Tony Abbot: Why same sex marriage would fundamentally change society

Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2017

Like most, I have tried to be there for friends and family who are gay. They are good people who deserve our love, respect and inclusion but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to reserve the term “marriage” for the relationship of one man with one woman, ideally for life and usually dedicated to children.

Like you, I want a country where everyone gets a fair go and where no one is discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, religion, political opinion or sexuality. We all want people to be appreciated for their achievements and for the quality of their character; not pigeon-holed and dismissed on the basis of prejudice.

That, in fact, is the Australia we’ve had for years. It’s a long time, thank God, since gay people have been discriminated against and just about everyone old enough to remember that time is invariably embarrassed at the intolerance that was once common. Already, indeed, same sex couples in a settled domestic relationship have exactly the same rights as people who are married.

To demand “marriage equality”, therefore, is quite misleading. Same sex couples already have that. This debate is about changing marriage, not extending it. And if you change marriage, you change society; because marriage is the basis of family; and family is the foundation of community.

Supporters of same sex marriage say they are concerned about the bigotry and intolerance that will be whipped up by the plebiscite now going ahead. So far, it’s the supporters of change, not the opponents, who’ve been responsible for bullying and hate speech.

The Archbishop of Hobart has been dragged before a tribunal for defending Christian teaching. Coopers Brewery was bullied into withdrawing support for the Bible Society after sponsoring a debate about marriage. A Father’s Day ad was banned for being “political”. A doctor who went public with her concerns about the consequences of same sex marriage copped a GetUp! petition to have her struck off. There’s been fake news about non-existent homophobic posters and a homophobic ram raid that never happened.

“Love might be love” but it’s striking how little love the supporters of same sex marriage are showing for anyone who disagrees with them. It’s paradoxical how respect has flown out the window in the fight for yet more respect. It’s hard to see, at least from the tenor of the campaign to bring it in, how we would be a more decent society with same sex marriage than without it.

At one level, the same sex marriage debate is of vastly less relevance than most people’s daily struggle to pay their bills, to improve their lives and that of their families, and to try to get on with their neighbours and workmates. But at another level, almost nothing is more important than the values that we cherish and the principles on which our society is based.

We shouldn’t lightly change what’s been the foundation of our society for generations; and, if we do, it should only be after the most careful thought and weighing of all the consequences. Yet if the polls are to be believed, we are about to discard the concept of marriage that has stood since time immemorial in favour of a new concept that would have been scornfully rejected even by gay people just a generation ago.

This week, an anti-same marriage sex gay activist posed the question: “how are women going to recognise lesbianism as an alternative to heterosexuality if they don’t see us protesting against institutions that have been harmful to us: like marriage, prostitution and the nuclear family?”

I’m sure that some gay activists really believe that they are trying to promote stable, long term relationships by extending marriage to same sex couples; but others clearly want to subvert marriage. And the gay people demanding to be married don’t want their relationships to change; they just want them to be accorded a new status.

It’s said that there should be absolutely no difference, even in terminology, between relationships because “love is love”. Yet there are many different types of love. No one is saying that one type of loving relationship is better than another, just that they can be different. By all means, let’s find a way to solemnise what is intended to be a sacrificial love between two people of the same sex; but it remains a different love even though it’s not a lesser one.

At one level, insisting upon any particular definition of marriage may seem like pedantry. At another level, though, it’s important to maintain cultural and intellectual integrity. A man is not a woman just because he wants to be, and a same sex relationship should not be able to become a marriage just because activists demand it.

All the overseas evidence shows that allowing “any two persons” to marry brings many other changes in its wake. In Britain, the Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close down and an orthodox Jewish school threatened with defunding. In America, a baker has been prosecuted for refusing to put a slogan on a wedding cake.

This week in Quarterly Essay, a “safe schools” supporter, Benjamin Law, said that “it might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia” – prompting the equally obvious question: how can parents keep gender fluidity programmes out of schools here in Australia when gender fluidity has entered the Marriage Act? If the advocates for same sex marriage can’t demonstrate how freedom of speech, freedom of religion and parental choice will be protected in their brave new world, they’re asking voters to sign a blank cheque.

Australians have never liked being pushed around or hoodwinked. When big businesses from Uber, to Subway, to the makers of Magnum ice cream are virtue signalling on same sex marriage, it’s time to say that political correctness has got completely out of hand and to vote “no” to stop it in its tracks.

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