Federal parliament’s gay horsemen of the apocalypse — well, actually, the gay horsemen and Warren Entsch — had seemed determined to pass legislation that would allow same-sex marriage, a gambit aimed at by-passing the possibility that the very people the Coalition promised hand-on-heart would have a say in the matter might not vote in a plebiscite they way activists would wish. The Liberal party room’s decision yesterday to try its luck once more in the Senate should take some of the heat out of demands that the matter be put to an immediate parliamentary vote, at least in the short term.
But given the near-certainty of rejection in the Upper House, that muting cannot be expected to last. When the cries for “equality” resume, the debate will once again be pitched from two fundamentally different points of view. One side invokes group rights and equality, the other focuses on the destruction of marriage by changing its long-accepted definition and essential meaning. That meaning, rooted in the law of nature and understood by communities and societies all over the world for thousands of years, is of a contract both unitive and procreative between one man and one woman and for life. The antagonists are talking about different things, and generally talking past one another.
What Australia’s gay community thinks about all this, no one really knows. The advocates’ television ads express one body of opinion, but think back to the Seventies and the early years of gay liberation and you just have to wonder. In those days, the notion that this notoriously non-monogamous lot would end up wanting to marry one another would have been astonishing. Back then, many advocating the gay cause were part of the kill-off-marriage brigade, decrying matrimony in chorus with a faction of the women’s liberation crowd as exploitive and subjugating. This is the core argument of the traditionalists – that it is not so much garden-variety homosexuals but “homosexualists” who want to smash all vestiges of Judeo-Christian doctrine while simultaneously sealing the deal for secular materialism and relativism.
But there is another angle in this debate, one seldom articulated: heterosexuals among us have done a damned fine job of killing marriage in practice. The homosexualists are merely finishing the chore by setting out to kill marriage in theory. For all intents and purposes, marriage might reasonably considered already dead in the water.
How did this happen?
Well, it all started with broad, easy and cheap access to the Pill. Whatever this did for women’s rights, it essentially delivered risk-free adultery, made the world “safe” for cheating. Next came easy and affordable, guilt-free divorce, while the social changes of the Swingin’ Sixties erased the stigma formerly associated with unwed motherhood. Blended families and single-parent families became entirely unremarkable. Meanwhile, we gave up on religion and all that fuddy-duddy morality stuff. Marriage, what was it about anyway? It wasn’t “for life” anymore, and it certainly wasn’t a precondition of procreation. “Marriage” in its traditional meaning, for its traditional purposes, withered long before gay activists launched their current campaign.
Whatever damage we as individuals and as a society have inflicted upon marriage as an institution these past fifty years — with our worship of indiscriminate “tolerance”, our adulteries, our fatherless families, our serial monogamies (one marriage after another), our blended families, our single mums with rotating casts of live-in boyfriends — the ultimate question is whether there remains something left to be saved, something worth fighting for against the best and worst efforts of the homosexualists.
I hope there is, but I’m not optimistic.