Some unsolicited advice on equal marriage

I’ve seen quite a number of church leaders making statements in support of a No response to the Turnbull government’s ABS survey on equal marriage. In nearly every case, there isn’t much of an argument on the merits of why the state should enforce their views about marriage. Rather, they express concerns that, if equal marriage is allowed, they will be forced to conduct marriages, or to employ members of same-sex married couples.

This seems like a nonsense to me. If that is the real concern, the obvious answer is to support a bill in the current Parliament that allows equal marriage but entrenches the right of the churches to discriminate in this way. That’s a compromise that would almost certainly be accepted, and once in place, would be hard to change. What government, having reached a compromise that more-or-less satisfies everyone would want to reopen the can of worms?

On the other hand, suppose that the survey yields a No response thanks to the advocacy of the churches, or even worse, there’s a Yes majority in the survey but the LNP right blocks legislation? Then, when Labor gets in, there’s no obvious reason to make concessions to a group who’ve shown themselves to be implacable opponents in any case.

Speaking more generally, it’s obvious that (nominal) Christians are going to be a minority of the Australian population quite soon, and, quite possibly, a small minority in a few decades. So, it would make good sense for the churches to dissociate themselves from people like Kevin Donnelly and Lyle Shelton who argue that the majority (currently Christian) should be able to impose their views on the minority. A whole-hearted commitment to strict governmental neutrality in matters of religion would make much more strategic sense.

Update I just saw that George Brandis made the same point. Not sure what I think about that.

34 thoughts on “Some unsolicited advice on equal marriage

  1. I can’t envisage the churches supporting legislation that would allow them to discriminate – openly breach the second commandment – that would be a declaration of being openly un-Christian!

  2. By far the strangest contributions have come from Paul Kelly (the journalist not the musician). After over 40 years as playing the cool dispassionate rationalist he is going on and on and on about the threat to religious freedom more marriage equality. It is bizarre. He must have reconnected with his Catholic roots late in life. A lot of people do when the end isn’t that far away but Kelly has become more Catholic than the Pope. Kelly has become a man possessed. It is weird.

  3. rog :
    I can’t envisage the churches supporting legislation that would allow them to discriminate – openly breach the second commandment – that would be a declaration of being openly un-Christian!

    I was referring to the second great commandment – love thy neighbour as thyself.

  4. It’s remarkable the number of people in this debate who appear to have convinced themselves that granting one group of people equal rights somehow diminishes their own.

  5. @Ronald
    Ronald, a word of advice – never attempt satire on the internet without heavily marking it as such. A lot of people will take it as straight, as witness a couple of comments. Anyway I must tell you that you’re no Jane Austen for irony.

  6. Yes I expect gay groups would oppose an exemption. Just look at Moz’s reply after mine already trying to protest against it. Ask some gay people or advocates what they think and I think you will find an almost immediate negative reaction. “That’s not fair”, “Why should a priest be allowed to stop a marriage”, “Don’t Christians love all people” etc. At best you might get them to say that it can always be reversed later, but as you say an exemption, if it was included, would be hard to reverse afterwards.

  7. The talk of exemptions is mostly confusion, or perhaps in some cases, misdirection to promote the ‘no’ case. A change to the Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage will have no effect on the ability of religious organisations to refuse to solemnise marriages that don’t meet their religious requirements. Religious organisations already have very broad exemptions from anti-discrimination laws (Commonwealth and State)for the purposes of religious freedom, and the Marriage Act expressly states that ministers of religion are not obliged to solemnise marriages. Arguments about religiously inclined bakery owners not wanting to make cakes for gay weddings is just special pleading, and is essentially no different from (for example) a Muslim bakery owner claiming that they should be allowed to refuse to serve Jewish customers.

  8. but what business is it of any religion in what is essentially a civil contract for kinship and heritage rights.?

    canon law,sharia law,sectarian doctrine and so on each claim rights over (in their eyes) the whole bloody population in tha world!

    and if the laws weren’t protected as sacral and spiritual,would qualify as totalitarian.

    by divine right.

    i quite like the wording in The Declaration of Breda which goes— “liberty for tender consciences”.

    you can’t be legally picked on for your beliefs and at the same time you can’t pick on any one else for their beliefs.

    even if it means refraining from saving their souls by whatever means possible.


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