Why do we get married, anyway?

Introducing the third man or woman into the same-sex marriage debate.

Community expectations

Why did you get married? If not yet married, why would you get married? Why would a same-sex couple get married?

You may answer, “to be with the one I love.” Nice answer, but you could just live with the other person. Why not? “But her mother wouldn’t like it.” “My parents wouldn’t approve.” “I’d feel weird around her churchy relatives, wondering what they may be thinking.” “She might feel vulnerable if there isn’t a certificate and the obligations that go with it.” “The local priest or minister wouldn’t approve.” “Besides, we want to have children.” “What would we tell our workmates?” Some of these things go through people’s minds. So the basic reason people get married is actually to meet community expectations. This is all very old-fashioned. If you took away community expectations entirely, how many men and women would actually get married?

Young people have increasingly been rejecting such ideas. But while ‘community expectations’ still have a significant influence on the thoughts of young men and women, young gay couples have no such community expectations imposed on them – gay couples actually have complete freedom to do what they like. Leaves a question. Why do they want to get married?

What is the most boring part of any wedding? It’s the signing of the register. That’s the only part that actually comes under the Marriage Act. Most people would happily skip that.

Marriage places rules on couples

Until quite recently, the rule of society has been that if you wanted to live together and share a bed together, you had to get married first.

Marriage has always been a restriction on the freedom of the two people coming together. In societies all over the world the obligations that go with marriage are there for a purpose. The reasons are differences in power between the sexes, legitimacy of heirs, inheritance and so on. All the laws about who gets what depended on the certainty provided by a state-recognized marriage. It mainly served the rich. Poor people often just made their own arrangements.

The relative powerlessness of a woman in times past meant that rules were needed to ensure that marriage provided her protection, but at the cost of subjugation to her new husband. Laws and amendments to laws in the last two centuries have gradually given women equal status within marriage. Today, the moral strictures are also more lenient than in the past. If an unmarried girl has a baby today she is no longer forced into marriage or onto the streets. Even in the last half-century the morality has changed dramatically. Today, we pay young girls who have children outside marriage and we’ve abandoned the idea of providing the children better opportunities through adoption. The moral burden has switched and is now on the young woman to keep her child and on society to support it.

Marriage Acts

When the first British laws of marriage were passed about two-hundred and fifty years ago, they replaced church law and common law. The original reason these laws were passed was actually to make it harder or more time-consuming to get legally married. If an unfortunate marriage was found to be illegal it could be annulled. I would guess that the possibility of having his daughter elope with the footman or having the young Earl seduced by a chamber-maid was mainly on the mind of each of the gentlemen passing these laws.

The laws we have today basically reflect the thinking of a century ago. The Australian Marriage Act is very dry, mainly about who is qualified to perform ceremonies and such-like. It was amended about a decade ago to be restricted to man-woman marriage, only because it had never been necessary to spell it out before.

Religious and common law marriages

Long before there were any acts of parliament (in England, say), the recording of marriages and performing wedding ceremonies was within local parishes and the ceremonies were often similar to the older ceremonies that preceded Christianity. Not everyone was Christian so in that case they could just follow their old pagan ceremonies. Outside Christianity and around the world there have been a multitude of ways for men and women to get married based on tradition, but very rarely any tradition for same-sex marriage. Why would all these wedding traditions have arisen in every society on earth? Consider the Australian aboriginal tribes. They had far more complex arrangements than we do today. They tried to match husband and wife base on ‘skin group’ which they inherited from the combination of the skin groups of their respective parents. The rules were probably there to eliminate in-breeding and maintain the health of the tribe. There was also a ceremonial aspect. Because every aboriginal language group had their own variation on these laws, it’s logically possible to say that their traditional different-sex marriage customs must be at least 60,000 years old and those traditions had come with them when they arrived in Australia.

Today’s demands for same-sex marriage.

It seems to me there is no long-standing tradition of same-sex marriage in any culture, past and present. Homosexuality is just part of the nature of certain individuals and a civilised society must treat each member as unique yet equal, while according everyone the same dignity, respect and compassion. If gay couples are being treated with disrespect, being victimised or mistreated then we should have, and I believe we now do have, laws to redress that.

Amazingly, it was our laws as recently as 30-60 years ago, that used to take away gay people’s dignity or even put them in prison. It was these laws that forced young gay men and women into the closet. Now a change in the law is being demanded to again apply rules and regulations on the behaviour of young gay people in relationships, this time coming from the gay people themselves. That seems pretty ironic, but that is what gay people say that they want.

The lack of an historical precedent in tradition raises a big question. If, even before there were laws, even before there were powerful religions, there never developed a sustained tradition of same-sex marriage, where has the extremely strong movement for change that we see today come from? And it is quite a phenomenon considering it will eventually affect a small proportion of a small percentage of the population. Why so strong a call for this change? Why are those who question the idea treated so disdainfully and classified as hate-speakers and homophobes? I could only speculate.

Could it be that people who have a deep concern for the welfare of gay people have decided to put their resources behind such a change in the law in order that gay people regain their status in society? That doesn’t really seem necessary as there are openly gay ministers in government, CEOs, TV hosts, journalists and respected judges who don’t seem to suffer from being gay in the first place. If they are in a long-term relationships there is no public outrage. Stats show that gay couples have higher incomes than their straight counterparts. Would redefining marriage to include them in ‘marriages’ make their lives better? I can’t see it.

But surely everyone would be for ‘marriage-equality’? If you aren’t for marriage equality then you are stealing hope from every young gay person who wants to find acceptance in a world full of prejudice. If you aren’t forĀ marriage equality then you are denigrating the value of each gay person’s relationship, implying they are second-rate. These are highly charged words, very emotive.

And then there are the children

What about the children? At first, I never saw this as an issue because there wouldn’t be any. Traditional marriage has principally been about having children although unfortunately, not all are given the gift of a new life and not all parents do a good job.

When I first heard about same-sex marriage I imagined two people living together and sharing their childless lives. But why on earth would a gay couple go through an unnecessary process that restricts their freedom? Why not just continue to live together? But I keep hearing references to children. Adoption is already happening without marriage. But this is where it starts to get weird. There are many childless couples in different-sex marriages who already have trouble adopting babies. Where will the children come from for this new group? If means are found for each same-sex couple to have children to raise then that seems to open the door for some creative procreation. Such experimenting with human life and young children would definitely be a travesty of the highest order. The children would be the ones to suffer from such arrangements, many of which would be illegal anyway.


After thinking this issue through, I feel I haven’t really nailed why same-sex marriage is something that the nation should support. I really want gay couples to be happy. If a ‘yes’ vote and eventually changes to the marriage laws, make them happier then that would be great. So that’s why I’m voting ‘yes’? No. Laws are rarely made to make various groups in society happy. On the other hand, our laws should not make people unhappy. Am I aligning myself with the nasty, conservative, gay-haters? No. Such a group doesn’t exist in the world I mix with, I don’t know any of those people or listen to them on radio. Of course, just a handful of those can do a lot of damage. But I have also seen a man being pilloried on social media after putting forward a polite and well-reasoned case for ‘no’.

So here is how it lines up.

  • I really have a feeling that the same-sex marriage debate has been hijacked by others (basically extreme left wing socialists) to achieve other aims, partly by breaking down a traditional pillar of our society, the traditional family.
  • I feel that it’s illogical to restrict the freedom of same-sex relationships by applying to them an old tradition that is inappropriate to their needs. Is there a better solution?
  • It also seems premature to introduce two new groups to the very old tradition of marriage at this time. Different-sex couples waited over 60,000 years before their relationships were controlled by Australian law. (That’s around 2500 generations!) Let’s move slowly and without so much angst towards a solution that meets everybody’s needs.
  • If same-sex couples are really desperate that the government becomes the third man (or woman) in their relationship then what we need is new tradition that recognises their legitimate and loving relationship. But it can be a strictly civil arrangement that doesn’t complicate things by upsetting a large minority to satisfy a very small minority.





Cardinal Pell’s day in court

Cardinal Pell says he looks forward to his day in court. He believes he’s innocent and considers truth will prevail. He expects a speedy resolution and acquittal. Naive.

This naivety and the belief that truth will set him free is typical of some of his dealings with the Royal Commission. In those cases, his adherence to truth actually did him no favours. While lesser men would have embellished their evidence with feigned regret; embroidered their feelings or motivations in the past, Pell was brutally honest about himself, e.g. “It (stories of priests molesting children) was not something that attracted my attention.” Commentators never gave him credit for his utter devotion to the truth despite it making him appear aloof, callous, cold and lacking empathy.

But again, Pell thinks that his devotion to the truth will spare him. It’s not that simple!

The forces that have been chasing the Church (with good justification, one might add) for many years, are not interested in truth anymore, though they may feign sympathy for victims. In fact, the causes of the victims are part of a much bigger agenda.

Pell seems to be assuming that the reason that these charges have been raised are because the victims are mistaken or they are lying. In either case he seems to think that it is just a matter for him to refute the accusations, speak the truth and all will be settled; case closed!

Are those behind these accusations – not the victims but those who are promoting them – going to settle for Pell’s truth? Establishing truth after twenty, forty, fifty years is far from simple and they know that. They don’t need to find the truth, just undermine trust in Pell’s testimony. They don’t even need to challenge the content of Pell’s testimony, just the way he presents it. They really only need to show Pell’s indifference to the victims and they will have won. Besides that, they will be happy for the truth to be obscured, to be tainted with ambiguity, insinuation, to be muddied by subtle half-truths and inferences. They haven’t come thus far to fail. They will have plenty of cards to play and a few aces up their sleeves. They don’t intend to lose now.