It is amazing the way that the same-sex marriage debate has taken such a strangle hold on discussion and commentary in Western society. Who would have thought that in the space of just a few years popular opinion could swift to such a degree that to simply hold marriage as the union of a man and a woman could be labeled as intolerant? Yet this is where we are at.
One recent move for a change in legislation in Australia has come from the very small state of Tasmania where a bill to legalise same-sex marriage was introduced into the Parliament with Premier Lara Giddings imploring the members of the House to “open their hearts and minds to remove this last bastion of discrimination”.
Now if there is a buzz word in the same-sex marriage debate it is most definitely ‘discrimination’. In the 21st century it would be better to be accused of anything rather than be found to be discriminatory. Yet we seem to have forgotten what the word actually means and that each of us discriminate every day of our lives.
Discrimination is the act of making a distinction and choosing between differences. From choosing chicken over ham on your sandwich, to the government deciding that the aged pension will be given at 67 instead of 65; these are discriminations. Without the ability to discriminate, that is the ability to state that one thing is not another thing, we could not have a democratic society. A musical note only has value because of the silence that exists before and after that note, if we were to label the silence as unfair discrimination against sound and remove it, there would only be an ongoing noise.
So yes, upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman is discrimination because it says that this particular relationship has certain qualities that others do not have. Marriage discriminates against children, widows, those in defacto relationships, people with a same-sex attraction and all those who for whatever reason are not married. However this discrimination says nothing about the value of those individuals, it simply says that they are not in the institution that is called marriage.
One marriage equality website boldly proclaims that, “Denying anyone the right to marry because of gender or sexuality is simply not fair”, but the reason that society is involved in the business of marriage has nothing to do with love, romance or even fairness. Society concerns itself with marriage because it is the normal means by which the next generation is conceived, born and nurtured into responsible citizens. Secular society has no more business legislating the living arrangements of men and women with a same-sex attraction than it does legislating that every citizen must dress in a particular colour according to the season.
There is of course unjust discrimination which involves making decisions against a person based on something such as their race or religion rather than individual merit. That however is very different to stating that because a person practices the Christian faith they are discriminating against those of the Islamic faith. We need to be very careful when it comes to flying the flag of discrimination. Just because we find ourselves outside a particular situation we might like to be in, does not mean we are being unfairly discriminated against.
What is more accurately behind the push for same sex marriage is the desire to declare that the marital love of a man and woman is exactly the same as the proposed marital love of two men or two women. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples might share similar emotional feelings but what gives marriage its unchangeable uniqueness is the sexual union. Marriage declares that a particular man and woman have made the free choice to engage in sexual union with only the other. And that union is naturally open to bringing forth life (whether or not it actually does is another matter). This is the difference that cannot be changed by legislation.
The push for same-sex marriage is part of the agenda to declare that there are no differences in society. It is a push to state that our maleness and our femaleness are irrelevant. However our sex is foundational to us understanding who we are and how we fit in the world. These differences are not problems of discrimination but signs of a unique complementarity. Government may succeed in legislating same-sex marriage but it will be a fruitless law to gain the popular vote. Legalising same-sex marriage would be as meaningless as legislating that day and night were the same.