The ‘no’ campaign has been found to be propagating myths and lies, what about the arguments of the ‘yes’ campaign?
1. Marriage is a basic human right, and not allowing same-sex marriage is a violation of that right.
Marriage is not a basic human right at all. Marriage is an institution which has evolved within society to provide for society’s need for order and certainty surrounding the birth of children. Society has developed marriage for this purpose, to bind two people together, man and woman, to have children and form a family, which is the basic unit of society. Marriage has developed only because of this purpose. Without the fact that when a man and a woman join together they bear children to raise, there would be no need for marriage, so there exists no context where marriage would exist if this was not true. Extending marriage to encompass other circumstances is therefore irrelevant, at best.
What is a basic human right is that a person be able to choose their partner in life. Fortunately, these days, that right already exists for all people in Australia.
2. Not allowing same-sex marriage is discrimination
Discrimination is unacceptable in society; not allowing people of the same sex to marry is discrimination and is therefore unacceptable; so the law must be changed.
Superficially this makes sense until you realise that almost all laws are discriminatory in some way. Laws always prescribe who is to benefit and who is ineligible based on certain criteria. Aged pensions are paid to old people except the very rich. Free schooling is provided only for young people. Ex-soldiers qualify for certain benefits. Citizens get rights that others do not. Disabled get to use disabled car spaces. Aborigines get certain rights that others don’t. Property owners get to keep people from their properties. SCG members get the best seats for the cricket. Car users use the roads and pedestrians use the foot paths. Company directors have special laws. We have different laws that provide different rules for different parts of society according to circumstance and need. So it follows that marriage laws, which currently apply to men and women, may discriminate against same-sex couples but it is up to the same-sex campaigners to prove that that discrimination is actually a bad thing. It is not an automatic conclusion.
3. Same-sex relationships are being treated as second-rate and this has an adverse impact on the self-esteem of the LGBTI community leading to suicides
It’s hard to argue against such an emotive argument. Of course, you would support any measure that reduces the rate of suicide in young, vulnerable people.
My first response is to say that not including same-sex relationships in marriage does not necessarily imply they are second-rate at all. Marriage is not some Holy Grail that imparts on those who acquire it some mystical powers. Marriage is a social convention that for tens of thousands of years has helped to maintain stable societies. It is generally entered into by a man and a woman who love each other. Recently, heterosexual couples have often decided to forego marriage ceremonies and just live together, have children and maintain a stable relationship. They are not seen to be second-rate, just different.
The second point to make is that it is the ‘yes’ campaigners who have turned the interpretation of a ‘no’ vote into a general condemnation of LGBTI people, which it is not. Even though some ‘no’ voters will be deplorable individuals that doesn’t mean that most ‘no’ voters won’t actually have a great deal of goodwill towards the LGBTI community. Linking ‘no’ votes to community attitudes towards gay people has been a successful but dishonest tactic by the ‘yes’ campaign.
4. The current survey is purely about whether two people who love each other should be able to marry.
This argument has been repeated many time by Christine Forster but it just shows that she shares with her brother the ability to deceive by simplification. A change in society of this magnitude is not without consequences. What consequences? We don’t know, yet. You cannot change the scope of an institution that has existed for so long without many flow on effects. I give it twenty-five to thirty years before we know. My feeling is that there will be consequences especially related to that natural consequence of most marriages, children.
This report from The Economist in 2014 gives an insight into novel ways to get children. In this regard I can only provide my own person opinion, not a rational argument. My opinion is that using such methods of creative procreation to satisfy the personal needs of adults, however earnestly felt, is ethically dubious at best and potentially a gross abuse of power and a reckless experiment at the expense of the children, who may suffer anguish and loss throughout their lives never knowing who their real father or mother is.
I feel that it is time that we stopped experimenting with children!
5. Marriage is not about having children because old people marry and not all people who marry have children.
This argument says that just because a same-sex couple cannot produce offspring is not a reason to stop them marrying. After all, there are old and childless couples who marry. However when older men and women marry they are just conforming with a social norm that compels them to follow certain conventions. This social norm does not now apply to same-sex couples and I doubt if it ever will. In fact, even most young people only marry because of this social norm. Given the choice they would gladly leave out the signing of the register and just get about their business of being happy together. Why do same-sex couples want to be regulated by the Marriage Act instead of just living together and enjoying their lives? This needs an answer. I repeat, why do same-sex couples want to be regulated by the Marriage Act instead of just living together and enjoying their lives? This still needs an answer. Why would you want the government to take control of your relationship? That is what the Marriage Act is about. The government wants to register and record who is with whom. Where is the love in that?
As for saying that childless couples are an argument for same-sex marriage I am particularly affronted by such an argument. Talk about marriage equality!
Besides, for almost a decade same-sex couples have enjoyed most of the rights of married couples, the same as de facto different-sex couples.
6. Same-sex couples do not enjoy all of the rights and privileges of married couples.
This argument is by way of exploding the supposed myth that the current laws bestow equal rights on de facto same-sex couples as de facto hetero couples. It argues that the de facto rights in Australia are not at all the same as having a piece of paper saying that you are married. Unfortunately, when that argument is dissected the only instances presented are around the definition of next-of-kin and the automatic change of a person’s pre-existing will. These two technicalities are hardly show-stoppers and laws can be changed in respect of these two matters if required. So this myth-buster just proved to create another myth.
7. Most of the problems children experience in life are inflicted by their heterosexual parents.
This is a particularly fallacious argument because it is patently correct. Since all children are born of heterosexual relationships all problems a child has in life must be spring from this origin. An implication of this argument is that hetero couples have been mucking up children’s lives and it is now time to hand the responsibility over to more competent hands. How is having two fathers but not the loving touch of a mother, or two mothers, without the strong influence of a father, going to be superior? This is delusional. Of course two loving men can raise a child well, just as two loving women can also do a great job of raising a child. But the human failings that beset different-sex couples when they try raising children that they conceived and gave birth to are also going to be present in just proportion in single-sex couples. But the consequences of failure are likely to be much worse.
8. Children of same-sex couples do just as well on indicators as those from hetero marriages.
This is based on actual studies and I believe it. I certainly hope that this is maintained if the marriage laws are changed. Most of the case studies related to cases where a mother with custody of her own children partnered a woman after a marriage breakdown. In these cases the children know their own father and understand the circumstances of their birth. We have yet to see the full implications of a second wave of children who know only one biological parent and have no understanding of how they actually came to be in this world.
9. Vote ‘yes’ for love. All love is equal. Vote ‘yes’ for marriage equality.
I think that these statements are the statements that capture people’s hearts and minds. They are very compelling. Why should one group be stopped from loving? Why should we treat one person’s love as being better than another’s? Why should we have antiquated laws that discriminate against one group in society? Let’s go with our hearts and make people happy. Let’s treat all relationships as equal.
These arguments are simple, easy to understand and attractive to people who want an inclusive, diverse and open society. They are also very sentimental and so attract people on the basis of their feelings. So what’s wrong with these statements?
Firstly, marriage laws are not about love. They are about regulating society to conform with some norms that have existed for a long time. To counter, you could say let’s change those norms, but that would be a completely different argument and that is what the ‘yes’ campaign has been careful to hide. Suppose the question on the survey had been “Do you agree that the government should change the basic unit of society with completely unknown consequences?” I think that would have limited success.
Secondly, marriage laws are not about love. People are already free to love whoever they like (no pun intended!) There is nothing in the Marriage Act that enhances one’s love for another. There is also nothing in the Marriage Act that prohibits unmarried people from loving their partner.
Thirdly, same-sex relationships cannot have ‘equality’ with hetero relationships in a mathematical sense, i.e. being exactly the same. Hetero relationships produce children whose biological parents are also the parents who raise them. Equality will remain a myth.
10. The ‘no’ vote proponents have lied and made up false claims that appeal to people’s fears.
Actually, this myth is mostly true. On the other hand they have been facing a very tricky opponent. For all the words of love and equality the ‘yes’ vote has been particularly ruthless with their opponents. I placed a small comment on twitter and was abused without mercy. The claims of having a small budget for the campaign do not stack up when they have pressured huge corporations to make statements in their favour and even being neutral has been a source of outrage.
Overall, both sides have presented some fairly specious arguments. What disappointed me was the ‘no’ side stressing religious arguments, which have little appeal to those who are likely to be wavering. They are just preaching to the converted, literally.
I voted ‘no’ mainly because of a sense of making a decision based on what I thought were rational rather than emotional grounds. I feel that I have tried to avoid using any of the tricky arguments of the ‘no’ campaign and presented responses that show that same-sex marriage in Australia is unnecessary, but also potentially a problem in the future. Of the latter, I have no evidence, of course!
Not only that, but the strength and the urgency of the calls for same-sex marriage as soon as possible, their resistance to the plebiscite and the postal survey and their intolerance towards any opposition all raise my suspicions. Why the urgency? Why so much pressure? I don’t like being pressured. What is behind this move? Why are we changing a law that really advantages no one and yet potentially raises the likelihood of adverse results?