Monday, 2 April 2007

The Defence of Marriage

Lisa Pryor in the Opinion pages of the Sydney Morning Herald:
The views I am about to express are not very fashionable. They are certainly not politically correct. But I believe what I am about to say must be expressed to protect the institution of marriage.

Too often in the media, currency is given to the theory that everyone should be allowed to marry regardless of gender, outlook and whether the two people are creating a suitable family environment in which to bring up children.

Well, it is time to ask some hard questions about this attitude. The only way we will save marriage is to reclaim the institution for the mainstream. Marriage is for normal people who want to raise children in a healthy and secure environment......
Please read the whole thing.


Boris said...

Sorry, but I found the article totally lame. The fact is that homosexuals have exactly the same right to marry as normal people - they have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. What they're trying to do is redefine "marriage" to suit themselves, i.e. to get an official stamp of approval on their abnormality. By this logic, if I were a serial killer I'd argue that murder laws should be relaxed to suit me, because I happen to enjoy killing people. There are good reasons for the institution of marriage, and none of them are applicable to homosexuality.

Zoe Brain said...

Welcome Boris! I suspect you're not a regular reader, so please accept my thanks for your comments, and the cogent and polite way you expressed them. It's nice to have people who can disagree with you in a courteous manner.

When you say The fact is that homosexuals have exactly the same right to marry as normal people - they have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. that implies you'd be happy in a society where everyone had the same right - to only marry someone of the same sex. I really don't think you would. I think you'd believe it to be a terrible denial of fundamental Human Rights, and contrary to the International Declaration of Human Rights.

If so, I'd agree with you. But now you can see how gays must view your argument, and how incensed and angry they may get over it.

Now please go and have a look at Confessions of a Homophobe, whuch starts as follows : "There's been a lot in the media about "Gay Marriage" recently. Though not much in the Australian Media, just reactions to the Pope's "ex cathedra" encyclical.

Now I'm a Homophobe. I'm against Homosexuality.

I think it should be discouraged - though not eradicated. Some, maybe most, have no choice, it's the way they are, the way their Brain is wired up. If they're Gay by choice, well, it's their life, not mine..."

It is the height of Irony that I should find myself victim of a rare medical (Intersex) condition that changed my appearance from male to female - and my sexual orientation from lesbian to straight. I looked like a boy, so I thought I was a straight male, not Lesbian of course!

I think the best solution is the Norwegian one.

Anyway, I hope you read this, and I'd be interested in any rebuttal you may have.

Lloyd Flack said...

A marriage is a contract between two people. The state's role is to register that contract and arbitrate disputes arising from it. The churches role is call for God's blessing on a marriage. The state allows the church to carry out the state's registry role for it.

A marriage does not need either church or state invovement. If they are not involved then you have a common law or de facto marriage.

One of marriage's roles can be to give a legal form to a social partnership. I see no reason why this should be denied to same sex coupples.

Andrew Parle said...

Hi Zoe,

I agree with Boris that the article was lame and that it isn't so much a matter of "human rights" as redefining an ancient and still useful social institution with possible deleterious affects (as I have written elsewhere). I also happen to think that the article got it wrong right from the start. It wasn't politically incorrect at all, but excessively PC. What could be more PC than homosexuality=good, religious fundamentalism=bad?

Andrew Parle said...

Hi Lloyd,

A marriage may entail a contract between two people but that is not all it is nor does that reflect the role of marriage in society.

But assuming for the sake of argument that you are correct, there is no law that I know of that stops two people of the same sex arranging a contract between themselves. So why do they want anything more if that's all marriage is?

Zoe Brain said...

Ah but there are laws that prevent this, at least in Australia. Everything from superannuation (pension entitlements) to powers of medical attorney, a massive raft of legal rights that apply to heterosexual contracts, even de-facto ones, but not same-sex ones.

Except for a very few, like mine.

If someone is partnered in a formal way, I just want them to be able to *not* refuse life-saving treatment for their partner. I know of one case where a partner had to watch as a hospital was directed to withdraw life support by the "family" who the patient hadn't seen in decades, because as a freak and a pervert, the patient was better off dead.

I want such partners to be able to get the same relocation allowance other partners do if their jobs take them interstate or internationally.

It's not a moral issue, or even a gay rights issue, it's simple logic and removal of inconsistency and minor persecution.

Andrew Parle said...


Purely on a pragmatic level, I think marriage is very important and the gutting of the institution in recent decades has had a very bad effect on society. I went into this at some length on Morgan's blog a while back, if you recall.

Lloyd's approach is rather common, attempting to justify same-sex marriage by belittling the institution. To me this suggests that he does not understand or value marriage. And those who neither understand nor value marriage should certainly not be the ones deciding what it means.

My point is that marriage is not "just a contract" (contrary to Lloyd who stated, or rather implied, that is all it was.) Nor is it just a contract with a raft of legal rights (and obligations) either. Marriage existed long before such rights existed. Rather, those legal privileges were created to help marriage serve its social function (and win votes, no doubt).

I would support reasonable legislation for things like power of attorney for cases like life support. It certainly doesn't justify marriage and in fact marriage wouldn't fix the real problem, which is as follows. Decades ago, when marriage was taken more seriously, divorce and adultery were rare, etc. it was reasonable to assume that the husband or wife would have the interests of their spouse and family in mind in making such decisions. But if marriage is simply a likely temporary coupling based in many cases mosly on sexual attraction and family (as in raising the couple's children) often not thought of, this assumption is no longer valid. I'd say a lot more thought needs to be given to this issue.

Relocation allowance? Is this part of marriage? I don't think so. Anything like that should be considered on its merits: if the reasons for offering it to families also applies to committed same-sex couples, then it should be offered. Or maybe removed from childless-by-choice same sex couples. Or abolished altogether. This is not an actual RIGHT, you know (whereas removal of life support does intersect with a real right, the right to life).

Zoe, I'm surprised that you think "simple logic and removal of inconsistency" justify a redefinition of marriage. Would you consider it logical to remove the inconsistency in requiring drivers to drive on the left hand side of the road only? If there is good reason for the apparent inconsistency - and in the case of marriage (and road rules) I think there is - then it is not logical to remove it just because it's inconsistent. And I think you would be the last person to make a fetish of inconsistency.

Lloyd Flack said...

Andrew you are misrepresenting my position. I did not say it was just a
contract. The legal contractual side is only part of it. The bonds of
affection, desire and personal loyalty are more important.

You are trying to put pressure on heterosexual couples to stay together
and have children not because they want to but because of social
pressure. You want us to engage in a breeding competition with the
Muslims. The World cannot afford this.

You see recognizing same sex marriages as undermining this because such
partnerships are usually not an environment for bringing up children.
Though of course they can be.

You are the one undervaluing the role of caring in holding a marriage
together. You are the one undervaluing what the partners get out of a
marriage and concentrating on what outsiders get from the marriage. You
are trying to build up marriage by putting down the alternatives. Won't

I just want same sex couples to have access to the same contractual
framework as heterosexual couples. I want them to have the same rights
of attorney, inheritance rights, etc. It doesn't matter whether or not
you call such a partnership a marriage. Call it a civil partnership if
you want.

A marriage is in part a declaration that there is a person who stands closer to
you than your blood kin or anyone else. Why should such a declaration be
available only to opposite sex couples?

Just what legal rights that an opposite sex partnership has do you want
denied to same sex partnerships? And for each one, on what grounds would
you deny it?

Andrew Parle said...


You said A marriage is a contract between two people, not I. If that is not truly your position, then explain further. I did not misrepresent you.

But while we are on the subject, why did you not say with somewhat more accuracy, a marriage is an exclusive contract between a man and a woman? Because you are redefining marriage, just as Boris suggested. And if you are redefining marriage, on what grounds do you stop at two people?

I don't feel your description of my argument on Morgspace is fair or accurate, but I don't want to repeat them, so I'll just make a few points.

I don't want a breeding competition. I merely note that if our civilisation cannot reproduce its own population, it (and all those things you consider rights) are doomed to extinction, and homosexuals will again be truly persecuted in a civilisation which grants them no rights (and women precious few). I consider this a very Bad Thing. Do you want to argue with my arithmetic or my assessment? Or are you simply totally unconcerned about what happens after you are dead?

You say that I want to "pressure" heterosexual couples to have children. I would say I want to re-establish social patterns that encourage childbearing as well as allowing for the happiness and fullfillment of the participants. Marriage would have to be a part of this - I think.

I see the push for same sex marriage as undermining marriage because it is based on the most selfish and anti-social interpretation of what it is - a means to get benefits. Marriage = shacking up with legal benefits.

Where you see marriage as a declaration of standing close to another person, I would see it as subsuming your personal interests within the larger interest of the new family (which, as a result, makes the other adult who shares that interest closer than previous ties). I don't expect anyone who hasn't had children to totally comprehend that view, though.

So I see there are good reasons to not redefine marriage. My concern that our society both continues and is able to adequately support the happiness and freedom of its members far outweighs, in my mind, the complaints of those few who feel that they're entitled to something.

But I'm open to reasonable argument on this.

And Zoe, I really appreciate not having to labour under the 400 char limit. :-)

Lloyd Flack said...


You inserted the word just into "marriage is a contract" and you said I was belittling the institution of marriage. These are misrepresentations of what I said.

I gave a brief description of some aspects of marriage. I did not give a definition. I said that certain legal rights of different sex couples should also apply to same sex couples.

I disagree with both your arithmetic and your assessment. I do not see a population decline as a danger of extinction. Rather, I see it as a correction of overpopulation.

I do not see Muslim countries without industrial or military skills as being able to conquer us. Terrorism can destroy, not occupy. As for Muslims within our countries, convert them to the support of liberal democracy. Stuff Multiculuralism!

You didn't answer my question. Just what rights of committed opposite sex couples would you deny to committed same sex couples and for each of them why?

Andrew Parle said...


Your argument (in your first post to which I was responding) was based around the contractual aspect of marriage and you did not give any indication (until later) that you considered there was anything else to it. You went on as follows:

The state's role is to register that contract and arbitrate disputes arising from it...

For you then to claim that the state's role was to recognise a relationship and provide benefits on that basis was a sudden departure. If you now want to rethink that first line of argument that's fine, but I took it in good faith and was not deliberately misrepresenting what I understood to be your position.

I am pleased you have added the partnership aspects (affection, loyalty, etc) to your definition. Now I would like you to consider if marriage - more specifically, the creation of families - plays an important social role as well. I suggest that what you regard as "legal rights" exist only because of that social role.

On my arithmetic: if our new social arrangements lead to, say, 10% decline in the population in each successive generation; and there is nothing to arrest the decline, how is it that extinction is to be avoided?

I never said we would be invaded by muslim countries. Rather, our population will be replaced in situ, as is happening in parts of Europe.

I agree with your assessment of multiculturalism - I'll turn you into a Right Wing Death Beast yet - but I am not optimistic of our ability to convert all or necessarily even most of them into supporters of liberal democracy. There are aspects of muslim religion and culture which are profoundly anti-modern and anti-democratic.

I don't intend to list "rights" (actually privileges) which I think should be denied same-sex couples (apart from divorce, obviously :-) since I have already stated the principles on which such privileges should be granted. And to be frank, I am not even aware of what privileges o/s couples have that s/s ones do not, other than those that Zoe mentioned. Perhaps you'd like to nominate some cases where an o/s privilege should be extended to s/s couples and I will walk you through my reasoning to whatever conclusion.

But my position is that the privileges offered to o/s couples are a reflection of the role that families play in society. To be honest, apart from the biological requirement of one parent of each sex in producing children, there is no particular reason for couples to be recognised AT ALL. I mean, why should that be anyone's business but theirs? Why should the state offer privileges and society confer status?

Lloyd Flack said...


You see marriage as having one overriding purpose and want to subordinate all aspects of it to that one purpose. I see it as having multiple equally valid purposes. The main purpose will not be the same in all cases and should not be. I agree that in most cases the main purpose will be to create a favorable environment for bringing up children. That is no reason to put down the cases where it is not and often cannot be.

You come across as trivializing and worse sneering at people's other reasons for marrying.

I see the push for same sex marriage as undermining marriage because it is based on the most selfish and anti-social interpretation of what it is - a means to get benefits. Marriage = shacking up with legal benefits.

This statement comes across as a trivialization of personal commitment and devotion to another person. It is a horrible insult to any couple who marry knowing that they cannot have children. I see your position as the one undermining marriage – knocking out all supports except for one.

For an example of rights that opposite sex couples have that should be extended to same sex couples what about inheritance. If children are not involved should there be a difference between same sex and opposite sex couples?

Andrew Parle said...


I did not use the word 'purpose' and certainly not in the sense of the purpose that people have in mind when they get married. I used the term "social function". This is the function that marriage and family serve in society, the reason it is important, and the reason that there is special legal and social recognition and privileges associated with it.

Of course, people get married for any number of reasons (and some may, willy-nilly, end up serving their social purpose as well :-) Some of these reasons are noble and some not. Some may deserve some special recognition even though children are out of the question. But indeed I have trouble treating the young, healthy, heterosexual couple who marry with the explicit intention never to have children as really married (and I have said so on at least one occasion, although I can't say it went down all that well :-)

So you are quite at liberty to think the worst of me. I don't think it effects my arguments in the slightest, though.

As for inheritance rights in the case where there are no children, I think the current situation isn't well handled. In some cases there are good reasons for an inheritance to go to a partner (o/s or s/s) and in others there are not - for example, Anna Nicole Smith. I certainly don't think that in the case of a second marriage there should be no provision for the children of the first. Nor do I think there is necessarily any difference between the o/s and s/s cases (except possibly in the case where a woman gets married and gives up a career with the intention of the couple having children).