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Thoughts on marriage after Yes

  • 16 November 2017


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?

Some 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