Following on from Stewart’s piece on Sheep yesterday about belief, I’d really like to know just why the state is involving itself in protecting the feelings of citizens who don’t “believe” in same-sex marriage, and who do “believe” that same-sex marriage will in some way destroy heterosexual marriage.
This latter claim seems so ludicrous it hardly warrants comment, except to say that from what I can see, heterosexuals do a first-class job of de-sanctifying the moral and ethical ideals of marriage all by themselves. Think domestic, intimate and partner violence. Think child sexual abuse. Think of the Kardashians. Enough said.
It was the government of former PM John Howard that in 2004 amended our Marriage Act of 1961 to read:
Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.
These amendments were not based on research and reason, they were based on belief. A majority of politicians at that time and to the present day did not and do not “believe” a marriage can take place between same-sex couples. They are not required to offer any evidence to substantiate their beliefs. If I was boss of something, I wouldn’t accept belief as a valid basis from which to make public policy.
If there is one thing we should demand from our politicians it is that they do not enact laws based solely on “belief.”
Is it the state’s job to preserve and protect the feelings of believers? If the answer is yes then in order to remain consistent the state should immediately enact blasphemy laws to prevent any possibility of injuring the feelings of the religious among us.
If the state is in the business of preventing offence to believers on the matter of same-sex marriage, then there are a whole lot of citizens with strong beliefs in other areas who surely have the equal right to be protected from suffering offended feelings?
In this excellent piece on the movie that so wildly and widely offended some Muslims, Sarah Joseph reminds the reader that there is no human right not to be offended. Holding a belief about a spiritual leader, or same-sex marriage, does not entitle anyone to protection from the challenge of disagreement. We do have a human right to disbelieve without either being threatened with death, or being prevented by law from living arrangements available to others solely because of our sexual preference.
Opinions about the purpose of the state vary, but perhaps expectations that the state will give us security, peace, economic development, resolution of conflict, and social order via the rule of law are not overly ambitious.
Same sex relationships are not illegal. Homosexuality is no longer a criminal offence. Gays and lesbians may be as open about their relationships as are heterosexuals. So why, then, does the state consider it has the right to prevent them marrying if they so desire?
In his piece Stewart writes:
There is growing neurological evidence demonstrating that the way in which we make judgements and decisions is less rational than we like to think and is enormously complex. Decision-making is fraught precisely because of the way in which we draw on emotion and previous experience that generate preference, rather than examining the facts with any conviction. Stereotyping, racial bias, and misogyny are classic negative examples of this phenomenon. A convenient belief will trump facts any time.
Emotion, and previous experience that generates preference, rather than facts.
Politicians such as PM Julia Gillard and the rest who voted against same-sex marriage are entitled to their beliefs. They are not entitled to exploit their privilege in order to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. As politicians, I expect them to make decisions based on facts, not personal beliefs. They need to produce research that tells me why marriage is only for heterosexuals. I need to see evidence that same-sex marriage is bad for society. I don’t care what Ms Gillard and the rest of them “believe,” anymore than I care that some radical Muslims “believe” I should be separated from my head for not respecting their prophet.
The problem is not same-sex marriage. The problem is politicians who have forgotten what they are supposed to be doing. This is a secular state. We ought not to be favouring one set of beliefs over another. I challenge Ms Gillard to supply proof of the dangerous consequences of same-sex marriage for our society to justify her political stand against it. A position she quite inexplicably and vehemently stated, on the very morning of her ascension to the office of Prime Minister.
Because “belief” just doesn’t cut it, and yes, gods can be mocked.