Gay Marriage and the Growth of State Intervention

In her defence against fellow members of the Liberal Party for her vote in favour of homosexual marriage, New South Wales MLC Catherine Cusak said:

I don’t see it actually as being about gay people, I just actually see it as being the state shouldn’t be defining our relationships … It’s a very philosophical view and it’s one that’s reasonably widespread within the Liberal Party.[1]

It is for the reason of state involvement, precisely, that she voted the wrong way. The “philosophical view” of the Liberal Party, as reflected by Cusak, on the question of “homosexual marriage” must merit any Liberal Party member’s total opposition. To begin with, a fundamental redefinition of marriage in Australian law to legalise “homosexual marriage” redefines every marriage and has the immediate effect of severing the inherent biological link between marriage and children. The change to the institution is not cosmetic but complete, to bear no resemblance to its role, function and purpose in society.

In 1689, John Locke completed his Two Treatises of Government, a key work influencing English liberalism, and thereby formative in Australia’s development.[2] Locke is one of the thinkers who shaped modern liberalism,[3] especially in his assertion that the real purpose of the state is “to protect the liberty of the subject”.[4] Hence what he says about marriage is of considerable interest. In his Second Treatise of Government,[5] Locke explores the origins of political society, noting that “the first Society was between Man and Wife, which gave beginning to that between Parents and Children”.[6]

Locke continues:

Conjugal Society is made by a voluntary Compact between Man and Woman: and tho’ it consist chiefly in such a Communion and Right in one another’s Bodies, as is necessary to its chief End, Procreation; yet it draws with it mutual Support, and Assistance, and a Communion of interest too, as necessary not only to unite their Care, and Affection, but also necessary to their common Off-spring, who have a Right to be nourished and maintained by them, till they are able to provide for themselves.[7]

Later he adds, in examining marriage and the role of the state: 

For all the ends of Marriage being to be obtained under Politick Government, as well as in the state of Nature, the Civil Magistrate doth not abridge the Right, or Power of either naturally necessary to those ends, viz. Procreation and mutual Support and Assistance whilst they are together; but only decides any Controversie that may arise between Man and Wife about them.[8] 

For Locke, then, marriage is pre-state society, and the state’s authority is limited to intervening in marital difficulty.

Massive Government Intervention into Society

In the UK, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in launching the push for homosexual marriage is on record as saying last year: 

We’re consulting on legalising gay marriage. To anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment.  Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.[9]

A reader will immediately note the complete absence of any reference to children, or a child’s right to a mother and a father.

One prominent and genuine Conservative voice from the UK, Norman Tebbitt—former minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government and former Chairman of the Conservative Party—chides David Cameron for this, commenting:

Within the can of worms that Mr Cameron is determined to open there are several nests of snakes. Why should a marriage be confined to just two persons? What is the barrier to the marriage of sisters, brothers or even parents and children?  Mr Cameron’s justification for all this is that he believes in it “because he is a Conservative” is absurd. Conservatives do not turn over long-standing (several thousands of years across widely different cultures all over the world, in this case) with so little thought. He did not mention it when he set out his stall in the Conservative Party leadership election not long ago. Did he believe it then?[10]

Tebbitt’s view is a classic expression of Burkean thinking. Another major problem for a so-called “conservative case for homosexual marriage” is that it calls for an enormous level of government intervention into society. This is contrary to basic tenets of conservative politics.

To illustrate this we can turn again to David Cameron, who claims:

Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big-state structures we inherited from the last government. We are putting people in control, giving them the choices and chances that they get in almost every other area of life.[11]

Or, as Ronald Reagan stated in his Inaugural Address in 1981: 

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden.[12]

Cameron and others, who claim to be conservative yet profess to support homosexual marriage, therefore work against their own principles. In her pamphlet The Limited Government/Libertarian Case for Man Woman Marriage, the American writer Jennifer Roback Morse explains:

This suggestion makes plain how deeply redefining marriage alters our idea of parenthood. The biological principle of determining parentage has to be suppressed, and eventually replaced with another principle. That principle will be that the state will decide who counts as a parent.

In short, redefining marriage from the union of a man and a woman to the union of any two persons jettisons three principles that we now take for granted. First, children are entitled to a relationship with both parents. Second, legal parenthood ordinarily tracks biological parentage. Third, the state recognizes parentage, but does not assign it …[13]

Libertarians have every reason to respect marriage as a social institution. Marriage is an organic institution that emerges spontaneously from society. People of the opposite sex are naturally attracted to one another, couple with each other, co-create children, and raise those children. The little society of the family replenishes and sustains itself. Humanity’s natural sociability expresses itself most vibrantly within the family. A minimum-government libertarian can view this self-sustaining system with unadulterated awe …[14]

If the state commits itself to “marriage equality,” the state will have to enforce this idea upon the populace. “Marriage equality” is a completely artificial creation of the state, which cannot sustain itself. And precisely because it is an unnatural idea that does not spring unbidden to the human mind, the state will end up intervening in every aspect of society that touches upon marriage or gender or parenthood. This is far too much power to grant to the state, far too much social engineering, far too much thought control …[15] The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another … The state has a duty to provide the basic legal scaffolding that supports the natural family …[16]

The state has no right to take over marriage and redefine it out of existence, or redefine it to suit its own purposes …[17]

In her contribution to the 2006 book The Meaning of Marriage, Seana Sugrue returns to Locke’s idea of the pre-state Conjugal Society:

 Given the pre-political nature of conjugal society, the state regulates it [marriage] rightly by recognizing it as a natural fact with its own norms and purposes. The state ought not treat conjugal society as its own creation. Where there is evidence that parents are failing in their duties to each other or to their children, the state may intervene. Absent from this, however, the state ought to leave conjugal society, rooted in the union of one man and one woman, alone.[18] 

This pre-political conjugal society, “the existence of which is independent of the state, is precisely what advocates of same-sex marriage seek to change”.[19] Sugrue continues: 

Same-sex marriage is necessarily a political institution, whereas marriage is pre-political. Marriage has an existence independent of state power; same-sex marriage does not. The reality of children, and the duty of care imposed upon mothers and fathers to rear their offspring, would exist absent a political order …[20]

Same-sex couples can only marry insofar as the state decrees that they can. In claiming for homosexuals the right to marry, the state also claims for itself the ability to declare what constitutes marriage. It endows itself with the prerogative of defining its terms. It transforms marriage from a pre-political obligation into its own creation. At the same time, it replaces marriage as an obligation within conjugal society to marriage as a choice and a means of self-gratification. In this way, it changes the character of marriage not just for same-sex couples, but for everyone. By allowing same-sex marriage, the state decrees that, henceforth, marriage is what the state says it is. Marriage then loses its status as a fundamental institution of civil society, and becomes a right, granted by the state, for the desiring self.[21]

Here we have a major example of extreme statism, where a crucial pre-state institution that limits the power of the state is suppressed and replaced by an institution that depends on the state for its existence. The role of the state intrudes into an area where hitherto it has been absent. A key plank of limiting government is removed and the reach of state power takes an enormous step forward. In consequence, Sugrue observes:

Being entirely a creation of the state, it [homosexual marriage] is an institution that needs to be coddled, and which demands a culture in which it is protected. It is desperately in need of state intervention to support it. For these reasons, once marriage becomes a statist institution for the sake of consenting adults, the state will be increasingly called upon to create the social conditions to protect these unions. The need of same-sex unions to be culturally coddled also increases the likelihood that the state will use public education for this end. In this way, same-sex marriage affects not just those who participate in it; it affects everyone, and especially our children.[22]

The evidence of intended state protection of these proposals in Australia is already present. The political rhetoric that displays the intent to legislate already exists.

During the 2011 Queensland ALP State Conference, which passed a motion in favour of homosexual marriage, Andrew Dettmer, the Queensland Branch President, declared that opposition to homosexual marriage was as bad as racism: 

Queensland branch president Andrew Dettmer said the move, if passed at national level, would end the last vestige of discrimination against non-heterosexual couples. “The point I think we are all agreed about in our party is that discrimination against people on the basis of their gender or their sexual orientation is just as abominable and just as unsupportable as discrimination on the basis of race,” Mr Dettmer said.[23]

Therefore any legal provisions penalising racial discrimination will extend to opponents of homosexual marriage should it ever become law in this country.

Similarly, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is on record as saying, “The idea of marriage only being between a man and a woman is not just outdated, but extremely, extremely defamatory.”[24] Those who publicly support marriage would be guilty of defamation.

Further to this threat will be the mandate to teach homosexual marriage in schools. Overseas examples are instructive.

In Canada, which has suppressed marriage and replaced it with homosexual marriage, one gay activist, Robin Perelle, boasts in response to an objector to the “Out in Schools” program: 

“There is a moral and ethical question in all of this,” retired teacher Ben Seebaran said on Simpson’s radio show. “Society has evolved in such a way that those who do not subscribe to the view that gay marriages or differences in sexual orientations are quite acceptable, are made to feel less of a human being.”
This is a moral question, I agree. Just as the black civil rights movement changed the rules of what is and isn’t acceptable for racism, the gay rights movement is shifting norms in Canada. And with that comes a message to those who won’t evolve: your outdated morals are no longer acceptable, and we will teach your kids the new norms.



In Massachusetts, which has homosexual marriage, state schools are obliged to teach material promoting this, and no opt-out option exists for parents. A father was arrested in the course of objecting to material supporting homosexual marriage being taught to his son. 

David Parker was arrested Wednesday [April 27, 2005] by Lexington Police, allegedly for “trespassing” at his son’s elementary school, while attending a scheduled meeting with the principal and the city’s Director of Education over his objections to homosexual curriculum materials and discussions in his son’s kindergarten class.

According to an “Article 8 Alliance” press release, at the meeting, Parker requested that the school inform him of when homosexual discussions would take place, so he could exclude his son from the activity. He said he would not leave until his request was granted. The Principal and the city’s Director of Education both refused his request. They then telephoned the Superintendent of Schools who also refused. Police were called, who told Parker that unless he left the school, he would be arrested.

Parker was arraigned in Concord District Court on Thursday on one count of trespassing; his attorney entered a plea of not guilty. Parker was freed after paying $1000 in bail and agreeing not to enter school property. He is due back in court for a trial June 1.[26]

The matter was challenged in the Federal Court, but the court found in favour of the school.[27]

When this lower court decision was challenged in the Federal Appeals Panel, the ruling by Judge Sandra L. Lynch was “that the 2003 Goodridge decision held ‘that the state constitution mandates the recognition of same-sex marriage’ and therefore, she implies, the schools must recognize it also”.[28] The Supreme Court would not hear the case and therefore this ruling stands.[29]

Not only is there no “conservative case for homosexual marriage”, there are also alarming reasons and implications to steadfastly oppose it. Any member of the Liberal Party, or of other conservative parties in Australia, who professes to support homosexual marriage must endorse a policy of more government rather than less. They must either abandon conservative politics or abandon support for “homosexual marriage”. There is no in-between. 

This article is adapted from Gerard Calilhanna’s Submission to the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 Senate Enquiry, Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Submission Number 134, National Marriage Coalition, 15-20

[1] Bruce MacKenzie and Joanne Shoebridge, Cusack abused over gay marriage stance, in ABC Online, 7 June, 2012 12:49PM AEST, (accessed 13 June 2012)

[2] John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. with Notes and Introduction by Peter Laslett, Student Ed., Cambridge University Press, 1988, 3.

[3] Chandran Kukathas, “Liberalism: The International Context’, in J.R. Nethercote, ed., Liberalism and the Australian Federation, The Federation Press, Sydney, 2001, 15.

[4] Ibid., 20.

[5] Locke, op. cit., An Essay Concerning the True, Original, Extent and End of Civil Government

[6] Ibid., #77, 319. His emphasis.

[7] Ibid., 319.

[8] Ibid., 321-322.

[9] Daniel Martin, “Gay marriage is “a step too far’, says defence minister as Cameron proposes full marriage rights for same-sex couples”, in Daily Mail Online, (accessed 31 March 2012)

[10] Norman Tebbit, “Gay marriage won’t win Cameron the next election’, in The Telegraph, 19 March 2012, (accessed 31 March 2012)

[11] David Cameron, “Brick by brick, we’re tearing down the big state’, in The Telegraph, 28 March 2012, (accessed 31 March 2012)

[12] Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address, 20 January 1981, (accessed 31 March 2012)

[13] Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., The Limited Government/Libertarian Case for Man Woman Marriage, 19 January 2012, 6, (accessed 31 March 2012) My emphasis

[14] Ibid., 8

[15] Ibid., 11. My emphasis

[16] Ibid., 12

[17] Ibid., 13

[18] Seana Sugure, “Soft despotism and Same-Sex Marriage’, in Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain

eds., The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals, Spence Publishing Company, Dallas,

2006, 180-181.

[19] Ibid., 181.

[20] Ibid., 188.

[21] Ibid., 189.

[22] Ibid., 190.

[23] AAP, “Qld Labor backs same-sex marriage’, in Herald Sun, 19 June 2011 4:09PM, (accessed 31 March 2012)

[24] Matthew Franklin and Christian Kerr, “Abbott prevents conscience vote on same-sex marriage’, in The Australian, 11 October 2011 12:00AM, (accessed 1 April 2012)

[25] Robin Perelle, “Left behind: NAKED EYE – It must be hard knowing you’re on the losing side’, in XTra!

Thursday, 20 October 2011, (accessed 1 April 2012)

[26], “Father of 6-Year-Old Arrested Over Objection to Homosexual Curriculum in Kindergarten Class’, 29 April 2005, (accessed 21 June 2012)

[27] UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, DAVID PARKER, ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. WILLIAM HURLEY, ET AL., Defendants, C.A. No. 06-10751-MLW, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, WOLF, D.J. 23 February 2007, (accessed 1 April 2012)

[28] MassResistance, Federal court denies appeal in David Parker Civil Rights case on homosexual programs in elementary school, 31 January 2008, (accessed 1 April 2012)

[29] Kathleen Gilbert, “Mandatory Homosexual Indoctrination in Grade School Survives after Supreme Court Turns Down Case’, in, 8 October 2008, (accessed 1 April 2012)

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