I have just read the article by Bill Muehlenberg, “Dismantling a homosexual marriage myth”, published in On Line Opinion on November 25, 2010, for the second time.
The sentiments expressed are the polar opposite to my own views on the subject of same sex marriage, views I’ve expressed in articles on this site. However, there is one point on which we agree.
The struggle for the right to same sex marriage does have several dimensions, as the article suggests, not all of them immediately apparent. The struggle is indeed about far more than a simplistic change to the wording of the Marriage Act. (Though it must be noted here that the wording of the Marriage Act was in fact changed by the Howard government in 2004 to define marriage as only permissible between a man and woman. So perhaps the wording of the original Act was not quite so simple, if Howard felt compelled to change it.)
I do not agree, however, that these deeper dimensions of the debate are gay conspiracies designed to subversively change the nature of marriage altogether. Indeed, I find the arguments for this theory rather bizarre.
For example, there is nothing currently in the Marriage Act that speaks to a legal prohibition against infidelity. Monogamy is nothing more than individual hope and intention. That is, there is no legal requirement for monogamy in the Marriage Act that faces revision or extinction should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry.
I am completely at a loss as to understand how permitting marriage between gays and lesbians will encourage infidelity and promiscuity in heterosexual married couples.
The author claims that, “The wonderful interaction of a man and a woman in the complementarity of heterosexual marriage is what makes it so special and beneficial”. De facto relationships aren’t blessed with this special beneficence, according to his paradigm. The author doesn’t mention whether this “complementarity” is only available in Christian marriage, and denied to those who marry in the Registry office or in mosques and synagogues.
I’d like to suggest that what makes a marriage “special and beneficial” is the commitment of the couple, to one another and to the love they live and create, regardless of their gender, religion or lack of it. I’d like to remind the author that very similar arguments were made, not so very long ago, against marriage between blacks and whites.
There are heterosexual marriages that work really well. There are heterosexual marriages that are sites of nuclear devastation and certainly do not work at all. And there are heterosexual marriages that occupy a place between these two extremes, and muddle lovingly along without much drama, one way or the other. But how, I ask in all good faith, will permitting gays and lesbians to marry affect the nature, progress and outcome of any of those marriages?
“The truth is,” the author instructs us, because he clearly believes he is someone who knows a) what the truth is, and b) what most of us think the truth is, “homosexuals do not at all have in mind what most of us understand marriage to be”. I have to take Muehlenberg up on this, because I was taught from an early age to always question terms such as “most of us”. To someone from my background (and there are many of us), the use of the term “most of us” to support an argument implies an unsubstantiated but hegemonic perspective that may well be highly inaccurate, if not delusional, and we must treat it with caution.
It is always inadvisable to assume that everybody else thinks like you, or that a “most of us” even exists.
Just what demographic is this “most of us” supposedly comprised of, anyway?
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