The Marriage Wars

wedding ringsHow did it come to this? How was a small minority, not so long ago despised, reviled and prosecuted for its activities, able to threaten the central social unit essential for the stability and moral health of the nation? Why did a compassionate tolerance of homosexuality encourage a savage assault on the traditional familial concept of the union of man and woman? Why did homosexuals assert the legal right to cohabit, thus forsaking the ability to procreate, only to demand recognition as equals in the special state of “marriage”, simply on the basis of their affection, but then seek to artificially manufacture children?

The answers to these questions seem to lie deep in the inferiority of those striving—despite the statistical evidence to the contrary—to establish that their sexual orientation is not abnormal. Legal recognition and acceptance of homosexuality by society was never enough; stealing the rite of marriage has long been the objective. Immediately the federal parliament amended one hundred different laws in 2008 (1) to remove discrimination against same-sex de facto couples, the gay Australian Coalition for Equality demanded the removal of what it termed “discrimination in marriage”. In an era of so many proclaimed “rights”, a tolerant, compliant society has allowed itself to be distracted by the claim that legalising same-sex marriage could be reduced to the issue of delivering “equality”.

The conclusion is inescapable that, whether out of revenge, sheer bloody-mindedness or political progressivism, this minority is out to destroy the societal stability that has sustained the country up till now. False claims of discrimination, questionable sociological research and public apathy have helped advance the cause. It is against this background that the Australian Capital Territory’s Marriage Equality Bill 2013 was rushed through its Legislative Assembly.

One might ask, how small a minority? In the 2011 Australian census, some 33,714 same-sex couples—a mere 0.7 per cent of all couples—reported their relationship as de facto partner. At the same time, opposite-sex couples totalled 4,650,986, and 49.2 per cent of people over fifteen years of age were in registered marriages. (2)

Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s was living in a moral and moralistic time that today would be seen as highly restrictive. Unwed mothers would be shunned if they were not sheltered by family or saved from social oblivion by a precipitate wedding. Homosexuality, if it existed in most people’s consciousness, surfaced only in the salacious pages of Truth, a newspaper taken by no decent family. The deep shadows of poincianas and Moreton Bay figs in the public parks proved to be the favoured scene of “acts of gross indecency” that appeared regularly on the charge sheets of the police courts. A proportion of the duty time of detectives of the Criminal Investigation Branch was spent in entrapment as agents provocateurs in public lavatories.

Public distaste and judicial wrath combined to suppress any suggestion of normalcy, as a glance through old newspapers shows.

In the Perth Criminal Court in 1945, (3) Mr Justice Wolff observed that the May session had been remarkable for the number of cases of homosexuality and sex perversion. He went on: “the public attitude towards such offences is varied, but the majority of decent people are very averse from [sic] them, and I think that if any country tolerates this kind of thing, it is the first step to its degradation”.

In Sydney, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, Clarence Sydney McNulty, was charged with indecency in a public toilet on January 9, 1943, but after representations to the Police Commissioner the charge was withdrawn. The arresting constable gave evidence that he and his accompanying officer had made two hundred arrests for various forms of indecency. He explained that instructions had been issued that in an offence of wilful exposure in a public lavatory, the person should be charged. (4)

In March 1948, the South Australian Supreme Court heard a charge that a twenty-year-old steward indecently assaulted two policemen in a pitch-dark public urinal. Commented Mr Justice Abbott: “I am inclined to think that if he got a whipping and no imprisonment it would be the best thing.” (5)

When a twenty-year-old biscuit mixer appeared in the Queensland Criminal Court in July 1950 on two sex charges, his sentence turned on whether “the youth was a constitutional homosexual type, or had acquired it”. Interviewed by the Director of Mental Hygiene, he explained that at school in Newtown, Sydney, the girls after school would solicit among the boys, but “as I was not possessed at any time of two shillings, I was not able to avail myself of the opportunities presented”. He promised to reform and was released on a good behaviour bond. (6)

In wartime 1944, one of the first public inquiries in Australia into sexual offences was held in Brisbane. Although most of Mr Justice Neal Macrossan’s time and subsequent report was devoted to offences against children and means of “curing” offenders, homosexuality got an airing. Professor J.V. Duhig, the feisty leading pathologist who founded the Queensland Red Cross Blood Bank, gave evidence as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Trades and Labour Council. He told the inquiry that homosexuality was a disease and the homosexual was incurable. Punishment would not cure them; they should be segregated. (7) The Macrossan Report summed up: “When the [sexual] offender is homosexual, it creates a suspicion that the offender is a pervert, either mental or moral.” (8)

Ten years later, Lady Phyllis Cilento, wife of renowned public health specialist Sir Raphael Cilento, and herself a doctor, entered the debate with an article in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail in her regular series of “Medical Mother”: “the awakening of a strong and well-informed body of opinion against homosexuality will be the most effective means of preventing its spread, and of assisting the police in their efforts to control its practice”. But in a prescient comment, she went on:

“the danger now is that after the first revulsion of feeling against homosexuality in all its forms, people will become used to the idea, and come to take it for granted as “just one of those things” about which little can be done, and which therefore must be accepted. They will look around in their community and in history, and find homosexuals among men they formerly admired for their intellectual and artistic achievements, or like for their friendly and gentle manner; and they will feel that really this cannot be so heinous a crime as it is painted. Moreover, those who are addicted to this way of life, are quick to take advantage of every argument in favour of it as a normal outlet for the affections.” (9)

For centuries in Western societies, male homosexuality was condemned as outside the pale of acceptable human behaviour, and indeed subject to criminal penalties. (Paradoxically, lesbianism has never been criminalised; it was even celebrated in the erotic illustrations of nineteenth-century French artist Edouard-Henri Avril.) (10) Community and official retribution on pederasts could be severe. The most extreme case in history was the punishment meted out to King Edward II, a rumoured bisexual, for “wicked and forbidden sex” in his relationship with his favourite Piers Gaveston. The chroniclers of Flores Historiarum recorded his conduct as “excessive, immoderate, beyond measure and reason”. (11) For punishment he was sodomised with a red-hot poker in Berkeley Castle in 1327, a treatment he did not survive.

In the Victorian age, despite clandestine homosexuality not being uncommon (even perhaps including a British prime minister, Lord Rosebery), (12) the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1895 clamped down hard on acts of gross indecency. It was under this act that Oscar Wilde was prosecuted, facing the demand to define “the love that dare not speak its name”. His conviction further hardened societal attitudes, including fears of privileged members of society preying on youth. In the humility of De Profundis written in Reading Gaol, Wilde summarised his situation:

“society as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on just and unjust alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed.” (13)

Over time, the power of celebrity came to protect famous artists, writers, musicians and intellectuals from the law as an implicit indulgence was extended to their camp attributes. Consider this mere handful of the hundreds accorded special treatment in their excision from the homosexual taboo: poets W.H. Auden and Gertrude Stein; musicians Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten and Cole Porter; writers Samuel Butler, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and Pier Paolo Pasolini; dancer Rudolf Nureyev; artist Andy Warhol; tennis player Billie Jean King; royal photographer Cecil Beaton; entertainers Josephine Baker, Noel Coward, Judy Garland and Peter Allen; cryptographer Alan Turing; economist John Maynard Keynes; Harold Aston, Tuscan aesthete. (14)

Indeed, much of the campaign for recognition came to be based on both the celebrity of famous artists, writers and musicians, and also historical precedents in ancient societies. (Then, as we shall see, specious comparisons drawn from the animal kingdom.) In Greece certainly, pederasty was common; homosexual relations were defined in the balance between masculine power of the privileged, and the passivity of youth and the lower classes. In an age when events in the Olympic games were contested naked, perfect form was admired. But even though Greece was a slave-based society, marriage and family remained the central institutions.

The first turning point was the change from regarding homosexuality as a moral crime against society to that of a treatable mental illness. That came in 1952 when the American Psychiatric Association listed it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a sociopathic personality disturbance. In 1962, the results of a large-scale study published as Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals argued that the “disorder” could be explained by a pathological fear of the opposite sex, due to traumatic parent-child relationships. (15)

This categorisation set off a fierce backlash against the medicalisation of homosexuality, a reaction that could be regarded as the origin of the radical gay rights movement. A three-day riot that followed a police raid on a New York bar, the Stonewall Inn, in 1969 led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, one of the most active groups then springing up. (16) The next year the GLF declared war on psychiatry and disrupted the American Psychiatric Association conference in San Francisco. In Britain its members in drag invaded the 1971 Festival of Light, the Mary Whitehouse–Malcolm Muggeridge Christian organisation protesting against the permissive society. (17) The APA gradually watered down its classification in the DSM; by 1987 the sexual disorder had become “persistent and marked distress about one’s sexual orientation”.

The appropriation of the old English word gay (meaning joyous) to gloss homosexual activities dates from this time, and was part of the political campaign to normalise them in the public mind. Google’s Ngram analysis of word usage shows the chart line for gay going vertical from 1975. The next campaign, to force the change of meaning on the world, began in New York in 1985 with the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (now known as GLAAD). (18) Beginning with an attack on sensationalised AIDS coverage in the New York Post, GLAAD soon had the New York Times and the Washington Post changing their editorial policies to mandate the use of gay. By the time the AIDS epidemic had reached Australia in the 1980s, the gay lobby was powerful enough to protest successfully against people who accidentally received HIV-infected blood by transfusion being termed “innocent victims”.

Colour had always been a signal—from Oscar Wilde’s green carnation to the pink triangles enforced by Nazi Germany, to the purple of Gay Pride. The rainbow, an important biblical symbol from God’s promise of peace to Noah, was annexed as the universal gay symbol with San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker’s design in 1978. His eight colours of symbolism—pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for art, indigo for harmony and violet for the human spirit—was later reduced to six, for symmetry. (19) The design had a fortuitous resonance with Judy Garland’s support in the 1950s and 1960s and her signature tune, “Over the Rainbow”.

The ultimate insult to public norms and Christian morality was delivered in 1978 on the anniversary of the Stonewall riot with the appropriation of Carnevale—the traditional festivities before Lent in Catholic countries—for Sydney’s Mardi Gras procession. Everyone loves a parade, but how many of the families that take their children to watch this rainbow extravaganza, billed as the biggest in the world, realise that the feathers, glitzy dancing and gay pride floats celebrate buggery and cunnilingus? For 2014, Mardi Gras is to be a prolonged three-week festival.

The first battle had been to remove laws such as “committing carnal knowledge against the order of nature” (anal sex) which permitted criminal charges to be laid against homosexuals. In Britain, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised sexual acts in private between adult males in England and Wales, following the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report ten years earlier. (20) In Australia the process took longer, state by state: South Australia (under its closet homosexual Premier Don Dunstan) 1975; the ACT 1976; Victoria 1980; New South Wales 1984; Queensland 1990; Tasmania 1997. (21)

With the decriminalisation battle won, the march from stigmatisation towards full and equal acceptance of homosexuality has taken place with a campaign under three banners—rights, anti-discrimination and equality. Public opinion polls have been the battering ram to convey the impression of increasing community support—although many of these, conducted by newspapers and magazines, have been unscientific with self-selecting samples. The professional polls, conducted mainly by Galaxy Research (22) over the last six years, have involved sample sizes of 1100 down to 786 last year. The 2007 poll for GetUp! claimed a 57 per cent support for same-sex marriage. Since 2009 its polls have been organised on behalf of the campaigning organisation, Australian Marriage Equality. The support level that year was 60 per cent; in 2010 it claimed 62 per cent and in 2012 with its smaller 786 sample an increase to 64 per cent was claimed. The questions used in these surveys are not available.

An election petition organised by Australian Labor/Rainbow Labor collected only 9000 signatures for the statement: “I support marriage equality.” (23)

In June 2012, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs reported on its inquiry on the two private members’ bills then before parliament to amend the Marriage Act 1961. (24) An on-line survey conducted as part of its work showed support of 60 to 64 per cent for changing the law to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia. However, the report warned that this was a self-selected, non-randomised poll and not statistically valid. And at least 4.4 per cent of the supporting votes for change were duplicates. Strangely, 94 per cent of the comments by e-mail and post opposed changes to the law. The gay industry has made much of the so-called “approval” rating of these surveys, and politicians frequently use them to assert that “most Australians now support same-sex marriage”. No valid comprehensive national survey of public opinion has ever been undertaken. Notable lesbians such as Penny Wong (who only three years ago said, “On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect”) oppose a referendum on the issue.

Meanwhile, a new obstacle to the holy grail of homosexual marriage had emerged, as lesbian divorcees took their children into same-sex partnerships, and dual-mother families based on adoption or donor insemination became more common. What would be the effects on these children, brought up without fathers? To prove that fathers weren’t essential, it was necessary to contradict research which had consistently shown that children in single-parent families were at greater risk for emotional and behavioural problems, and for poor academic achievement. The concerns were that children developed psychological problems from teasing and bullying; that boys became less masculine and girls less feminine; and that children might be influenced to adopt a gay or lesbian identity. (25) President Obama has now backed same-sex marriage, but in 2008 he echoed these long-held fears: “Children who grow up without a father are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in prison. They’re more likely to have substance abuse problems, run away from home, and become teenage parents themselves.” (26)

Academics around the world quickly took up the challenge to prove that heterosexual two-parent homes were not the gold standard for raising children. That conventional view was blamed on “the pervasive impact of homophobia”. A multitude of studies sought to show that children’s development did not suffer from lack of a father. Some tried to establish that factors other than the sexuality of the mother were responsible—financial hardship, mothers’ lack of social support and children’s exposure to conflict and hostility between parents during or after separation or divorce.

Since the mid-1990s, longitudinal studies have been undertaken in the USA and Britain to track the progress of children in families without fathers. One of the first researchers in the field was Susan Golombok, now head of Cambridge University’s Centre for Family Research. A prolific publisher in scientific journals since 1983, she is noted for her longitudinal study of children raised by solo lesbian and heterosexual mothers. (27) It assessed those mothers and their children at the ages of six, twelve and eighteen, comparing them with a control group of normal heterosexual families.

From her statistical analysis of responses to questionnaires administered to mothers and children, Golombok concluded that “mothers in female-headed families showed higher levels of emotional involvement with the young adult than mothers in traditional families”. She went on: “Children raised by solo heterosexual mothers or lesbian mothers from infancy continue to function well as they enter adulthood.” Only one youth from the twenty lesbian-mother families admitted to being gay, from which Golombok concluded: “this contradicts the assumption that children raised in lesbian families will grow up to be lesbian or gay … the presence of a father in the home is not necessary for children to function well”.

In May this year Kevin Rudd, not yet re-installed as prime minister, executed a volte face to support same-sex marriage in a tendentious essay in the Monthly. (28) Reminiscent of the confused thinking in his “Brutopia” effort on economics in 2006, he sought to disentangle his Christian views from the role of a secular state. He wrote: “I for one have never accepted the argument from some Christians that homosexuality is an abnormality.” He followed this with the non sequitur, “People do not choose to be gay.” But abnormality is not a pejorative; it means not conforming to the standard or common type.

The weight of Rudd’s argument rested on research that same-sex families do not compromise children’s development. He said: “the US National Longitudinal Survey since 1986 … on adolescents raised by same-sex partners … concluded that there were no Child Behaviour Checklist differences for these kids as against the rest of the country”. And he went on to claim that this study and others were acknowledged by several authorities as showing no compromise in children’s development.

But how valid and how relevant is this study, correctly known as the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study? (29) First, the eighty-four lesbian families followed were all volunteers, not (like the Golombok study) a randomly selected sample. Social scientists normally regard volunteering for a survey as introducing a (usually favourable) bias. All the birth-mothers were impregnated by direct insemination; 82 per cent of the lesbian couples were middle- or upper-class careerists, 93 per cent white. Second, the lesbian families were not compared with a control group of heterosexual families, but with the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) of behavioural and emotional problems. That reference group did not have the same backgrounds or characteristics.

Thomas M. Achenbach developed CBCL in 1966 by scoring clinical records. (30) It was to screen for ADHD, bipolar depression, mania, maladjustment and anxiety, and was a clinical approach to identify eight factors of child psychopathology. Over time, the checklist was refined to evaluate children from one and a half to three years (100 questions) and four to eighteen years (120 questions).

The latest evaluation of the children in the study was in 2009 at age seventeen. After seventeen years, the researchers, Nanette Gartrell and Henny Bos, concluded that adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment. How? On the mothers’ and children’s own assessments! They filled out the questionnaires on their own perceptions and conduct. Their 2010 report, published in Pediatrics, says candidly:

“According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalising problem behaviour than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth.” (31)

Revealing that the study was intended to support a case of special pleading, Gartrell and Bos conclude: “Our findings … thus provide no justification for restricting access to reproductive technologies or child custody on the basis of sexual orientation of the parents.” That, Mr Rudd, is not relevant to Australia, where no such restrictions apply.

Melbourne University’s Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS) by a PhD student has been collecting data from 500 children of parents described as “homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer”. (32) Its leader, Dr Simon Crouch, declined to give me information on the construction or validation of the study, yet said the early findings suggest the children are developing well. The final report due late this year seems to have a hypothesis bias—it is aimed at identifying how discrimination affects children and their families rather than evaluating the fatherless effect on children. A case for blaming society.

A “Work, Love, Play” study led by Jennifer Power of the Bouverie Centre at La Trobe University is researching what helps a same-sex family stay together. With support from Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, it is seeking to redefine the “traditional” family structure to include lesbian and gay parenting. (33)

There is now a plethora of questionable studies pushing the political line that children raised in same-sex, especially lesbian households fare no worse than those reared in traditional families. Among the many researchers, Carl Auerbach and Louise Silverstein extrapolated from the habits of the South American marmoset monkey to argue that neither a father nor mother was necessary. Male marmosets behaved like full-time mothers, they said. What they found “so impressive about these tiny primates is that, after birth, the males as well as females of the group help carry the baby marmosets, passing them back to the mother for nursing”. This showed that “optimal child outcomes can be achieved with fathers as primary caregivers and limited involvement by mothers”. (34)

Critics have attacked these studies, citing biased researchers, inadequate sample sizes, lack of random sampling, and self-evaluating questionnaires, driven by political agendas. Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, two American specialists in quantitative analysis, examined forty-nine empirical studies on homosexual parenting. In their book No Basis—What the Studies Don’t Tell Us, they found all forty-nine deeply flawed. In all except one, the authors wanted to influence public policy to support same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by homosexual couples. (35)

Lerner and Nagai identified these defects: bad or fuzzy hypotheses; poor or no comparison groups; small, self-selected and biased samples; lack of statistical power; and false negatives. One of the techniques they exposed was the “snowball” effect, by which participants in a study recruited their own friends to help make up the numbers. Nevertheless, not one of the forty-nine had an adequate sample size. No Basis concluded the studies provided no basis for the assertion that it made “no difference” whether a child has a mother and a father, two fathers, or two mothers.

Later, Loren Marks of Louisiana State University examined the fifty-nine published studies on which the American Psychological Association based its assertion that “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents” (36) (the study relied on by Kevin Rudd). She found seven basic faults in the studies and concluded the APA assertion was not empirically warranted.

The assault on conventional marriage and especially the denigration of the father has not gone unanswered. David Blankenhorn in Fatherless America (37) pointed out:

“Fathers are likely to devote special attention to their [children’s] character traits necessary for the future, especially qualities such as independence, self-reliance and the willingness to test limits and take risks … Compared to a mother’s love, a father’s love is frequently more expectant, more instrumental, less conditional … the mother’s love is an unquestioned source of comfort and the foundation of human attachment; the father’s must frequently be sought after, deserved, earned through achievement.”

Blankenhorn has subsequently reformed his Institute for American Values to launch a “Conversation on Marriage” with gays and lesbians.

In Life Without Father, sociology professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University concluded that fathers were far more than just “second adults” in the home. They complemented the mother with different psychological and behavioural traits. He argued the case for return to the standard nuclear family. (38)

Mark Regenerus of the University of Texas, in his New Family Structures Study, found copious evidence that children raised by gay parents contend with unique difficulties. (39) His sample of 5000 young adults aged eighteen to thirty-nine was randomly selected and compared across seven different family types. His study was a profound challenge to previous academic work and drew strong defensive criticism.

Professor Michael Lamb of Cambridge University, an acknowledged liberal on the issue, conceded in the latest edition of The Role of the Father in Child Development:

Children—especially boys—growing up without fathers seemed to have “problems” in the areas of sex role and gender-identity development, school performance, psycho-social adjustment and perhaps in the control of aggression. (40)

Australian research by Ray (a teacher) and Gregory (a social worker), School Experiences of the Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents, published by the federal government’s Institute of Family Studies in 2001, was aimed at identifying homophobic discrimination. It was based on a self-selected non-randomised sample of 117 mostly lesbian families in five states and the ACT. The responses were so small and scattered that no overall conclusions could be drawn. Nevertheless the authors claimed to identify the existence of a climate of fear, teasing and bullying, pointing “to the need for social/support networks”. (41)

In fact, none of the studies claiming to establish the truth of upbringing by same-sex parents is capable of answering the question definitively. It will be decades before the effects are clear. Recently, the intellectual, humanist and sinologist Pierre Ryckmans, wrote:

“We do not yet know whether children may not be adversely affected by the fact of not having a heterosexual couple as parents. Psychologists and anthropologists have not yet collected sufficient data to draw conclusions on this grave and complex question.”

He proposed a moratorium of fifty years before couples in his civil unions had the right to adopt children. (Presumably the growing practice of donor insemination of lesbians would also be prohibited.) “Children have no clue what it means not to have a father or mother when they are born,” Ryckmans wrote. “The full impact of this lifelong absence may not hit the child, in fact, until far into adulthood.” (42)

The campaign for same-sex marriage is not about equality, it is about envy and destruction, the creation of androgynous families. In every real sense, equality already exists. Many homosexuals already have access to civil unions. Extremist activists reveal, in their own words, that the objective is to “transform the very fabric of society”. Twenty years ago, the American homosexual campaigner Michelangelo Signorile, author of Queer in America, wrote that the fight for same-sex marriage was to “debunk a myth and alter an archaic institution … The most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake … is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely.” (43)

In Australia, apathy conveys the impression that the same-sex marriage campaign has been won. In the main, the coherent opposition has come from the Catholic Church. Father Frank Brennan, Professor of Law at the Catholic University, supports civil unions for homosexual couples, but affirms that the bearing and nurturing of the children of the union is a constitutive good of marriage. Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, says simply: “Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been.” (44)

In the USA the debate is alive, with a much harder edge. Citizen Link, a Christian family group in Colorado, throws down this challenge:

the burden of proving that this change will improve our common good is on same-sex marriage advocates, not on those who support the long-standing meaning and value of natural marriage. Otherwise, everyone knows that there is nothing ‘unequal’ or ‘unfair’ about treating two different things two different ways. (45)

 But opposition to same-sex marriage does not depend on religion—Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu. Robert Lopez, writing for the Witherspoon Institute, argues that same-sex marriage objectifies children. He asks: “to what do we compare a child who must know, forever, that his mother was treated like a leased oven or that his father was a stranger in a sperm clinic who masturbated into a glass jar for $750?” (46) Indeed. Who wants to hear a child say: “My dad’s name is Donor”?

Adroitly side-stepping the same-sex marriage issue, the US Department of Health and Human Services endorses the father’s role:

Involved fathers provide practical support in raising children and serve as models for their development. Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior compared to children who have uninvolved fathers. Committed and responsible fathering during infancy and early childhood contributes emotional security, curiosity, and math and verbal skills. (47)

What is marriage? That is the question. Marriage is recognised in section 51 (xxi) of the Constitution as within the powers of the parliament, but is not defined. (48) The Marriage Act defines it precisely: “marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. (49) In 2004, this definition was inserted by amendment into the original 1961 Act, which had been drafted when parliamentarians clearly had not thought it necessary to spell it out. In 2004 both main parties supported the definition; the Greens tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to define marriage also as between man and man or woman and woman.

As the research paper on same-sex marriage prepared by the Parliamentary Library explains, the 1961 Act was based on the concept derived from an obiter dictum in British case law (Hyde v Hyde & Woodmansee, 1866) that marriage was a heterosexual union where the parties pledged monogamy and permanency in their relationship. (50) The then Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, said the purpose was to produce a code “which on the one hand, paid proper regard to the antiquity and foundations of marriage as an institution, but which on the other resolved modern problems in a modern way”. There was no argument about this. Most of the debate in the committee stage of the 1961 bill was about the marriageable age of adolescents and their maturity to enter into a lifetime commitment. (There was an interesting put-down of Gough Whitlam by Garfield Barwick, when Whitlam wrongly quoted a UN Commission on the Status of Women’s view on minimum ages.) (51)

Homosexuals already have access to civil unions and domestic partner registries, but claim this is not enough. The campaign for gay marriage has been based on the demand for total equality, demonising opponents as homophobes, bigots and sanctimonious crazies pursuing a discrimination akin to racism. This was dramatically displayed in a recent SBS Insight program. Not one proponent could explain what practical difference being allowed to marry would make to their homosexual liaisons. The logically fallacious argument of being “on the right side of history” is mere sophist dogma. Unfortunately, no coherent response to the same-sex marriage case has been mounted in Australia; politicians have run scared; opposition by the churches has been easily dismissed by secularist elites and media. Only in the USA have the gay rights claims been answered in practical and philosophical terms.

What is Marriage? which was originally published as an essay (52) in the Harvard Law Journal and subsequently developed as a best-selling book subtitled Man and Woman: A Defense, (53) summarised the contrary argument:

  • Marriage is a comprehensive union of persons, not a consent-based contract.
  • Persons consist of both body and mind.
  • Therefore a comprehensive union (marriage) must include bodily union of  heterosexual sex and mental union (consent).

One of the authors, Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, has developed the themes further in a new book, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism. (54) In his essays on marriage, George offers this definition:

Marriage is an all-encompassing sharing of life. It involves, like other bonds, a union of hearts and minds—but also, and distinctively, a bodily union made possible by the sexual-reproductive complementarity of man and woman.

He points out that the same-sex campaign makes the gratuitous assumption that no actual reason exists for regarding sexual reproductive complementarity as integral to marriage. He argues:

“At a deeper, philosophical level, a human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind and spirit … The bodily union we are here considering is possible because human males and females unite organically when they mate—though two, they become one as the single unified subject, performing the act that fulfills the behavioral conditions of procreation.”

This reasoning, although secular, is congruent with “one flesh”, in the language of the Bible.

People who reject this understanding of sex and marriage rely on the slogan that “love makes a family”. To be candid, says George, this could equally well be among three or more people. He quotes Judith Stacey, one of America’s most vociferous supporters of same-sex marriage, who told the Congress she hoped the redefinition of marriage would give it “varied, creative and adaptive contours, leading some to question the dyadic limitations of western marriage and seek small group marriages”.

Finally, Professor George argues that, despite the denials, recognising the equality of same-sex marriage will undermine traditional heterosexual marriage:

“…the lesson of the last 45 years is that the more we equate marriage to a form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership, the more difficult it will be for people to live by the stabilising norms specific to true marriage.”

As Robert Oscar Lopez writes:

“We hear that as long as kids have a clean home, love, decent school grades, and good scores on sociologists’ ‘self-esteem’ tests, terms like ‘mother’ and ‘father’ ought not to make much difference. Are men and women interchangeable? This nonchalance about the child’s attachment to cultural figures seems to contradict the attitude that precipitated the whole movement for “marriage,” something that is not different legally from ‘civil unions.’

Why cannot parliamentarians understand this? Why do political parties have to take refuge in conscience votes? The claim that they should not legislate on moral issues is without foundation. Parliament every day passes laws that have moral consequences. The maintenance of a stable secure social fabric is as vital as the protection of national borders. In an era of heightened concern about the trauma inflicted on children removed from their families, sexually abused or wilfully maltreated in institutions, it seems incredible that parliamentarians would consider condemning them to the unknown and unforeseeable consequences of an unusual and artificial family tree.

The campaign for same-sex marriage is fraudulent. It is being pressed on an uncomprehending parliament and a disinterested population on the basis of false appeals to equality, human rights and the interchangeability of the sexes in parenting. Homosexuals—men and women—enjoy their most privileged position in history without institutionalised discrimination. What they will not face up to is that the great majority of people continue to embrace normal heterosexual marriage.

And the tide of history? There is no such thing as inevitability, as the Marxists learned the hard way. As the renowned Brazilian philosopher, social theorist and politician Robert Unger (55) taught in his law course at Harvard: “the future will be the fruit of human deliberation, judgement, and choice. It is not subject to fixed laws of history and forces of social determination.”






3 Daily News, Perth. Wednesday 16 May 1945

4 Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 1943

5 Adelaide Advertiser Friday March 1948

6 Courier-Mail Brisbane Saturday July 15 1950

7 Courier-Mail Brisbane May 18 1944

8 Report of Committee of Inquiry Regarding Sexual Offences A.41-1944

9 Courier-Mail Brisbane Friday November 27.1953



One thought on “The Marriage Wars

  • says:

    Excellent paper. As the proposed changes are likely to effect long established and important traditional behaviour in most civilised societies nothing less than a referendum should be considered before any change takes place.

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