There has been some discussion going on about whether marriage laws in Australia should be changed. The purpose of this is to recognise same sex couples, and give them the same legal status as marriage between men and women. Various media commentators have said that the only basis for objections to same sex marriage is from teachings from the monotheistic religions such as Christianity.
The teaching is that since passages from the Bible state that homosexuality is a sin, and that marriage between two men, or between two women, is also wrong. It is then argued that in an increasingly secular Australia, there is no basis for objecting to same sex marriage, since arguments against it only come from a religious standpoint.
However, there are plenty of objections to same sex marriage, which are not based on religion.
Historically, the “purpose of marriage” has been to attach husbands to wives, and mothers and fathers to children.
There are married couples that never have children. However, for married couples who then become parents, it can be argued that marriage between men and women, allows children to know both their biological parents. A same sex partnership separates a child from at least one parent.
Marriage between a man and a woman allows children to have the same biological, legal, and care giving parents. It has been suggested that a same sex union, separates all these roles into different people.
Man woman marriage also gives children access to their genetic, cultural and social heritage. Though factors do not always make this possible, researchers do agree that children have the best chances in life when their biological married parents bring them up.
On the other hand, it has been said that children of same sex couples do just as well as opposite sex couples. However, since this research is new, there is not enough long-term data to gauge the long-term impact of being raised in a same sex home environment.
Critics state that in these studies, the researchers do not use a representative sample of same sex couples. Participants volunteer to take part in these studies. The participants always have higher standards of education, and are more affluent. Without wanting to come across as being economically prejudiced, such individuals are more likely to be better parents. This is regardless of their sexual orientation.
Each member of a same sex couple may be a fine parent. However, two mothers do not make a good father, just as two fathers cannot provide the role of a mother.
Again, not all men and women marry to have children. It is fair to ask then, how can it be said that marriage is to the benefit of children?
This argument looks at marriage from the standpoint of an adult. It has been suggested, that the same sex marriage lobby are looking to invert the purpose of marriage. Not every marriage produces children, but every child does have parents.
Further, it is argued that every child has the right to have a relationship with both of their parents, and to know, and be known by both of their parents. Children cannot possibly protect these entitlements on their own. In a civilised society, a child has rights. Among them, are the rights to bond with both of their biological parents, if it safe for them to do so.
It is said that adult society has the responsibility to protect these rights, so long as being in contact with their biological parents will not harm a child.
Research also states that through man – woman marriage, the rights of all children to be affiliated with both of their biological parents, are protected and upheld.
On the other hand, it is implied that same sex marriage changes marriage from a child centred, to an adult centred institution. Without man/ woman marriage, what social institution will be in place to specifically protect the rights of a child to be in a relationship with both of their parents?
When asked, adopted and foster children express their yearning to know their biological parents. Laws now allow these children to find their birth parents, if they wish to. It is said that to deliberately conceive a child, and have them exist in a life that never allows them to know their father, is unjust, and cruel.
Why? One reason given is that a child is then reduced to the status of a commodity, rather than an individual conceived through an act of love.
Another argument says, that children need two people who love each other, and that love is more important than biology. If love were the only important factor, stepparents would be interchangeable with biological ones. However, research shows that this is not the case.
On average, children in stepparent households have more emotional problems, and lower school achievement than children of married parents.
Step families also have many issues, far removed from the idealized visions of these relationships, seen depicted in old television programs like The Brady Bunch.
It can be shown that discipline can be an issue in step families, compared with the discipline in families headed by married biological parents. For example, some biological parents will exclude the stepparent from discipline, asserting,
“These are my children, not yours.”
Some children in stepparent home environments will cleverly pit both parents against each other when issues requiring parental discipline arise.
Another issue in stepparent homes is loyalties. A biological parent can feel conflicted between commitment to their children, and commitment to their spouse. A biological parent is more likely to feel that loving a child is also a way of showing love to the child’s other parent.
According to research, stepfathers spend far less time with their spouses’ children than a biological father does. Remarried mothers will spend less time, on average, with their biological children. This creates a situation in which a child and the spouse become competitors for time, and for attention from the mother.
How does this relate to debates about same sex parenting? It is argued that this means that one of the adults will have no biological relationship with the child. This means that they are more like a stepparent than a biological one. No matter how much adults in a same sex relationship love each other, it cannot be assumed that this will automatically resolve the issues that so many stepfamilies tend to have.
Contrary to what some may claim, men and women are not interchangeable. Sex is a very relevant issue in parenting. For those who state that the roles of the mother and the father are interchangeable, and do not matter in parenting, where is the proof?
Another point is, that even same sex couples do agree that sex is a very relevant issue- the sex of their partners. A gay man has a male sex partner, and a gay woman insists on a female sex partner.
Furthermore, it has been said that it is unjust for any law to decree that parents can have whatever partner they choose to, such as a partner of the same sex, while children are then forced to accept whatever they are given.
Mothers, and fathers each make unique contributions to a child’s development. The absence of a father creates risks in children that not having a mother do not create. For instance, teenage girls without fathers are at increased risk of early sexual activity, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Teenage boys without fathers are at risk of delinquent behaviour, violence and criminal activity.
Meanwhile, it has been shown that pre-teen girls not living with their biological fathers get their menstrual periods earlier, than girls living with their fathers. This is then associated with a host of health problems, such as unhealthy weight gain, breast cancer and, cancer of the reproductive system. In addition, there are emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, aggression, substance abuse, and early sexual activity.
It is a fact that as they grow into adulthood, children need help and guidance developing their sexual identities. Is it fair to argue then, that legislated same sex marriage could well make this task more difficult, if not illegal?
It has been argued that same sex marriage marginalizes fathers. Again this is based on the assumption that the roles of mothers and fathers are interchangeable in child rearing. However, arguments that men will be affected differently are quite well stated.
When a child is born, the mother is the one who is closest by. Fathers are less connected to their children than mothers are. If it is accepted that the purpose of marriage between men and women, is to attach mothers and fathers to their children, and to each other, then same sex marriage implies that a father’s attachment to their children, is irrelevant.
It has been suggested that countries that have legalized same sex marriage, have now diminished fatherhood. In British Columbia, Canada, Birth Certificates have been changed. They have a space for the mother’s name, and a tick box for the other parent/ father.
The United Kingdom used to have a requirement that unmarried women conceiving through IVF technology, had to demonstrate that the child would have a father figure in their lives, once born. This was dropped after same sex marriage was legalised. It is said that this was done to avoid offending lesbian couples.
Once marriage between two women becomes more socially acceptable, more women will decide to raise children together. It is said that this would seem a less risky option of marrying a man.
It is conceivable that some day soon, people would look at two women bringing up children together, and comment that,
“Women don’t need men.”
“Children don’t really need fathers.”
Would people look at two men bringing up children together, and state that children don’t need mothers?
It has been said that same sex marriage will further marginalize gender terms used in language, and gender roles. Schools in Scotland stopped celebrating Father’s Day. A district in the United States, removed all references to gender in their documentation. It is fair to comment, that this further diminishes the roles that “father”, “mother”, “husband” and “wife” have in society.
Same sex marriage leads to questions about the use of reproductive technology. No one has the right to have a child, since children are not objects, but individual people with rights of their own.
There was a court case in which a lesbian couple sued a doctor who helped them conceive through IVF. The pregnant woman conceived twins instead of the one child that the couple wanted, and they sued for the extra expense of bringing up another child.
This provoked debate about whether a child is a commodity? Some state that a free society cannot be maintained if some people exist only because they were conceived as ‘objects’, created for the purposes of others. Without devaluing reproductive technology for those who would be unable to become parents without it, some say that reproductive technology violates the dignity of a child.
In that sense, this argument contends that using donated sperm or eggs to conceive a child, in effect alienates that child from one, or both of their parents. It is a fact that children conceived from donor sperm, feel a sense of loss from having never known their fathers.
Those who advocate the unlimited use of ‘artificial reproductive technology’ may well argue that,
“Our children will be fine, because we wanted them so badly.”
Critics may then counter this position. Does this sound so appealing, if put another way, like,
“We got to manufacture another human being, because we wanted to.“?
Some critics of same sex marriage have commented that it has created an attitude of entitlement to artificial reproductive technology. Is it right then, that anyone with money can do whatever he or she wants. They then go on to state, that this cannot be right, from a social, moral, or religious perspective. Critics state that advocates of same sex marriage are steering laws in this direction.
Through legalising same sex marriage, it is contended that the state redefines the meaning of marriage, by stating that marriage is the union of two people, rather than the union of a man and a woman. This new definition affects everyone, since this new legal definition applies to all.
Genderless marriage then drives out gendered marriage, since same sex marriage goes from a gendered institution, to a gender neutral one.
This, one researcher suggests, has led to all sorts of legal issues.
From a legal standpoint, judges in the United States who have ruled in favour of same sex marriage have made statements that appear plausible in the context of same sex marriage, but are false when given as general statements.
In the US state of Iowa, the judges who ruled in favour of it sex marriage stated;
“The research…. suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well adjusted adults is based on stereotypes more than anything else.”
Where is the convincing proof that this is true?
The judge who overturned California’s Proposition 8 stated;
“Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage: marriage under the law is a union of equals.”
Both of these statements raise further issues. The first statement, it as argued, states something that needs to be proven. The second statements, creates a contradiction, since it suggests that unless gender is irrelevant to marriage, marriage is nothing more than a union of equals.
Furthermore, the creation of one legal institution for both same sex and opposite sex married couples, requires the law to strip away all the “essential public purposes” of marriage, leaving only the “inessential private purposes.”
The Judge who overturned Proposition 8 in the American State of California stated.
“Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another, and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another, and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents.”
By a definition like this, college roommates, or members of a club, could count as “married” too.
Some argue then, that by the time the State is finished, marriage will be reduced to nothing more than a government registry of friendships.
Another objection to same sex marriage, is how redefining marriage, in turn redefines parenthood.
If marriage between men and women attaches children to both their biological parents, same sex marriage separates children from at least one of their parents.
Same sex marriage opens the door to children having more than two biological parents. This has happened in Canada.
Same sex marriage regularly gives biological parents adults who have no biological bond to the child, the same legal status. This eliminates the legal principle that biology is the primary basis of establishing parental rights and responsibilities. Therefore, another principle must replace this. The state must be the entity that establishes parental rights and responsibilities.
It is a reasonable question to ask how fair and just this is?
Judges in Washington State created a four-part test to help decide whether an unrelated adult could count as a child’s “de facto parent.” Such determinations then require the courts to examine the most private parts of a family’s life.
Same sex marriage separates children from at least one of their parents, as a routine procedure.
Regarding parenthood, it is contended that adoption exists to give children the parents that they need, not to give adults the children they want.
The final set of objections comes from the view that same sex marriage empowers the state, to the detriment of civil society.
Man/ woman marriage is “an organic institution”, that can sustain itself without much intervention from the state. Since same sex marriage is the creation of the state, the state will have to protect it. For example, it will continue having to enforce the belief that same sex marriage is the equivalent of man/ woman marriage.
This is problematic for those who object to this view.
For instance, in Canada, church ministers who refused to wed same sex couples have been brought before courts on charges of discrimination.
In America it is feared that different religious organisations, from schools, adoption agencies, to marriage preparation courses, will become subject to government regulation. Catholic Adoption Agencies have closed in the states of Massachusetts and in the District of Columbia.
Governments will then enforce the belief that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.
In one case, a father objected to his child being read a storybook in kindergarten about a same sex couple. The father was then taken away in handcuffs from a public meeting. How is it fair that the state can decide that parents do not have the right to remove their children from lessons, if they find the content objectionable?
There is some inconsistency here.
In another case in Canada, the government of Quebec told a small Mennonite school that they must teach their children about homosexuality. The Mennonites refused, and, said that they were considering leaving Quebec, rather than give up their right to teach their children to the state.
Same sex marriage then leads to a hostile takeover of civil society by the state.