be with their biological parents ignores this reality. It also discriminates against same-sex couples (including where one partner has a biological link to the child) as you clearly do not apply the same distinction to heterosexual couples seeking to adopt. I have to repeat your argument is irrelevant for couples who do not want children, regardless of their legal rights and is a poor excuse for opposing marriage equality.

Brett | 07 February 2014  

Brett, no avoidance - I'm happy to discuss these matters as much as desired. E.S. has a word limit - reasonably so (which they frequently waive for verbose individuals such as me, grace a Dieu, as in this very instance) - but I'm willing to chat away from E.S. if you wish to pursue the matter (I think you're raising sincere objections. You're clearly not a 'troll' and I don't think I am either.) These are complex issues, and the 'seven second byte', even blogwise, serves to obscure rather than clarify. Thus: I was discussing the creation of children by donor insemination in my last post, not adoption. I discussed DI because the wrongfulness of DI (for anyone) impacts particularly on ss marriage since, apart from adoption, it would be (and is even now around the world) a chief means of ss couples (mostly female ss couples) having children. And as I said it’s only one of the aspects. Adoption raises separate (albeit related) issues. OK, you seem to be opposed to DI also, given you agree about the rights of children and obligations of biological parents. Agreed! Obviously those rights/obligations are no longer a practical consideration with children whose parents have died. But there are (I suggest) derivative rights and obligations which come into play in the orphan’s situation. So (I submit): just as a man who chooses to be a biological father of a child ought to be married to the woman who is to the biological mother, so a man who chooses to be an adopting father ought first to be married to a woman who will be the adoptive mother. And so on. This rules out adoptive parenting not just for ss couples, but single people, heterosexual couples in de facto relationships, people in polygamous or polyandrous arrangements, etc, however well intentioned they might be.

HH | 11 February 2014  

I'm not a troll HH. I've not thought of you in those terms and I hope I don't show trollish behaviour. I try not to see things in "black or white" terms because very few situations are absolute. It may seem inconsistent given that I do agree children have a right to live with their biological parents or if that is not possible, to know who their biological parents are, but I'm not opposed to DI as I think without it some children would never be born and some people would never be parents. We should also recognise that the rights of the child will not always correspond to what is in the best interests of the child. This applies to same-sex and heterosexual couples and I don't draw a distinction between them in terms of parenting. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on these points. Polygamy is a separate issue and not something I really want to get into.

Brett | 12 February 2014  

Hey, thanks, Brett. We obviously disagree on some fundamental points which we both think are vitally important. I'll call it a day this time. I appreciate your sincerity and willingness to argue your point of view. Until next we cross verbally murderous swords, sooner or later, and without prejudice to my conviction that your ideas are dangerously wrong: cheers, and God bless you.

HH | 18 February 2014  

God bless you too HH. I don't doubt your integrity at all and I don't think my ideas are dangerous at all.

Brett | 03 March 2014  

On 5 march 2014, reliable news services have carried this report: Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care. "Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pope said, but moves to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care." Asked to what extent the church could understand this trend, he replied: "It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety." Bishops around the world have differed in their responses to civil recognition of nonmarital unions. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said in February 2013 that some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of nonmarried couples. But until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.

Frank brennan Sj | 06 March 2014  

Similar Articles

Best of 2013: Coalition stirs the ghost of Jimmie Blacksmith

  • Tim Kroenert
  • 13 January 2014

More than a century after Federation, Australia has yet to resolve this tension between a romantic notion of what 'Australia' is, and the depravities that were undertaken to attain it. It may be couched in more polite terms, but it rears its head in ham-fisted and fundamentally disrespectful approaches to Indigenous policy, such as recent moves by the Coalition Government that threaten to undercut the spirit of Native Title legislation.


Best of 2013: Remote Australia's renal refugees

  • John Adams
  • 15 January 2014

Kiwirrkurra is 700km of bad roads west of Alice Springs. Renal failure forces many Indigenous community elders from important roles such as presiding over ceremonies and passing down knowledge to future generations. Many choose not to make the long journey into town for dialysis, seeing life away from country and family to be a fate worse than death.