A recent Sydney Anglican booklet entitled What has God Joined Together? has drawn the ire of noted Australian feminist, Jane Gilmore. Gilmore declares the booklet a “logic fail,” and accuses Christian churches of attempting to “take over” the marriage debate.
It is likely that Gilmore didn’t expect a response, but Bishop Michael Stead, one of the authors, penned a response to the accusations, particularly highlighting that Christians have the same rights to participate in the discussion on marriage as any other group, despite Gilmore’s insistence that the debate has nothing to do with religion, and by extension, people of faith.
Now, I know that Christians shouldn’t expect that any special privilege attaches to our views. In a secular liberal democracy like Australia, we have no more right than others — and no less right than others — to present our point of view, and to seek to persuade others that our view might be good for society generally.
The booklet doesn’t expect that people should follow “God’s pattern for marriage” because Jesus says so. For people who don’t believe in God, that argument is nonsense.
It is the impending consequences of redefining marriage that make this an issue demanding conversation. What Dr Stead and his colleagues’ booklet argues is that there has not been true conversation on this subject, and the absence of any full discussion is itself detrimental to the future of Australia. If Australians do not engage with the truth and facts up front, they may well find themselves facing laws that are not only against their best interests, but against their individual freedoms.
Redefining marriage will mean that a significant slice of the Australian population will hold a view of marriage that is out of step with the legal definition. Christians and others who continue to hold a traditional view are likely to feel the weight of anti-discrimination legislation. We need to have a conversation about this.
Whether Australia enacts same-sex marriage or not, we need to have a more sophisticated and robust discussion about our differences. As a secular liberal democracy, we need to work out better ways to live together with our deepest differences, to make space for majority and minority views and to disagree well.
That is not what we have had in the same-sex marriage debate so far, and it is time for a new conversation.
Marriage does affect all Australians: it is an integral part of our culture that protects the foundation of society - the family. As Dr Stead noted, the definition of marriage determines whether our society is family-centric or couple-centric. It redefines the role and significance of gender. Above all, it opens the door to suppressing logic, reason, and individual freedoms to adhere to politically correct tolerance.
Meaningful, honest conversation must be held about same-sex marriage. There is far more at stake here than a cultural norm: the future of Australian society is up for redefinition.