I thought I would touch on this matter of same-sex marriage (SSM) again on the off chance I could think of something new to say. I am with General Mattis when responding to a question posed by a US senator, and no doubt with many others, in not caring what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own quarters. This said, I object to SSM and would vote against it if ever a plebiscite were held.
My local (Liberal) federal member is in favour of SSM. I intend to put him last on the ballot paper at the next election. However, this has little to do with him favouring SSM. It is to do with him being one of those dripping wets that have infiltrated and, according to Christopher Pyne, largely taken over the Liberal Party.
This raises a question in my mind which I recommend you too to ponder.
Suppose my local member was in most respects a thoroughgoing conservative. Suppose he or she was full of fiscal rectitude, favoured cutting immigration down to sustainable levels, and wanted Western Judeo-Christian values to be taught, protected, and promoted. Other things could be mentioned, but you get the drift. At the same, this local member, for whatever reason favoured SSM; perhaps because he or she was gay. (Leave aside any quibble you may have that SSM is inconsistent with J-C values.) Would I vote for him or her? I believe I would.
To continue the theme in another context.
I am fond of a member of my extended family who is gay. She has a longstanding partner of whom I am equally fond. They live in the UK where SSM is legal. Suppose they decided to get married and asked me – as I hope they would – to take part in the ceremony. Would I? Of course I would, and without hesitation. My feelings for them would trump any qualms I had about the rightness of SSM. Wouldn’t you do the same?
My answers to these questions and others tier my priorities. For example, I would not vote for anyone, no matter how laudable I thought most of their policies, if I suspected that their loyalty to the country, its institutions and values were seriously compromised. On that account, I would not vote for a practising Muslim nor for anyone in favour of promoting Islamic values. Nor would I attend any ceremony converting a close family member to Islam. In my view that would be spitting in the face of Christ; though, perhaps, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury would not see it that way.
So, for me, apparently, SSM is not crossing an un-crossable line as would be other things. I wonder whether I am right in having this view. The potential problem is the consequences; and how difficult they are to predict.
In 1960 Hayek wrote an article, Why I am Not a Conservative. Basically, he came to his view because he believed that simply resisting change would mean, in the end result, being dragged part of the way towards socialism. He believed that socialism had to be countered by a philosophy that prosecuted change in a competing liberal direction.
A lot turns on how conservatism is defined. I don’t regard its essential rationale as, per se, resisting change – though, admittedly, that is part of it – but as taking account of consequences. Conservatives are willing to embrace change, I believe, provided an assessment can be made of the consequences; and that such consequences are deemed beneficial or at least not overwhelmingly harmful. So back to SSM.
The import of extending a state-sanctioned marriage ceremony to same-sex couples turns on its consequences. I suppose one good that could come out of it is a greater degree of monogamy among gay males. This would presumably cut down on the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including Aids. However, for the most part there is the possibility of adverse consequences.
One of these is the replacement of the acceptance of outlying sexual preferences with their promotion. Being gay is not especially worthy. It is just what it is and shouldn’t be extolled, particularly to children.
Another likely consequence is a loss of freedom of speech and conscience. Those who believe that engaging in homosexuality activity is wrong and who, therefore, object to participating in SSM ceremonies might face increasing social and legal pressure to toe the line.
A third and potentially pernicious consequence is the increased impetus it may give to the rearing of children in same-sex households. Here conservatism comes to the fore. You don’t start down a path when you have no idea where it will lead. And I think that is the situation in this case.
Face it. SSM is inevitable. It might do serious harm if all of its adverse consequences are allowed to play out. But such an outcome is not inevitable. Conservatives need to take a lesson from Hayek and focus on actively pursuing a strategy which takes society towards a different outcome. The option of simply standing against SSM is doomed to failure.
Efforts should concentrate on ensuring that children are not plied at school with inappropriate sexual material and instruction; that people, institutions and businesses can speak freely and act in accordance with their consciences or religious beliefs. And, importantly, that children, if at all possible, are given the advantage of being raised with a mum and dad.
SSM is one thing. It should not be allowed to undermine the natural order of things and the centrality of heterosexual unions and the procreation and nurturing of children. Nor should it be at the expense of free expression and freedom of conscience and religion. These, I suggest, are the real battle grounds for conservatives, before and after SSM is enacted.