Ha. No surprises to see the Church sticking its nose into the marriage equality debate. Its adherents probably don't even notice the irony. At the same time many are defending themselves as the best equipped to teach school children values, they're also posing as the pin-up models for homophobia, intolerance and discrimination. All in the name of God. Not for the first time, they're hiding behind their faith in an effort to disguise their base instincts.
Someone needs to tell them it's not working. Of all the opposition noise surrounding Louisa Wall's same sex marriage bill, 99 per cent has been drummed up in the name of religion. Let's not dodge that. After all possible shades of moaning from Christians about being persecuted and discriminated against, this issue brings us face-to-face with the reality. The Church still wants everyone, not just its disciples, to adhere to its own particular version of life.
Take the anti-gay marriage website recently set up to garner signatures for a petition against the bill. Apparently the handiwork of Family First, the National Marriage Coalition, Family Life and Focus on the Family, it tells us all we need to know about the main opponents of marriage equality: religious zealots. Not content with dedicating their own lives to God, they also want to dedicate yours and mine, whether we agree to it or not.
Family First avoids making too much of the God connection on its website; perhaps it knows the history of religious-based political parties. Even so, it still promises to place an emphasis on good Christian-Judeo values (such as homophobia and child hitting). The others aren't nearly as coy. Gay marriage opponents Family Life want a return to the "timeless principles of the Bible". Seems they have a biblical solution for everything, homosexuality included.
The website for Focus on the Family, a group that talks about "God's design and intention for biblical marriage", follows much the same path. God only knows what they're on about. It's as if these people think Wall's bill is an attempt to make same sex marriage compulsory. Every time a law is changed to emphasise the separation of church and state, to emphasise our secular community and the right to choose, they scream blue murder about being marginalised.
The excuses? They're about as specious as you can imagine. The institution of marriage? Please. You can get married as a joke as long as you're not gay. Procreation? Do us a favour. People are procreating all over the shop without bothering to get married. Marriage is a religious rite? Not for the majority: most of us are spurning church marriages and opting for non-religious arrangements. Inviting God to your wedding is no longer the norm.
But just on that: religion is, of course, perfectly entitled to claim its own definition of marriage. Just like a club (think of the Augusta golf club, which doesn't allow women members) it's allowed to set down its own lawful rules and insist its constituents abide by them. I've yet to find anyone who has a problem with that. The stumbling block only arrives when the club starts suggesting everyone else should live by its creed, whether they're paid-up members or not.
It's one of the reasons the marriage-equality issue has grabbed so much attention. It's not "just" a gay rights thing anymore, it's a battle between the secular and the Church; a fight for the freedom to live unencumbered by others' religious belief. That's why a majority of people, most of whom are palpably not gay, will be supporting the intent of Wall's bill. The right to freedom of religion is one thing. The idea of forcing it on everyone else?
That's something quite different again.
» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
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