SMH, Kevin Donnelly
There’s no doubt that central to the concept of family is a definition of marriage involving a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. With only minor exceptions over some hundreds of years and across all the major religions, this is how marriage has been, and continues to be, defined.
It’s also true that about 98 per cent of Australians identify as heterosexual and according to the 2011 census figures only 1 per cent of Australian couples are same-sex, with surveys suggesting only a minority want same-sex marriage. There are more important issues to worry about.
We should also forget the Safe Schools’ postmodern, deconstructed definition of marriage where gender and sexuality are fluid and limitless and individuals are free to choose whatever they choose to self-identify as.
No matter how much gays and lesbians might want to wish otherwise from a physiological and biological point of view, only men and women can have children. Such is the nature of conceiving and giving birth that to pretend otherwise is to deny how nature works.
To put it bluntly, gays and lesbians are physically incapable of procreation and having their own children. For them to believe otherwise is to deny the life choice they have made and to believe they should be entitled to something normally associated with biological parents.
It’s also true that the ideal situation is where children are raised by their biological parents instead of conception involving a third party donating sperm or paying a surrogate mother. As any parent well knows, the intimate and unique bond between a biological parent and his or her child is primal in its force.
No wonder children conceived by donor sperm now have the legal right to discover their true parentage and less privileged countries such as Thailand and Cambodia are banning surrogacy.
Parents who have conceived naturally as a key aspect of what it means to be married also know that children require a male and a female role model if they are to fully mature and develop as young adults.
Both genetically and emotionally, and what is expected socially, men and women are different. While much has been done to promote equality of the sexes the fact is that boys need strong, male role models.
One of the most appalling facts explaining why so many black American and Aboriginal boys have a higher rate of crime and imprisonment is because of the absence of their biological fathers.
This I know from personal experience after losing a father to alcoholism and domestic violence as a young child and missing out on the love and companionship that only a father can provide.
In the same way, despite the campaign by feminists to erase gender stereotyping, young girls generally copy their mothers and express themselves in a feminine way. As a general rule, boys are more physical than girls and less emotionally demonstrative.
Forget the mantra that equality only occurs when all sexes are the same – it is possible to be equal but different.
Changing the marriage act to include same-sex couples radically redefines and alters the meaning of a sacred union that provides more than just a physical and emotional connection.
Such is the special union of body and spirit involved in a marriage between a man and a woman that it necessitates a unique ritual and sacred compact that should not be weakened by being radically redefined as argued by same-sex activists.
The argument that the marriage act should not be radically redefined is based on the fact that gays and lesbians already enjoy all the rights and privileges of de-facto couples. Long gone are the days when gays and lesbians were ostracised or discriminated against.
There’s no doubt that we are living in a time of significant social change, where social institutions such as marriage that have stood the test of time are being critiqued and undermined.
While some argue the benefits of such change, including increased autonomy, freedom and diversity, there is also an obvious downside. The English poet T. S. Eliot argues, “by far the most important channel of transmission of culture remains the family: and when family fails to play its part, we must expect our culture to deteriorate”.
While not being as strident as Eliot it is true that family is central to a society’s continued prosperity and growth. And central to the concept of family is the traditional definition of marriage.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of The Culture of Freedom.