Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Gay marriage - the moral obligation of our time

By James Mangisi - posted Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Abraham Lincoln freed black Americans from slavery and in doing so ushered in a new age of equality and freedom. But would President Lincoln have done so if they had the technology to poll and discovered that only 49 per cent of Americans supported it? If it happened in our world today, would he have the necessary political capital? I’m not so sure.

Living in a free democratic society, we are often quick to assume that the highest virtue in Australian politics is consensus. Certainly, Julia Gillard thought so when she opted to build consensus through her community forums for climate change. In times of conflict or disagreement, our first instinct is to put things to a vote. And this is the legacy of our over-emphasis on democracy. When democracy is the highest virtue, it can overshadow liberty and freedom.

Around the country, as many states enter an election period, we are seeing a stronger push towards legalising same-sex marriage. A push which is being ignored at the federal level and thwarted at the state.


As a straight man, many of my friends have come to ask me - “Why do you care about gay marriage? Why is it important to you?” Many of them (they are straight as far as I know) can’t see how gay marriage affects anyone but gay people. However, even though they can’t see it - gay marriage affects everyone.

During the 20th century we saw many civil rights struggles: from the end of segregation in the US, to the installation of women as social, economic, and political equals. After significant political pressure, Nelson Mandela was freed and apartheid ended in South Africa.

Would any of these causes have been less just or honourable if they only carried minority support? Would they have been any less morally righteous? In these cases, no intellectually serious person could say yes. And yet despite the majority of Australians supporting the legalisation of gay marriage, our whole political discourse panders to the needs of swing-seat politicians who look after their jobs first, and the freedom of all Australians last. Democracy before freedom.

This unfortunate state of affairs is not uncommon in the developed world. In California, efforts to stop gay marriage and make it illegal were put to a referendum in “prop 8”, which went on to succeed and be passed. However, in an exquisite moment of justice, “prop 8” was overturned at trial by Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker saying:

The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal.

Judge Walker added:


In the absence of a rational basis, … the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples.

And finally:

A private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

42 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

James ‘U Mangisi is a social and environmental scientist. As an environmentalist, ethicist and atheist, he wishes to promote two ideals in society - sustainability and secularism. See his blog at Ask an Atheist.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by James Mangisi

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 42 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy