Too many words about same sex marriage



Lots of words have already been said and typed about the subject of same sex marriage. Too many, frankly. But it seems that the marriage equality debate will not go away nor be resolved easily, though LGBTI advocates have said that the homophobic anti-same sex marriage campaign will be damaging to the mental health of LGBTI people. Of course, the very idea that civil rights should be put to a public vote is demoralising.

xxxxxStill there’s a belief among some that the Vote No discourse doesn’t actually affect the lives of LGBTI people. The party line from the Liberals has been that it’s a ‘civil debate’. In spite of this assurance, the Victorian Local Governance Association has advised ‘council workers have access to resources to support themselves or members of the community during the lead up to the postal survey’ while the ABC made a ‘trauma toolkit’ and have set up a hotline to deal with the postal vote fallout.

I can speak on behalf of myself when I say it has been hard. When it was announced that the postal vote was going ahead, I felt a deep betrayal with our government, to the point where I was seriously considering abstaining the vote. I celebrated my 20th birthday a few days ago and on the same day I saw a poster saying ‘stop the f*gs’.

I open my social media with apprehension, as it’s a constant stream of retweeted slurs and indignantly reshared articles that diminish the humanity of LGBTI people. Dealing with my anxiety and depression is difficult when I’m being told that I’m not good enough on a daily cycle. 

And it would hurt less if this homophobia wasn’t something that many LGBTI people hadn’t already internalised when we were younger. I remember thinking at 12 years old, 'Oh God please don't let me be gay.' I believed it was a punishment. It took me years to unlearn that self hatred.

This discussion surrounding the vote is also particularly exhausting for LGBTI people because for the sake of a ‘balanced debate’ we are forced to respond to the same arguments that we’ve had for years. If you’ve lived in Australia, you grew up with these prejudices. LGBTI people are not engaging in a choice or an ‘alternate lifestyle’.

Children of same sex couples do just as well as children with opposite sex parents. Marriage equality is just that, the right for two people of any gender to get married. It’s not a rainbow agenda, it’s not to be conflated with Safe Schools nor is it comparable to Nazism, polygamy and bestiality.

LGBTI people are at a disadvantage in this debate because these issues will never be a just ‘political football’ to us. We don’t have the luxury of separating the marriage equality debate from our personal experiences. It’s not a hypothetical argument; it’s our lives.


"I want to be go about my day without having to confront discourse about LGBTI people’s worthiness."


I want to be go about my day without having to confront discourse about LGBTI people’s worthiness. I want there to be focus on other pressing LGBTI issues for once, like youth homelessness and violence towards trans people. I want to be able to go to my brother’s wedding and feel nothing but joy.

So what’s the best way to help LGBTI in this homophobia fatigue? People speaking up. People showing their support as well as doing the invisible work. I know the majority of Christians support same sex marriage.

Please show the rest of Australia that the voices of the few are not representative of the many. LGBTI people are doing the work of change, but they need support. Allyship, especially from everyday Christians, is valuable.

During this time, as the vote goes forward, if you are straight and have friends or family with someone who’s LGBTI, I encourage you to keep in contact with them. Let them know that you’re there and willing to help if they’re struggling.

Enrol to vote and check your enrollment details. Don’t talk over or for LGBTI people, but do have the conversations about same sex marriage with other straight people, even when it’s hard. When so much of the No campaign is coming from Christian organisations, don’t be the silent majority.



Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

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Existing comments

With respect, Neve, LGBTI advocates can't expect support for their cause when they label and dismiss people who do not share their views "homophobic".
John | 24 August 2017

With respect, John, so many supporters of the "No" vote 'are' homophobic. You only have to read the comments on a variety of media web sites, including social media, to learn the sad truth of that.
MargaretC | 24 August 2017

Why John? If the LGBTI advocates' cause is valid, authentic, and just, why can't those who don't accept the homophobe label still support the cause? Surely the support should be based on facts and rational argument, not on feelings of personal slight?
Ginger Meggs | 24 August 2017

Thank you Neve. Some of the people who commented on Rohan Salmond's essay should read your words.
Brett | 24 August 2017

Thank you for your honesty in coming out, Neve and I hope you don't cop any nonsense because of it. You shouldn't, because these days it's illegal to abuse someone because of their sexuality. I must confess, looking back over my childhood, which I spent in blissful happiness in what used to be Bombay, it was always assumed that certain people were 'that way' and no blame was attributed to them. That was by everyone including the last lags of the Raj like us. I must confess in our family I was never ever taught to denigrate what used to be called 'homosexuals'. In my last school, an Anglican one, the same assumption was made. There were never any fulminations there about 'the evils of homosexuality'. Several of my contemporaries were gay and now live in happy same sex relationships. Given their age and the time they grew up in, their relationships were known but not flaunted. I am unsure whether any of them will get married when it is made legal. I am glad you differentiated the issue from Safe Schools et sim because many people on both sides of the debate take 'linkage' to the nth degree.
Edward Fido | 24 August 2017

Yes, you’re right, John. Not only will indiscriminately calling all opponents of same-sex marriage “homophobic” probably turn them off from listening to the other viewpoint, but anyway it's probably widely misdirected since amongst the conservative catholics opposed to same-sex marriage there will be gay priests/bishops and bachelors. How could they or their supporters possibly be considered “homophobic”?! I’ve always thought the term “homophobic” a very sloppy inaccurate insult for another reason. It’s supposed to denote an irrational prejudice and fear of homosexuals but I think a lot of the resistance to the topical same-sex marriage controversy in the case of the Catholic church is actually rooted in a commitment to and hankering after an historical power paradigm, where the Church operated successfully on its trickle-down clerical structures of absolute unchallengeable authority. I can’t help thinking the people who are enchanted by such structures are also enchanted by the image of huge processions of serried ranks of exotically enrobed pontiffs and cardinals, and sanctuaries filled with enlaced ministers. A kind of romantic fascism so to speak. (Totalitarian regimes always seem to put on a good show. ) I’m with you. Neve should probably stop using the term ‘homophobic’.
smk | 24 August 2017

The only honest reason to vote no is a belief that same-sex relationships are less real, less valuable and less important than opposite sex relationships. All the other stuff is just excuses.
Doug | 25 August 2017

Thanks Neve! Much love!
GAJ | 25 August 2017

Thank you Neve. Church and society do waste too many words on sex and sexuality instead of what really matters: love, respect, life giving relationship. And with respect to you, John, most of the arguments I have heard against LGBTI people and same sex marriage have been fear based and highly prejudiced. Homophobic is not oto strong a word for it. I might add that I am "straight" (and I find that term offensive), Catholic and a member of a religious congregation.
Corrie | 25 August 2017

A strong and senative article Neve. Well done! And yes, I am sure many Christians will vote Yes.
Maureen O'Brien | 25 August 2017

I do not belong to the LGBTI community, but I am suffering with them, not only because of the hurt my friends are experiencing, but also because the church in which I have lived, and for which I have worked for all of my long life, has left me feeling bereft, and abandonned. I do not feel that I belong in an institution whose publically acknowledged leaders are making statements that are not only lacking in compassion, but are absurdly ignorant. They are also, perhaps unwittingly, encouraging nasty expressions of hate as well as disrespect for other legitimate views in a pluralist society.
Sheelah | 25 August 2017

Thanks for this heartfelt, passionate and timely article, Neve. Many of us are doing just what you suggest - speaking up whenever possible, taking opportunities to show support and working for change.
vivien | 25 August 2017

Thanks Neve for a thoughtful piece. I am so sorry for the hateful views and visuals you have been exposed to. I pray for a rapid, affirmative resolution. And for our elected representatives to remember who they were elected to represent: us, not lobby groups.
Liz | 25 August 2017

With respect John, so many are... although I agree there is also more gracious opposition to same sex marriage. The problem is more about marriage as such. Those who insist on a literal view of the Bible have no defence against plural marriage; and there is no neat formula in the Bible if even Jesus' words about casual divorce and other matters are taken in their proper context.
Geoff | 25 August 2017

Dear Neve I support your discourse. I know lots of Christians who support Marriage Equality. You are right. We need to speak out more.
Monica Phelan | 25 August 2017

I am puzzled by the whole thing. It seems to me that LGBT have everything they want except the word marriage.I dont'get it.
Pat Howley | 25 August 2017

John with respect after spending many (far too many?) hours on social media over the last year or so I can say with complete conviction that many opponents of SSM ARE homophobic.This is particularly true of older men.They have an 'irrational fear' of homosexuality, which may well stem from their own suppressed thoughts or from confronting encounters in the days when, to our eternal shame, homosexual men were marginalised and harassed. Phobias need to be named and acknowledged, and I have encountered a few honest men who have been able to do this. Bigotry, especially coming from those who claim to be Christian, is of far greater concern to me than homophobia. It is no doubt too much to ask that anyone self identifies as bigot.But since bigotry involves having a closed mind it would be really good at this stage in the debate if we opened our ears as well as our minds and listened rather than speaking. This I find very challenging to do! Thanks Neve.I'm listening.
margaret | 25 August 2017

Dear Neve, thank you for your article, and previous articles of yours I have read in ES. It is good for me to read about the Same Sex Marriage debate from the point of view of a gay person. I use the pen-name Uncle Pat to make me aware of the readership for whom I am writing - the next generation, my nephews and nieces. Although with the passing of the years I should be using the pseudonym Great Uncle Pat but that would smack of grandiosity. When I discuss almost any subject with my peers, people born in the 1930/40s I find most of us are so set in our ways we are immovable in our opinions. Frequently we agree to disagree. On the current subject of SSM I find many of my peers don't even know the question that the non-binding, non-compulsory, postal survey of public opinion is asking. Do you think the law should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry? My nephews and nieces, even my grandnephews and grandnieces, would probably say - YES. If only because it's not fair to prohibit them.
Uncle Pat | 25 August 2017

Neve Maloney says that she "knows' that a majority of Christians support same sex marriage?. How come?. A poll of limited representation?. Besides... polls contain the inherent risk that the person responds in a way they think they are expected to respond. Why were the polls hopelessly wrong with Brexit and the U.S. Presidential election? Because in the privacy of the real polling booth they actually voted they way they wished to. This postal vote will give a thumbs down to same sex marriage. Hence the earlier urgent attempts to stop it.
malcom harris | 25 August 2017

A helpful article - thank you. There is a tsunami of paranoid discourse flooding some social media at present. May I suggest that homophobia can be defined as a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people? Follwoing that thought, that if a belief system (or a literalist interpretation of a few selections of ancient writings associated with a belief system) sees people as abominations, then that could accurately be seen as homophobia? That if representatives of some stratas of Australian society refuse to view SSM as a social justice issue or a human rights issue or a legal issue, because they refuse to countenance that kind of inclusion, then that could be construed as homophobia? That fact that LGBTIQ people are subjected to vilification and are especially vulnerable to self harm and suicidal ideation may just be a damn good reason to think about the words that are used to communicate residual prejudices and theological armwrestling.
Barry G | 25 August 2017

A relevant consideration: the mental health benefits to be gained from allowing LGBTIQ people to be on the same legal footing as other Australians...
Barry G | 25 August 2017

Why is there all this fuss Neve? As a national rather than personal issue, with only 1% of coupes being gay, , this must be way down the bottom of Australia`s priorities, and yet it is sucking oxygen for the government dealing with our huge and deficit debt problem, gross mismanagement by Sates in particular of our energy needs, housing affordability, wealth inequality, etc etc.I actually want the definition of marriage to stay much as it is, but frankly I don`t care very much because it is such a peripheral matter. I care much more about freedom of speech and freedom of religion which are well accepted human rights.
Eugene | 25 August 2017

Neve Mahoney's article got to me in its simplicity ,clarity,logic and above all in its humanity.Its rings true as a call (Respect our humanity in law with all the basic rights such law implies )
Anthony Saxton | 25 August 2017

With respect, John, those who oppose the extension of equal rights to LGBTIQ fellow citizens ARE indeed homophobic, simply because there is no other suitable word to describe why one section of the electorate should deny the extension of the civil right to marry in the secular and pluriform democratic polity to those who love each other but are denied public recognition of that entitlement through civil marriage by virtue of the fact that they differ from those who circumscribe this right because of its same-sex status. One might describe such an anomaly as unfair, an abuse of equal rights, ignorant, absurd, mistaken and even egregiously unjust, but in the end the most appropriate word to attribute such an injustice is 'homophobic'. By this I also wish to describe the attitude of the one, true and Holy Catholic Church to which I belong, and which, dissatisfied with the safeguards protecting the rights of religious celebrants that are promised by the polity, has stepped into the public and largely secular sphere to interfere in an area in which, unlike cultural theorists, anthropologists and the bulk of ethicists as well as biological and neuroscientists, it has no particular well-founded and unassailable expertise.
Dr Michael Furtado | 25 August 2017

Dear Neve, As a hetero person with same sex attracted family members, and with same sex attracted children of good friends, this is a big issue for us. In my circle there is, as far as I can tell, only good will to all of these real people, and as far as I can tell, no negative comments or thoughts to or about them. Heterosexual relationships, however, tend to result in offspring from the couple, (unless something is done to prevent this, or unless age or illness supervenes). Same sex couples, simply as a result of their biology, cannot between themselves, achieve this fertility. This is the fundamental problem behind marriage equality and it seems to me the GLBTIQ community don't see how much many heterosexuals understand their desire for equality but don't see how it is possible to achieve this. Simply re-defining marriage won't fix the problem. Most heterosexuals don't want gay people condemned to lives that are unfulfilled! Our hearts ache for you too! We don't hate you, we want you to be happy! PB
Paul Burt | 25 August 2017

Some relevant reportage. ‘…Micah Scott, the chief executive of LGBTI youth group Minus 18, said calls to the service had doubled in the past month. It has referred 35 young people to mental health services in the past month, twice as many as it usually refers. ‘"Young people are needing more support and feeling really distressed by what has been distributed," he said. ‘This material includes posters distributed in the CBD which claimed that 92 per cent of children raised by gay parents were abused and featured the slogan "stop the fags". ‘Mr Scott said images of young people on the organisation's website had been used by anti-gay marriage campaigners. "Imagine being a young person who has proudly used their photo to make other people feel empowered and that is flipped on its head in a sinister way," he said. He said he had also received reports of homophobia in schools that had been sparked by negative material used in the "no" campaign…’
Barry G | 25 August 2017

With respect, John, that's a gross generalisation.
Ryan | 25 August 2017

Neve, I view the whole issue with a lot of concern. I base my observations on three decades of teaching High school students in the Catholic and public system . I saw far too many "damaged" children from relationships of all types. I worry that bullying will be a real issue for the children of these relationships no matter what we adults do to educate teenagers in particular. I lost my dad at 2 years of age to cancer , both my brother and I sorely missed him during our adolescence. Sorry but I feel dads as just as important as mums to adolescents.
Gavin | 25 August 2017

Yes John , Homophobic when you do not accept a follow Australian as equal.... in every way. Including the right to marry the person they love ... This is about equality , not religion .
Peter | 25 August 2017

I agree with John. I am not homophobic if I am against same sex marriage, in the same way that I am not islamaphobic if I am against a man having four wives. For many this is not a civil rights issue it is a moral issue. Many people believe that you cannot deny a child the right to a mother and father and that nature and biology intended the union of male and female. If you allow same sex couples the right to marry then you should also allow polygamy because the same arguments apply.
Ron Hassarati | 25 August 2017

With respect John, perhaps if you walked for a week in the shoes of a person who is a member of the LGBTI community, you might understand why they see those campaigning against marriage equality as expressing homophobic views.
Maureen O'Brien | 25 August 2017

With respect, John; anybody who seeks to deny adult and mutually consenting LGBTIQ citizens the same civil and human rights to marriage that other freely-consenting heterosexual adults already enjoy for no reason other than that they are same-sex attracted can only be described as homophobic, unless, of course, you have available to you a lexicon of your own that would then require explaining to others. The disagreement here goes down to logic and the appropriate use of the English language and has nothing to do with any insult, implied or imagined, that you might attribute to Neve Mahoney, who has properly done nothing more than expose the egregious injustice currently meted out to our LGBTIQ fellow citizens by denying them access to equal lawful civil marriage entitlement and recognition.
Dr Michael Furtado | 26 August 2017

Beautiful piece of writing. It shines a light on the very real distress this postal vote decision has caused the LGBTI community.
Elizabeth | 26 August 2017

Dr Furtado, what about the gays who oppose same sex marriage for various reasons? Are they homophobes, too?
HH | 26 August 2017

Dear Paul Same-sex marriage equality advocates, while deeply touched by your Kindly sentiments, are also keenly aware of the biological facts that preclude the natural and automatic procreation of children flowing from any heterosexual intercourse and not just from marriage. Indeed, it should be noted in a medium devoted to the Jesuit insistence on clear thinking, that much coupling occurs outside of the boundaries of marriage, in respect of which the nexus between marriage and child-bearing has been inextricably broken, except for those who regard such a thing as being in breach of God's law, and not that of the state. If that is so, it follows, as night follows day, that this is not a matter that should concern you, as no religious law is under threat of being breached by this proposal. That being the case, it tragically but illuminatingly follows that those who would deny any section of the citizenry access to civil marriage, which provides no reference or guarantee to the rights and responsibilities inherent in bearing children, are mistakenly but, for all that, egregiously discriminating in their response to the same-sex demand for civil marriage equality, and are therefore, by definition, plainly and logically homophobic.
Dr Michael Furtado | 26 August 2017

Thanks Neve. I can assure you I will do all I can to be sure that we have marriage equality in this country.
NameBill Armstrong AO | 26 August 2017

With respect Paul, your lead in sounds to me like 'some of my best friends are black, but...'. By your reasoning, an infertile heterosexual couple should be denied civil marriage.
Ginger Meggs | 26 August 2017

Paul, you say the fundamental problem behind Marriage Equality is the inability of LGBTQI couples to produce offspring by themselves. With respect, that is not an argument against Marriage Equality; it is a point about biology. The same point might be made about heterosexual couples with a fertility problem who seek to adopt children or have scientific help to start a family. I don’t imagine anyone would deny them the right to be married. It is also not relevant to LGBTQI couples with no desire to raise children – older couples for example who want to marry for love and companionship. There are many reasons for marriage. You are correct, Marriage Equality will not change the biological situation one little bit. But the issue isn’t about biology, it is about equality and the right to have a loving relationship between two consenting adults recognised by the community in the same way, regardless of the sexuality of the couple. I’m sure the sentiments in your last couple of sentences are genuine but the thing that hurts is that the arguments against Marriage Equality, when analysed, come down to opposition based on people not being heterosexual. That is the problem.
Brett | 26 August 2017

Even if all the people in the world said that two people of the same sex can get married, it would not be a marriage. Even if all the people in the world said that a monkey has five legs because it can use its tail like a leg, it would not be a five legged monkey. Use your heads. Speak the truth. We must love all people yes, but marriage is for one man with one woman for life.
Jan | 27 August 2017

Dr Michael Furtado, Applying the label "homophobic" to all who disagree with the LGBTI position is no substitute for argument, of which ample has been evident for some time in this and other forums. The use of this term is presumptive in assuming motive, and also ignores the fact that not all people of homosexual orientation support same-sex marriage - should the "homophobic" label be applied to them? As for onus of proof, especially when it is a question of radical societal change, surely the burden lies with those who propose such change since theirs is the new "lexicon'" of marriage, not those who affirm its traditional meaning?
John | 27 August 2017

Margaret: How convenient for the proponents of the "Yes" vote were to go silent, as you advise.Among other things, democratic process would be the loser. Ryan: Maybe you should take up the matter of generalisation with Neve; after all, it is her preferred formulation in the first paragraph of the article. Anthony: Where is the "logic:" in labeling all supporters of traditional marriage "homophobic"?
John | 27 August 2017

Maureen: I confess to finding it difficult to see how a group that has privileged access to sympathetic media coverage, enjoys legal protection, has the acceptance of peers, and receives significant corporate funding for their campaign can be credibly portrayed as disadvantaged in our society. I might add that this is not simply my allegedly homophobic view, but also that of the late Christopher Pearson, whom I knew personally before and after his conversion to the Catholic faith, and a prominent current affairs commentator and publisher with friends and extensive contacts in the LGBTI community, Christopher's opposition to same-sex marriage featured regularly over the past decade in "The Australian", and he also chaired at least one public meeting where the issue of its implications for schooling was discussed in a forum with significant representation of LGBTI advocates participating.
John | 27 August 2017

Can anyone who supports ssm marriage here show why, if marriage has nothing to do with the "biological" fact of conceiving and raising children, it should be limited to 2 people, should be a union for life and should be exclusive?
HH | 28 August 2017

Ginger: "If . . ." Your use of the conditional suggests you recognise the "Yes" case has not been made convincingly, which might help explain why its LGBTI advocates resort to labeling - this, as you would know, is not a form of argument.
John | 28 August 2017

HH, there are indeed some LGBTIQ people who are opposed to same sex marriage. So what? No one is forcing them into civil marriage. My own research and experience as a gay Catholic is that their objections relate to the 'absurdity' of marrying when biological relief from the 'risk', as Denis Altman and Robert Dessaix portray it, of unwanted pregnancy, supposedly 'liberates' LGBTIQ persons to lead lives of licentiousness and polyamory. The link between biology and pregnancy has been severed for more than half a century, as Catholic child-bearing patterns unerringly attest, and the sooner our ethical and religious frameworks catch up with this fact the better. As for John's rejoinder, I know of several homosexual persons, the late Christopher Pearson, whom he mentions, included, who indulge in a kind of Wavian self-loathing and consequently are regarded in many Catholic quarters as having visited their reactionary invective on other LGBTIQ persons, which is why the Catholic Church has consistently distanced itself from their rhetoric, especially in their obtuse, extreme and persistent right-wing attacks on its social justice teaching.
Dr Michael Furtado | 28 August 2017

Ginger Megs. You ask, "If the LGBTI cause is valid, authentic and just, why can't those who don't accept the homophobe label support the [LGBTI] cause? Perhaps, GM,the cause is not valid, authentic and just in their view. Such a view has nothing to do with homophobia but with philosophy and for Christians with faith in the teachings of Christ and faithfulness to those teachings. On that point Maureen O'Brien, true Christians will vote "no" and politically correct Christians will vote "yes" The latter are in the ascendency out of the fear of being labelled "homophobic", politically incorrect or living in the past, all dubiously noble sentiments in the face of Christ's teachings.
john frawley | 28 August 2017

When the arguments on both sides are weighed up, it's clear the traditional Catholic/natural law position on marriage and sex is a logically consistent position which eschews homophobia. Marriage is between one man and one woman. So: no to polygamy, polyandry, “open marriage”, “same sex marriage”, divorce-and-“remarriage” (adultery), etc. And a big yes to homosexuals marrying … someone of the opposite sex. (No homophobia there). The only morally permissible completed sexual act is natural intercourse between husband and wife. So, no to all completed acts that are not natural intercourse – whether done by homosexuals or heterosexuals, even spouses. (No homophobia there) And no to adultery, fornication, self-abuse, bestiality, etc by anyone. (No homophobia there.) Sex is for babies. So: no to impotent couples, who simply can’t perform the marriage act (natural intercourse)…even impotent heterosexual couples. (No homophobia.) But yes to those who can, even if they are sterile (because their natural sex doesn’t of itself preclude babies: it’s only external factors beyond their control which stops conception. Their intentional act is still open to conception.) And no to acts which deliberately sterilize (the pill) or create impotence (condom, oral/anal sex, etc) and to abortion. (Again, binding on heterosexuals, too. No homophobia.) Babies should come from natural sex between spouses. So no to IVF, Donor Insemination, Surrogacy, contrived single parenthood, even for heterosexuals (So no homophobia there.) Finally: marriage is uniquely ordained to children. So no to adoption by non-marrieds or singles, heterosexual or homosexual. So, no homophobia there. In sum, no Catholic can vote for same sex marriage. But by the same token they are obliged to reject IVF, abortion, pro-contraception legislation, surrogacy, no-fault divorce, etc, etc, all of which impacts far more on the many heterosexuals in society than on the few homosexuals. Hope this clears the air.
HH | 28 August 2017

"There are indeed some LGBTIQ people who are opposed to same sex marriage. So what? No one is forcing them into civil marriage." A rather puzzling argument, Dr F. They're not just opposed to ssm *for themselves*: they're opposed to the *legal recognition* of ssm. You don't know this? I should have thought that was perfectly obvious to anyone even remotely familiar with the arguments. Which raises the question: if the misunderstandings between one position and the other (even learned doctors) are so basic, should we be even considering such a drastic change in the law at this time?
HH | 28 August 2017

Sadly, HH, your latest post resurrects a shocking example of just how mistaken you are. When I made very good friends with a young woman many years ago I explained that I was a same-sex attracted person. This ought to have set-off warning lights all over the place but, because of prevailing homophobic attitudes, I was easily co-opted into a close relationship with her based on her fierce denuciation of her parents' objection to me as a person of colour. The scene was thus set for a tragically confused marriage with her, in respect of which I also told the officiating priest that I was same-sex attracted. His response was to ask me if I slept with men. In all truth I answered 'No', and the seal was set on a marriage that eventually collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. This mistake was compounded many years later, when the canonical court dealing with our application for an annulment advised that I was free to marry a woman if and when I wished! Thus, your advice to homosexuals to marry heterosexuals would appear to be naive if not bizarre and incredibly cruel. St Thomas, who proposed the canonical schema according to which the Church's teaching on sexual morality is based, lived many hundreds of years ago. His wise and impressive contributions to the theology of scholasticism was borrowed from Aristotle, and he had a view of science and rationalism that has long been superseded by biological discovery as well as cultural anthopology, e.g. Thomas taught that women had no souls but were vessels for semen that solely triggered procreation after intercourse. Natural Law theory has subsequently been extensively critiqued for its many flaws, including the biologically essentialist one that is called the naturalistic fallacy.
Dr Michael Furtado | 28 August 2017

I have little doubt that same sex marriage will get through. The numbers are vastly in favour. There will be a strong minority against. I am aware that many younger people, like you, have had traumatic experiences growing up recently as same sex attracted. If you look back to the 1950s and 60s you would see that many who grew up in Catholic schools as heterosexual then also had a hard time. The 1976 Fred Schepisi film 'The Devil's Playground' captures that era beautifully. I was horrified to read recently that one of the many criticisms of the current Pope made by a Dominican theologian, Aidan Nichols, was that the former seemed to contradict Church doctrine by seeming to say that the married state was equal to the monastic one. With that sort of approach, which, I suggest, would mirror the thinking of most of the current hierarchy, what sort of conciliatory stance do you think they would show on this issue? Timothy Costelloe of Perth would seem to be the exception. The Irish hierarchy disagreed with the majority decision but with some grace. Sometimes leadership is shown by gracefully accepting defeat and moving on.
Edward Fido | 28 August 2017

HH's comment that 'no Catholic can vote for same sex marriage' presents a moral conundrum that perhaps highlights the aptness of this articles header 'Too many words..." in that the action of a faithful Catholic following their conscience and voting for SSM could place them in a state of disgrace/discommunion within the community they were baptised into. So in this sense does the postal plescite place Catholic's into a situation where they potentially discriminated against if they making their voting intentions public? Doesn't this make the effort by Catholic bishops to circumvent anti-discrimination laws for religious/theological reasons a farce when it comes to allowing their own baptised mebers to vote in civil postal survey? If the advice from our Catholic bishops is to be taken seriously, they must follow through and admit how serious this issue is for the souls of the faithful.
AURELIUS | 28 August 2017

HH, thank you for your opinion. I should also thank Catholic people with different opinions who don’t automatically link marriage only with having babies, for their views too. I’ll leave it to others to comment on your take on Catholic theology if they can be bothered. As for your repeated “no homophobia there” opinions, self-assessment that reinforces the bias is not necessarily the best form of analysis. Broadening it out to include heterosexual people doesn’t lessen any intrinsic homophobia; it just expands the range of intolerance. The bottom line is opposition to marriage unless it is between people of different sexes is opposition based on the sexuality of the people in the relationship. If they are different sexes, okay. If they are the same sex, not okay. No homophobia there? That’s a matter of opinion.
Brett | 28 August 2017

Brett, people of any sexual orientation whatsoever are in the eyes of the Church free to marry someone of the opposite sex. People of any sexual orientation whatsoever are not free to marry someone of the same sex. The rules are indifferent to the matter of one's sexual orientation. So, no homo or hetero phobia involved. What does seem certain from your post is that, in your view, anyone who disagrees with your positions on sex and marriage is psychologically unbalanced.
HH | 29 August 2017

1. E.F. Fr Nichols is correct: that the consecrated life is a higher state than marriage is a defined doctrine of the Church. See Trent, Pius XII (Sacra Virginitas 32), John Paul II (Vita Consecrata 32), etc. 2. Dr F. a. I'm sorry to hear of your painful situation re. marriage. However, there are homosexuals who are happily married to opposite sex spouses, just as there are heterosexuals who aren't, for various reasons. I wouldn't automatically advise a homosexual to marry, but I wouldn't rule it out, either. b. St Thomas clearly teaches all through his works that women have spiritual souls: e.g. How could he discuss the sin of Eve if he thought she had no soul? 3. Aurelius, correct last sentence: the bishops and clergy need to remind Catholics more urgently that they are bound to oppose the "grave injustice" of same sex "marriage", both in theory and in voting. See the relevant Vatican document here:
HH | 29 August 2017

Dr Furtado, Your remarks on Christopher Pearson are regrettably ad hominem, like the ascription of "homophobia" to all who support the traditional definition of marriage.
John | 29 August 2017

Given that PM Malcolm Turnbull, a relatively recent convert to Catholicism, has urged Australians to support a Yes vote for marriage equality, are we to expect a public excommunication or refusal of of communion in the pipeline from him and others of similar public pronouncement?
AURELIUS | 29 August 2017

Dr Furtado, were I to comment your remark ( despite St Thomas declaring his work to be much straw) about soulless women, to try and support your point. I would say that proves you are a "misogynist". Does that sound about right to you? Though only to the degree you say those who don't agree with your view on same-sex civil marriage equality: 'homophobic/'. No 'offense' intended.
AO | 29 August 2017

Dr Furtado, If you were right, I would agree.
Dr Tim Bernstein | 29 August 2017

1. HH, a comprehensive and balanced theological treatment of my argument about Thomism and its highly heteronormative skewing of the debate between gender, which is cultural, and sex, which is biological, (and from which I assert that a reliance on biological essentialism alone for moral guidance provides an inadequate schema upon which to base Church prescriptions on the complex sexual behaviour of contemporary modern women and men) is available to be downloaded and read from the following website: 2. John, you forcibly introduced Christopher Pearson into this energetic debate. Pearson delighted in belittling many aspects of the post-Vatican II renewal of the Church in his quaint neo-conservative broadsheet. A particular target of his over many years was Emeritus Archbishop Leonard Faulkner of Adelaide, in whose defence I publicly wrote on at least one occasion. Pearson has been earlier described by our colleague in these columns, Edward Fido, as a controversialist, and he had no qualms about taking sides in public debate on controversial questions. Accordingly, both your accusation of an ad hominem attack by me on him, as well as his untimely death, play no part in quarantining or exonerating him from his publicly-expressed tirades. You are simply mistaken.
Dr Michael Furtado | 30 August 2017

Dr.F., that would be the article in which Aquinas is quoted referring to "softness of soul" in women ... implying that women have souls, contrary to your assertion, "Thomas taught that women had no souls..."?
HH | 30 August 2017

Dr Furtado: " . . .forcibly . . . "? I wouldn't have thought so. The purpose of my mentioning Christopher Pearson was to demonstrate that not all opponents of same-sex marriage can be labelled "homophobic".
John | 30 August 2017

HH, you’ve highlighted the often overlooked fact that Marriage Equality is not the same as gay marriage. You raised an interesting but unlikely diversion and I agree there is nothing in Marriage Equality to stop two heterosexual men or two heterosexual women from marrying each other, and why should there be? That would be discrimination against same sex heterosexual couples (almost sounds like an oxymoron). In reality, the chances of it happening are so slim as to be negligible but the possibility is always there. As to your claim of no phobias involved in your opinion, you may genuinely believe it but it seems to me you are broadening the range of phobias, not eliminating them. Do I think you are psychologically unbalanced for disagreeing with me, as you say in your final sentence? Never thought about it before and I would not have said so. Then again, I don’t know you.
Brett | 30 August 2017

Brett, while I think that you respond to HH's argument with great elan, the probabilities of a Marriage Registrar accepting an application for marriage from two heterosexual women or heterosexual men are pretty improbable and would have to be fought out in the courts beforehand. We shouldn't also dismiss HH's undoubtedly admirable regard for the Sacrament and its invitational as well as its binding choice-driven significance. Instead, his argument that everyone is equally free to marry someone of the opposite sex, regardless of their sexual identity, falls to pieces on the following grounds. If people simply wanted to marry as such then it might hold up. But it happens that SSM marriage advocates want persons in same-sex relationships to marry the people with whom they have formed substantive relationships - that is, the partners with whom they’ve built life-structuring bonds of love. As it stands, the law only allows persons who happen to have formed such bonds with someone of the opposite sex to marry. THAT is not equality, which is at the heart of this debate. NOT to recognise THAT is plainly indicative of a condition that is described as homophobic in every dictionary that I have consulted.
Dr Michael Furtado | 30 August 2017

This comment thread shows the result of parliamentarians not having the guts to pass or reject a conscience vote in the Parliament, and face their electorates with their views. But this idea of a (non-binding) plebiscite-reduced-to-postal-survey was designed as a wrecking ball to considering the issue on the merits. Just like the Republic. I hear the snake-oil advertisers are already off the blocks. My guess is that the vote will go the way of the money. How much money will the rich conservatives, including bishops (using money that isn’t their own of course) pour into the “No” campaign? How much influence will factors of inertia, a diet of too much bread-and-circuses and plain old fear-based-on-ignorance-and-self-interest come to bear on the result? Talk of Aquinas is irrelevant. He stated his views 800 years ago (before realising their inadequacy), and has no relevance except for those who resort to asserting that a contemporary moral issue should be decided by the authority of a cadaver. Most people, left alone, would probably just live and let live. Besides, surely a campaign for “marriage-and-commitment” for same-sex couples directly opposes promiscuity. So ask yourself, what dark purpose explains why so-called “Christians” want to kill this campaign?
smk | 30 August 2017

Dr Furtado above erroneously deduces homophobia merely from the formal structure a prohibitive rule. Dr F.: *every* prohibition of an action “discriminates” against those who would otherwise have performed it. The law against driving on the right hand side of the road in Australia discriminates against those who are inclined to do so, but not those who aren’t. It is therefore a “dextrophobic” law? Obviously not. Similarly the current law against sibling marriage discriminates against siblings who are desirous of tying the knot together, but not those who are repelled at the thought. Does that mean it is thereby “sibling-phobic” ? Not if there is a good reason for the prohibition. To discover if a given prohibition is sourced in some “phobia”, you need to go outside its formal structure qua prohibition, and assess its rationale.
HH | 01 September 2017

HH, your argument here is syllogistic. Your logical use of an example, relating to the absurdity of choosing to drive on the wrong side of the road, does not entitle you to draw a 'rational' conclusion that gay persons should be required to obey a law that discriminates against the expression of their natural affinities in regard to marriage. In this regard you also employ a red herring in ignorance of the disproportionality between the two issues. As for introducing the furphy of sibling marriage, the law prohibits it, not because it offends against the wishes of a majority who once upon a time justified the practice of slavery, but because of the risk to children born from within such a restricted gene pool.
Dr Michael Furtado | 03 September 2017

HH's comparison of Marriage Equality with a demand to drive on the wrong side of the road is plainly specious. The former advocates the lifting of a prohibition on civil marriage for SSM persons that has not led to the sky falling in, whereas disobeying the traffic rules would instantly lead to certain and arguably deliberate suicide. Equally sibling marriage, which HH cites in defence of his case, is prohibited simply because drawing from two similar gene pools greatly compromises the life-chances of a child born of such a union. Thus the current law against sibling marriage upholds the rights of children born of such unions, rather than discriminates against siblings who are desirous of tying the knot, simply because two same-sex married partners cannot by natural means have children but must adopt them. Consequently there is no good reason for the Marriage Equality prohibition. To discover if a given prohibition is sourced in some “phobia”, one indeed needs to go outside its formal structure qua prohibition, and assess its rationale. HH's argument, which I have now demonstrated as not doing this, is consequently plainly homophobic, reaching out for absurd means and extreme and untenable examples to justify his prejudices.
Dr Michael Furtado | 04 September 2017

Dr F.: so you accept that prohibitions of some forms of “marriage” are not phobic because they might be justified. Fine. But you had sought to demonstrate earlier that a law against ssm was, qua prohibition, phobic. Your positions are inconsistent. Meanwhile, I take it as a compliment that you found my own argument to be syllogistic and logical.
HH | 04 September 2017

HH would is right to point out the evident contradiction in my description of him as a homophobe through my use of the word 'syllogism'. I had in fact intended the word 'solipsism', which is amply and graphically explained by my eminent colleague, Professor Bill Mischler of Duke University, in the following article: . While syllogistic arguments are indeed logical, they lack the illuminating clarity of Mischler's exposition on solipsisms, which shows that a reliance on one's own intransigent belief system, to the exclusion of all others, as a justification for one's opinions, means absolutely nothing. For instance, any person who might deny his racism while pointing to another's race as the sole reason for excluding him is merely and appropriately classified as a racist. So also is someone who objects to extending the same right to marry in a civil ceremony to others because of the ontological reality of their homosexuality, a homophobe. No pastoral theology that I know of would deny that and, instead, an insistence that only teleological or naturalistic views of the unsuitability of homosexuals to engage in civil marriage are not just prejudiced but bigoted and highly discriminatory of the equal rights of all.
Dr Michael Furtado | 07 September 2017

Neve Excellent sensitive post by someone who has directly experienced the label “unworthy” label. I applaud you for seeking greater acceptance and more direct support for the LGBTI community, who suffer global detriment and denigration for no reason other than their sexual conditioning or orientation. Good to know that the majority of Catholics support SSM. I was afforded privileges that same-sex couples have been denied. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16 acknowledges marriage as a human right and does not seek to exclude same-sex couples or limit the family unit to children of a heterosexual union. Those with particular religious beliefs may prefer to be married in church with all the rituals that go with it, which includes same-sex couples. Surely their faith is not of inferior quality on the basis of their sexual conditioning. The special meaning and perceived status of the term marriage is valued by same-sex couples as also a reflection of the principles of equality. Despite its demoralising nature, boycotting the postal opinion poll is a tick for the No campaign. As an unaffected party I will be saying YES. Good luck. Stay strong. Madeleine
Madeleine Kingston | 09 September 2017

@Pat Howley 25 Aug Detriment is faced by all de facto couples either because of regulatory gaps, or failure to uphold provisions like superannuation and industrial laws. Heterosexual couples can choose to marry whereas same-sex couples cannot. Those detriments include the requirement to “prove” the authenticity of a de facto marriage if receiving Centrelink payments; difficulty being recognised as next of kin; contributing to funeral arrangements when a de facto partner dies; difficulty and delays in accessing financial records and accounts, superannuation, life insurance and the like. Video Same Sex-Marriage – The Facts Another detriment the treatment by some retirement villages surviving partners are treated by when a de facto partner does. In a recent case illustrating the scandalous way in which a same-sex male surviving de facto partner Geoff Richards was treated by the retirement village and aged care group AVEO. Geoff Richards and his partner Harry had been personal and business partners for 55 years at the time of Harry’s death and had lived in the village. as a same-sex de facto couple for 4 years at the time of Harry’s death. Geoff was tossed out. ABC Four Corners Bleed them till they die Madeleine
Madeleine Kingston | 09 September 2017

It was disappointing to hear FR Frank Brennan arguing against the teachings of the Church on Q &A last night. Society of Jesuits was once a disciplined order.
Andrew Jackson | 12 September 2017

Andrew, Frank Brennan wasn't on QandA on Monday night. Maybe you were watching another show or mistook Anglican Bishop (?) Jensen for Frank? Judging by the number of comments here, "too many words about same sex marriage" is spot on. Just do it.
Brett | 13 September 2017


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