Australia is a wonderful country; in many ways, a blessed country. One recent blessing that you received was the 2004 agreement between your political leadership, left and right, to fix a solid definition of marriage within your nation’s Federal law. The Marriage Act (2004) defines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
All the same, Australia has not been immune from other legal changes which have weakened marriage as an institution. These include:
- the elimination of legal distinctions between births in and out of wedlock;
- abortion laws that ignore the claims of the husband/father;
- the acceptance of cohabitation as a legal status, providing benefits of marriage without corresponding duties;
- the elimination of “fault” in divorce, thus rewarding infidelity and weakening marriage preservation efforts; and
- the leveling of gender roles specific to marriage and the rearing of children, which while these systems were not perfect - did commonly reinforce the best interests of children.
And so, in the year 2010, marriage is left battered and bruised, and but a shadow of its former legal and cultural self.
It is important to remember that most of this change came well before “same sex marriage” was an issue.
For the first time in human history, natural marriage has to justify itself in democratic countries before the court of public opinion. What has been obvious over the centuries is now “an issue”. The main reason is the modern superstition that the past has nothing to teach us: that our ancestors were barbarians, full of prejudice and devoted to attacking human dignity. This arrogance of “Presentism” is the same reason religions resting on inherited dogma stand particularly suspect.
There’s an old comment about truth that claims: in the 17th century a political leader seeking to support an opinion would quote Holy Scripture; in the 18th century, he would quote Shakespeare; in the 19th century, perhaps a philosopher such as Kant, Hegel, or Emerson; but in the 20th century, he would quote a sociologist.
I am not sure if this is progress.
Three years ago, when several same-sex couples argued Iowa’s marriage law discriminated against them, the county asked me to serve as an expert witness. I went through a day-long deposition by opposing attorneys looking for inconsistencies, contradictions, and errors. When the trial judge issued his bench ruling on the case the next year, he dismissed my testimony as irrelevant: he said that history - with its record of human triumphs and tragedies, follies and successes - had nothing to teach the law about the issue of “same sex” marriage; only “number crunching” sociology would be allowed.
Appealing to social science, he concluded that the evidence favoured same-sex marriage. The opposite is actually true.
So why do we need a renewed culture of natural marriage?
First, allow me to explain what I mean by “natural marriage”. It doesn’t take more than a fourth-grade education to know that men’s and women’s bodies in some sense “complement” each other and this often leads to procreation. Natural marriage is between a man and a woman.
First and foremost, Australia needs a culture of natural marriage for the good of the children.
This article is an edited (reduced) version of the address given to the National Marriage Day Dinner, The York Conference Centre, Sydney 8.00pm August 12, 2010. Dr Allan Carlson, the Convenor of the World Congress of Families, is visiting Australia as part of celebrations for National Marriage Day, August 13, 2010. He is available for comment or interview on the topic of marriage and family in Sydney, August 13 and Melbourne on August 14 and 15, 2010.
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