People are involved in all sorts of relationships and personal associations. They always have been, and always will be. But the question arises as to how much government and public recognition and support should be extended to various types of relationships.
Most societies throughout human history have given special recognition and privilege to one type of relationship because of its overwhelming importance: the heterosexual marriage relationship. Because of the tremendous social goods produced by the institution of heterosexual marriage, almost all cultures have seen it as a unique and special relationship, deserving of public promotion, government sanction, and legal protection. Thus marriage has been a privileged institution, although no one until recently saw that as in any way being discriminatory or unfair.
For millennia marriage has been afforded certain rights, privileges and benefits because of how important it is. Among other things, heterosexual marriage offers two significant benefits: the regulation of human sexuality, and the begetting and rearing of the next generation.
Human sexuality has always been seen to be special, and always seen to be in need of boundaries and limits. And sexuality – again, until recently – has almost always been inescapably bound up with human procreation. Since children are our future, it is vital that they be given high priority, and societies have always recognised the father-mother-child family unit, cemented by marriage, as the maximally ideal environment in which to raise children.
And because the heterosexual family provides so many social goods – it is an education system, a social welfare system, a health system, a place of moral and spiritual value development and character formation, eg. – it has been seen as deserving of special recognition, status and position. Because everyone in a community so greatly benefits from married families, societies have granted special benefits to married couples.
But today that special position which heterosexual marriage enjoys is under attack. It is seen as being discriminatory, unfair, intolerant and exclusive. Calls are now being made to extend government recognition, endorsement, sanction and blessing to all sorts of relationships.
This is especially being promoted by the militant homosexual lobby. They are arguing that their relationships should also be the recipient of government favour and benefits. But should they? What they are really seeking to do is demand all of the benefits and privileges of marriage, but without offering the responsibilities and duties of marriage. Sorry, but there should be no benefits given without meeting the requisite obligations.
Married couples – generally speaking – offer real positive social goods to society, to each other and to the next generation. This is not necessarily the case with most other types of relationships. The documentation for the social goods of marriage I have detailed elsewhere.
There is no compelling case for why governments and societies as a whole should grant special rights to, and special recognition of, same-sex unions. Obviously individual homosexuals, as individuals, may contribute all kinds of goods to society, as do many other individuals. But the issue here is whether their relationships should be the object of special recognition and favour, as has been the case with heterosexual marriage.
What about a strategy of compromise?
Unfortunately a handful of Christians have lately sought to argue that while we should reject same-sex marriage, we should encourage some types of civil unions for homosexuals, and/or relationship register schemes. They argue – quite naively and wrongly, I believe – that if we go down this road of compromise and give in on so many areas, and allow them special rights, that they will be satisfied, not demand marriage, and everything will turn out alright.
More specifically, they think the government of the day will regard this as a nice safe compromise, and will therefore hold the line on same-sex marriage. But with wall-to-wall Labor governments today, the full homosexual agenda can easily be implemented, once we have gone so far down the road of compromise. Many Labor MPs will want to give the homosexual lobby their full set of demands, in the interests of being seen as tolerant, inclusive and fair.
But there are further problems with this type of compromise reasoning. One is – as anyone who carefully follows the literature of the militant homosexual lobby knows – they want the whole package, and will never be satisfied with getting just some, or even most, of their demands met.
And their ultimate goal has always been complete social, legal, public and government recognition and endorsement of their lifestyle. Nothing less will satisfy. They have despised the privileged position of heterosexual marriage, and have long sought to elevate their relationships to a par with it, if not beyond.
And they have been very successful at getting the public’s eye off of what homosexuals actually do, and instead get the focus on vague notions of human rights, discrimination and the like. They know the average Australian is not too keen on what homosexuals actually do, but they will be suckers for victimisation claims.
Indeed, the homosexual lobby has been very successful in reframing the issues. For example, an interesting article appeared in the gay press some years ago entitled “The Overhauling of Straight America”. The article outlined a strategy by which homosexuals could best implement their goals. It included the following elements: desensitisation; portraying gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers; giving the protectors a just cause; and making the victimisers look bad. Here are some quotes from the article: “In any campaign to win over the public, gays must be cast as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to assume the role of protector. . . . Our campaign should not demand direct support for homosexual practices, but instead make anti-discrimination as its theme. . . . In the early stages of the campaign, the public should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behavior itself. Instead, the imagery of sex per se should be down-played, and the issue of gay rights reduced as far as possible, to an abstract social question.”
The authors of the above article expanded their strategy into a full-length book, and amplified this theme: “Our ultimate objective is to expand straight tolerance so much that even gays who look unconventional can feel safe and accepted. . . . Thus our campaign should not demand explicit support for homosexual practices, but should instead take antidiscrimination as its theme. Fundamental freedoms, constitutional rights, due process and equal protection of laws, basic features of fairness and decency toward all of humanity – these should be the concerns brought to mind by our campaign.”
This strategy of the homosexual community to shift attention away from homosexual behaviour and instead to focus on discussions of civil rights has been an ingenious and successful ploy. As Australian homosexual activist Dennis Altman has put it, “The greatest single victory of the gay movement over the past decade has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity, thus forcing opponents into a position where they can be seen as attacking the civil rights of homosexual citizens rather than attacking specific and (as they see it) antisocial behavior.”
Thus civil rights, not behaviour, has taken the limelight. By taking attention off homosexual behaviour, a clever strategy has been successfully carried out by the homosexual community, namely, to convince the general public that their relationships are just the same as heterosexual relationships.
Unfortunately some Christian groups have bought this ruse hook, line and sinker. They are saying that in the name of social justice Christians must grant homosexuals all sorts of special rights, privileges and government recognition, as in the form of relationship registers, or certain types of civil unions. And they again naively think this will save the day for marriage and family.
But what does the other side actually think?
It is appropriate to examine this strategy of these Christians, and see whether it in fact stacks up. I have argued elsewhere that it seems to be a fundamentally flawed strategy, and it is simply giving the homosexual lobby on a silver platter most of what they have been demanding.
But what are the homosexual activists themselves saying about all this? Do they agree with the Christian groups that relationship registers are fundamentally different from civil unions, and that civil unions are fundamentally different from same-sex marriage? Are they seeing things the way these Christians are? The answer is no.
The truth is, homosexual activists see very little difference at all between the various public and government forms of same-sex relationship schemes. Many quotes can be provided here. Homosexual activist Wayne Morgan of the ANU College of Law has written much on this issue. He sees the various schemes as identical:
“What is the difference between these three (supposedly different) legal mechanisms? What is marriage, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship? What does the Tasmanian registry achieve, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship? What does the ACT’s civil partnership law allow, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship? Of course these laws are different in their minutiae, but in intent and purpose they are ALL the same.”
I believe Morgan is basically right here. And he has more to say about all this, especially the Tasmanian registration scheme, which some Christian groups are holding up as a model to emulate:
“The Tasmanian scheme is, and always has been, a civil union scheme. That is how it is viewed internationally. The (supposed) distinction between a ‘registration’ and a ‘civil union’ scheme did not exist until the ACT government decided to make it. Why? Because they wanted to ‘sell’ their scheme (which merely mimics marriage) as somehow ‘better’ than the Tasmanian scheme. The distinction was then perpetuated by the Howard government and is still being perpetuated by the Rudd Government. Why? Because they are paranoid about the political influence of the Christian lobby and the Christian lobby (mistakenly) thinks that a ‘civil union’ is too much like marriage, while a ‘registration’ is not. The Christian lobby fought hard to prevent the Tasmanian Relationships Act from being passed, but, having failed, they seem to have a fundamental psychological need to make everyone believe it is second rate and ‘not like’ marriage.”
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby have argued that there is no need to “make a distinction between civil unions and registration”. Jamie Gardiner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission says there are “closer parallels between the two cases – marriage and partnership registration – than most people imagine”.
Also, the Australian Greens see no fundamental difference between the two most common proposals. They have argued for a “civil union and/or formal registry of relationships that recognizes, affirms and celebrates same-sex and all significant personal relationships”.
And the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has said that to combat ‘discrimination,’ Federal laws should be amended and the definition of de facto partner be extended to include same-sex partnerships. Of course de factos now experience all the benefits of marriage, and HREOC simply wants to include homosexual unions in this group. Again, the lines are quite fuzzy between the various sorts of relationship recognition schemes.
The question remains, if the homosexual activists see no differences here, why do these Christian groups still cling to these distinctions? And if some vague notion of justice is being appealed to here by these Christian groups, then surely justice would demand that if we give homosexuals 90 percent of what they want, then the remaining demands should also be met.
After all, if we are giving homosexuals nearly all the benefits and privileges of marriage, but denying them the right to call it marriage, or have a public ceremony, is that not being unjust and discriminatory? They have already conceded – by granting them so many special rights – that their relationships are on a par with heterosexual relationships, so would not justice demand they therefore be given the whole package? This is the obvious rejoinder of the homosexual lobby. And it seems both reasonable and fair.
Indeed, this is exactly what we find. In today’s papers, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said it was inadequate to leave some ‘discriminatory’ laws in place. “Removing discrimination cannot be done in a piecemeal manner – removing discrimination means removing discrimination full stop.” This is certainly logical if we accept the premises that these Christians have set forward.
And Rod Swift of the Australian Coalition for Equality argues that a ceremony should be a necessary part of any government attempt to recognise same-sex relationships. This too is logical, yet some Christian groups are saying we should not allow ceremonies because they mimic marriage. But when you grant homosexuals stacks of privileges and benefits that overwhelmingly mimic marriage, a mere ceremony should be the least of our worries.
As one lesbian put it after yesterday’s announcement that the Rudd government would change 100 laws to grant special rights to homosexuals, “this is a massive relief; all the legislation is really marriage without the meringue dress.”
It is better not to accept these faulty premises in the first place. There is no reason to grant special rights to homosexuals, and the Christian groups arguing for this are wrong to do so. Despite their good intentions, they are now helping to dig the grave of marriage and family, and making the job all the more difficult for those who believe that these institutions must be preserved at all costs.