Tag Archives: Gay Lesbian and Bisexual

Rainy day woman on marriage

27 Aug

It’s raining cats and dogs and all my plans for Saturday centred around the outdoors. Thwarted, I turned to my computer and read this piece on the Watermelon Blog in which David reckons it’s time to make the billionaires pay the rent; and this piece on the Political Sword, in which Ad astra alleges that Tony Abbott is the worst opposition leader in our political history, and gives resoundingly convincing arguments to support the allegation.

Rainy days are good for musing and as I ventured out to give the dog an airing, I thought about marriage, and gay marriage in particular. I fully understand why people want to get married. Heck, I did it myself twice. I did it once in a church and once with a celebrant. It was nothing to do with the state, or religion, or societal expectations. It was everything to do with my heart. In retrospect the heart alone isn’t  the smartest organ from which to make such major decisions, but I didn’t know that until I’d done it twice.

In another of the triumphs of hope over experience with which my life is littered, I’d probably do it again if the circumstances ever arose.

People usually enter into a formal commitment to one another full of good will, desire and hope. It doesn’t always work out, and we pick ourselves up from the wreckage and start our lives over, often to do it all again. It’s a public expression of mutual love, and it’s valued by many as the ultimate such expression.

It seems to me there’s two arguments going on in the gay marriage debate. The first is that gays and lesbians ought to be entitled to the same public expressions of their love and commitment as are heterosexuals. This is a no brainer, IMO. Love is no respecter of genital arrangements. In a world that needs love as much as this one does, we should be celebrating it everywhere we find it. It seems extraordinarily mealy-mouthed and mean-spirited, not to mention ignorant, for any heterosexual to insist that it can’t count as marriageable love when it blossoms between same-sex couples.

The second is the interrogation of marriage itself. Like, marriage? What is it good for? Well, I could get cynical here and say not much. But in my experience that’s a conclusion everyone has to come to, or not, in their own good time and their own good way. The idea of marriage continues to exert a powerful emotional hold. No amount of rationalizing is going to change that in the near future. I know many couples who after years of living together decide to do the marriage thing, even though de facto arrangements are as legitimate. We are encultured to view marriage as the strongest commitment couples can make. This may change, but currently, it’s what we’ve got.

It seems unfair to expect that same-sex couples, rather than demanding inclusion in the culture ought to contest it, although there are voices in the gay and lesbian community raised against the institution, as there are in the heterosexual community. Nevertheless, I doubt that marriage is going to go away anytime soon. So it matters a great deal that same-sex couples have the right to celebrate their commitment just as heterosexuals do, if they so choose.

And that’s the real argument. It’s an argument about equal rights. Whether you think marriage is a necessary institution or not is largely irrelevant at this point. Currently there are couples who are denied access to marriage solely because of their sexual orientation This is discriminatory and breaches their human rights.

None of the arguments put forward by opponents of same-sex marriage stand up to scrutiny, and most are mired in superstition and religion. We have a Prime Minister who is beholden to neither superstition nor religion. So let’s move forward, Ms Gillard, unless of course the Australian Christian Lobby, those vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, have got you under their thumb.

Finally, my apologies for spelling Craig Thomson’s name wrongly in a previous post – I gave him a p when he shouldn’t have a p. He does not have a p! There is no p!! How can anyone believe anything I say if I stick p’s in where they don’t belong! Respect the p, Jennifer! Respect the goddamn p!!

Reclaiming marriage from the great big Christian hijack

10 Feb

This essay was first published by Graham Young in On Line Opinion, December 2010

In view of the scare tactics employed by the Australian Christian Lobby in their new petition to prevent the legalisation of gay marriage, it seems timely to publish it again.

by Danny Hammontree via flickr



Judging from the flurry of articles that have appeared recently written by Christians against same sex marriage (as well as same sex adoption, in which many similar religious justifications are invoked) one can be forgiven for thinking that many Christians believe their god invented the institution.

This could not be further from the truth. Marriage has existed a whole lot longer than Christianity. The Chinese philosopher Confucius, born in 551 BC, offered this delightful definition: “Marriage is the union of two different surnames, in friendship and in love.”

Indeed, there is considerable historical evidence that in Greece, Rome, China and Europe same-sex marriages were celebrated along with the heterosexual unions deemed necessary either for economic purposes, or for men to ensure (they hoped) the parentage of children.

For a period in our history marriage had little to do with romance and love, and much to do with economic and physical survival. The spiritual and emotional dimensions of marriage that many Westerners feel are at its core are relatively recent developments.

Christians imposed their beliefs on an institution that was already long in place, and called this fallacy god’s will. Instead of acknowledging that Christian marriage is but one example of that institution, they appear to deny validity to any other and thus attempt to reify their singular take on the concept.

So successful has this reification been that there are people who want to marry in churches, even though they never set foot in them before or after the ceremony. Many people feel an understandable desire for their marriage to be “blessed,” and there’s no doubt the Christian ritual can be quite beautiful.

I’ve no wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

But people marry for all kinds of reasons. For example, it’s estimated that some 200,000 marriages per year take place in the United States expressly for the purpose of obtaining a Green Card for the spouse who is not a US citizen. There are marriages made in Australia for the same pragmatic reason. These unions apparently disrespect the Christian god’s purpose for marriage, and ought to cause offence to believers. However, they don’t appear to be anywhere near as offensive to Christians as are same sex marriages, chosen on the basis of love, and the desire for commitment and family.

On the other hand, marriage between blacks and white in the US southern states (miscegenation) was illegal until 1967. Not only did the Christian god demand that marriage only take place between a man and a woman at that time, apparently he needed them to be the same skin colour as well.

It took that country’s Christians some 276 years to overthrow that particular racist injustice.

Christian beliefs about marriage change, as the above example demonstrates. Presumably, this is as a consequence of god changing his mind, and somehow relaying that change to the faithful who then update the law.

But what a truly intolerable state of affairs, that the lives and futures of many same sex couples are at the mercy of the arbitrary decisions of a transcendental exteriority that many citizens don’t believe exists at all, or not in the form touted by Christians.

This state of affairs is undemocratic. It breaches the human right to have freedom from religion as well as to have freedom of religion.

As some 60% of Australians are in favour of same sex marriage, it is puzzling that the two major parties continue to believe they can afford to ignore this majority. One can only conclude their mutual fear of offending the religious vote is stronger than their fear of offending the 60%, who they probably assume will not rate this issue highly on their wish lists of what they want governments to change.

One person’s god is another person’s superstition. Christians are not renowned for their democratic principles when it comes to the many varieties of spiritual practice at work in the world. Who can forget the scary tale of Mother Theresa baptising dying Hindus who were too ill to protest?  An act of spiritual terrorism by stealth if ever there was one.

The problem with many believers (not just Christians) is that their belief prevents them from respecting another person’s point of view. Non- believers are dismissed as simply wrong headed. They’re on their way to hell in a handcart, and they will be sorry when they get there that they didn’t listen when they had the chance.

There’s no reasoning with this mindset. Once you come up against the tunnel vision of implacable belief (often known as “faith”) you’ve come to the end of the discussion, and all that’s left to do is to walk away.

Then there’s the question of Christian credibility. The churches currently have a very bad reputation to overcome. The appalling incidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in their care, and the equally appalling attempts to cover up and deny these abuses, have gone a long way to undermining the churches’ credibility in any thinking person’s mind.

It was Jesus who said “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

Yet while ordinary Christians are more than willing to speak out against same sex marriage and same sex adoption, among many other issues of which they disapprove, they are bone-chillingly silent when it comes to protesting the evils perpetrated in their own back yards. Has there ever been a better illustration of Burke’s maxim “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men [sic] to remain silent?”

Perhaps what is required from Christians these days is a little humility. An acknowledgement that they haven’t got everything right, indeed there are things they have got horrifically wrong, and that there is a collective as well as an individual responsibility for this that must be addressed before they can legitimately turn their rigorous attention to the maintenance of a broader human morality.

If I were imagining a god, she/he would care a whole lot more about believers destroying the bodies, hearts and souls of children than about preventing same sex marriage, and same sex adoption. If my god was going to smite anybody, I hope she/he would be smiting the perpetrators of those crimes against children, and those who enabled and protected those perpetrators and denied their crimes. I hope she/he would take positive action to enlighten those who would deprive children of love and legal security, solely because these people are unable to personally deal with the concept of love between same sex partners.

My god would teach that loving one another is the only thing that matters, and from that all else will grow.

She/he would also be smart enough to admit that loving one another is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do on this planet.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” said Christ.

“We must love one another, or die,” said the poet, W.H. Auden.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” warned St Paul.

It’s time to reclaim marriage from the Christians. They can’t claim it as their own. It belongs to everybody. Marriage in Australia in 2010 is about loving one another, whatever gender the other happens to be. It is about hope, and deeply good intentions. It’s about wanting to be the best a human being can be. It’s about wanting to create a living, breathing mystery, day by day, with the person you love and who loves you.

It doesn’t always work. Hearts get terribly broken. We dust ourselves off, and sometimes have another crack at it, because we are very brave, and we are full of hope, and we have a vision of enduring love that keeps us going, no matter what form our marriages take, or even if they end.

We do this whether we are Christians or not. We do it because we are human beings who at our best are capable of living out these wonders regardless of gender, and oftentimes in spite of the difficulties gender can create for us.

I’m perfectly happy to let Christians conduct their marriage ceremonies according to their beliefs. And every other religious group as well. They don’t have to celebrate same sex marriage in their own places of worship if they don’t want to. This is one of the freedoms our democracy guarantees. I don’t wish to take that freedom away from Christians or any other religious group.

But what no democratic government should tolerate is Christians, or any other religious group, defining marriage and dictating its practices in this country. Government decisions must not be based on religious belief in our pluralist society. They must be based on what is fair, what is just, and what is non-discriminatory. Democracy is inclusive. Christianity, sadly, increasingly demonstrates that it is not.

Same sex marriage and same sex adoption are not dangers from which governments need to protect us. But the tyranny of religions destroying anybody’s democratic rights to these things, most certainly is.

ANZ, IBM withdraw advertising from e-journal that published opinion piece against gay marriage

5 Feb

I am a strong supporter of the political and social online journal, On Line Opinion, founded and run by Graham Young.

OLO publishes all manner of opinion, no matter how contradictory, as long as it’s well argued and not abusive.  In this, OLO is a rather unique site, and at times its fora are extremely lively.

OLO is a rare gem. It offers voice to many disparate views. Under no circumstances should we have to do without it.

So when I read in today’s Australian that two major sponsers, IBM and the ANZ bank, have withdrawn their advertising from OLO in protest at the publication of an article by Bill Muehlenberg in which he argues against gay marriage, I thought I’d fallen down a rabbit hole.

I remember Bill’s article well. In fact I wrote a contrary opinion that Graham subsequently published.

I totally disagree with almost everything Muehlenberg says in his piece, but by all the gods, I defend his right to say it.

Apparently OLO has come under attack from some gay activists for publishing Bill’s piece. While the arguments in it are not to my liking, I cannot find them hateful, or inciting hatred. They are quite easily addressed and refuted, as others besides myself have done. I cannot see any reason at all to not publish, that is to censor, Muehlenberg’s opinion piece.

Apparently the ANZ Bank and IBM don’t agree.

As Christopher Pearson reports in his article today, the ANZ states that they do not advertise on blogs that “do not align to our organizational values.” That is, Muehlenberg’s anti gay marriage article offends the ANZ’s pro gay marriage values so profoundly that they’ve pulled their advertising.

Oh, that they would only show such integrity about their business relationships with the manufacturers of land mines!

I’m a staunch supporter of gay marriage. But I’m alarmed that some gay activists apparently seek to silence authors and publishers who do not agree with them, and wish to present an opposing view.

This can never be good for society. To fight for a freedom, and then attempt to deny it to those who don’t agree with you is tyranny. There were no grounds for silencing Muehlenberg in that article, unless you just didn’t like it that he said it, and that doesn’t count.

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