Why gay marriage is a bad idea

Janet Albrechtsen, 13 August 2003, The Australian

Children do better on every score when reared by their biological mother and father

`WHY must Australia perpetually lag behind?” asked a letter-writer in a Sydney newspaper when a Canadian court recently ruled in favour of same-sex marriages. That is the lament of electoral losers in Australia. When they do not get their way, they sneer at dowdy, unsophisticated Australia for falling behind swank social fashions paraded on the international stage.

In fact, it is not such an unsound place to be, watching from a distance, as innovative social experiments such as gay marriage are played out elsewhere. From this vantage point, the curious can watch and listen, and perhaps learn.

We can watch how court-imposed solutions to questions of social morality sometimes backfire. Understandably, the electorally challenged prefer the short cut of a can-do judge instead of the democratically irksome job of convincing a bunch of politicians about the righteousness of their cause.

But the easy route is not always the best route. After the US Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting sodomy in Lawrencev Texas in June, polling revealed that Americans became less tolerant towards homosexuality.

When asked by a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll whether same-sex relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48 per cent said yes, 46 per cent said no — the lowest support since 1996. Two months earlier — that is before the court’s decision — support stood at 60 per cent in favour, 35 per cent against. A May Gallup poll revealed a 49-49 split on whether gays should have the right to civil unions that attract the same legal rights as married couples. After the Lawrence decision, 57 per cent opposed it and 40 per cent supported it.

You get the feeling it is not so much that Americans do not support gay rights.

Rather, they are tired of elites deciding these issues for them. They are especially weary of being told to play catch-up with foreign fads. In Lawrence the court said the Texas sodomy law was inconsistent with “values we share with a wider civilisation”. And in working out who or what is “wider civilisation”, the court took as its lead the European Court of Human Rights. But why, asked dissenting judge Antonin Scalia, is a European court more representative of values Americans share than a Texas law enacted by the people’s representatives?

Watching from afar, we see how insulting opponents as homophobic hillbillies does not move the same-sex marriage debate very far. The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd scolded George W. Bush for not riding the new gay wave, for being “stranded in his ’50s world of hypermasculinity”. Dowd forgot that the Left’s great love, Bill Clinton, endorsed 1996 laws that excluded gays from the legal definition of marriage. Bush’s comments opposing same-sex marriage last week differed little from what Clinton said back in 1996.

Watching from afar, we can listen to more reasoned arguments over whether same-sex marriage will damage marriage as a social institution.

Supporters argue there is no reason for opposing same-sex marriage because the nexus between children and marriage was severed long ago. American feminist Wendy McElroy says relationships are private so marriage should be privatised as a contract between consenting adults. These are adult-focused views of marriage. There is another one.

Look at the importance of marriage through the eyes of a child of divorce, or the thousands of children of divorce. The results of our social experiment with divorce and laissez-faire marriage are in: children do better on every score when reared by their biological mother and father. This is why marriage must remain special and why discrimination is not always a dirty word.

That we have already defined down marriage is no reason to define it down further. Gays are entitled to legal recognition of their relationships. Just call it something other than marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriage reject this as judgmental nonsense. But their non-judgmental path is in itself a judgment. It is a judgment that marriage should be overhauled to cater for a small group of adults who do not want to feel left out, that the interests of children are of secondary importance.

Somali Cerise, co-convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby in Australia, complains that “marriage is not something that a lot of gay and lesbian people want, but the fact that we don’t have the choice if we want it is the problem”.

This is the madness of narcissistic minority politics. Parity of rights is not enough for gays. Having marched through most other institutions, the Left’s militant foot soldiers, the anti-establishment intellectuals, gay activists, social-engineering judges and politicians, now have marriage in their collectivist sight.

Last week Melbourne’s The Age remarked how gay marriage does not register on the Howard Government’s legislative radar. There is a reason for that: John Howard’s radar is working.

After losing three elections, the Left’s radar needs a mechanical service. Most Australians have very different social mores. They are less inclined to play a zero-sum game where a few gays might win at the cost of the wellbeing of many, many more children.

The truth is we do not yet know if same-sex marriage will damage marriage as a social institution. But previous attempts to define down marriage have hardly been ringing endorsements for more of the same.

Instead, society should work harder to protect and encourage strong, stable marriages and be unapologetic in treating marriage between a man and a woman as a normative institution — the ideal environment for rearing children.


No hatred in keeping marriage laws sacred

Janet Albrechtsen, 12 May 2004, The Australian

Treating gay relationships as different to marriage should not amount to unlawful discrimination

The conservative case for gay marriage is that it will not undermine traditional marriage; if anything it will enhance it by showing the innate desire of people, gay and straight, to enter into a deeper, state-sanctioned form of commitment.

But that hypothesis has been tested in Scandinavia and found wanting. With all eyes turned to Denmark for the royal wedding in Copenhagen on Friday between Tasmanian Mary Donaldson and Crown Prince Frederik, it is interesting to look at how marriage there has fared after a decade of legal gay marriage.

Writing in The Weekly Standard earlier this year, Stanley Kurtz, a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, pointed out that in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, where gay marriage was introduced, de facto unions and out-of-wedlock births have risen significantly.

While Mary Donaldson told Danish newspaper Politiken that once married she wants several children, as Kurtz points out, in Scandinavia “married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon, it has lost the critical mass required to have socially normative force”.

It’s true that in Scandinavia, co-habitation and out-of-wedlock births were on the rise before gay marriage became legal. But a decade or so of legal gay marriage has done nothing to make marriage stronger. Indeed, sanctioning gay marriage has only served to send the message that all family forms are equal, increasing the trend to out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation.

None of that would matter but for one simple fact: all family forms are not equal. De facto relationships are much likelier to come unstuck than marriage. And the cost of these fragile, unstable relationships is borne by children.

Few would challenge the need for parity of rights for gays in certain areas, such as pension rights. But should that translate into parity of rights in every area? That question brings us to what must surely be the next agenda item after gay marriage: adoption rights. Adoption won’t be the rarity it is in heterosexual marriages. It will become the norm for gay parents, especially lesbians, one having a child via in vitro fertilisation, the other woman becoming the adoptive parent.

Have we, as a society, reached the point where we no longer believe a child is entitled to a mother and a father? Why is a child’s right to a mother and a father of less value than the rights of the gay minority to marry and adopt?

The Scandinavian experience suggests that gay marriage is less about love than about politics. Gay lobby groups want recognition of gay relationships on their terms, and hang the consequences for marriage. Scandinavian gays have not exactly rushed to the altar; the number of gay marriages is, according to Kurtz, “exceedingly small”. And yet the message from gay marriage, that all family forms are equal, remains powerful. That is the power of laws.

Henning Bech, described by Kurtz as “perhaps Scandinavia’s most prominent gay thinker”, says the conservative case for gay marriage — that it would enhance marriage — was a mainly tactical argument made during a once divisive gay marriage debate.

Australia is in the midst of just such a debate. Our out-of-wedlock birthrate is well below Scandinavian numbers but change can be very swift indeed. This time look to Canada. In 1999 even left-wing Canadian political leaders voted in favour of defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman and pledged to enshrine this definition in law. Three years later they proposed legislation legalising gay marriage.

That suggests a need for vigilance in protecting marriage. We can respect gay relationships without making them the same as marriage. Treating gay relationships as different to marriage should not amount to unlawful discrimination. It if does, we have gone too far down the road of moral relativism.