Last year, the Australian Parliament agreed that its Members of Parliament (MPs) should seek the views of constituents on the question of same-sex marriage.
Have you given your local MP the benefit of your view?
I urge you to respond to those set in authority over us and to share your view on the nature of marriage in a polite, well-argued way.
Below I share the letter I sent my local Member, in my capacity of Senior Minister of St Michael's Cathedral in Wollongong. I would encourage you to use your own words and the arguments you find most persuasive. You might like to be briefer than me!
At the end of my sample letter, you will find links to the articles I have found most helpful on this topic in recent times.
I hope you are well, and again assure you of the prayers of the people of St Michael’s for you and your fellow parliamentarians in the onerous work you do.
I understand 24th August is the date set aside for MPs to give feedback from their consultations on the issue of same-sex marriage with their constituents.
In what follows, I speak as the representative of the people of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral. Being the Cathedral Church for the region, I also speak more broadly for many Anglican Christians in the Illawarra. As such, I would also be very glad of the opportunity to speak with you face to face about this matter. I can be contacted via the numbers mentioned below.
Firstly, I openly note that Christian views are shaped by the Bible. We accept the Bible as God’s Word to us, though we understand other Australians do not accept it as such, and respect their right to a different view. Nevertheless it is still important that our parliamentary representatives be accurately informed about what Christians believe.
In brief, I note the words of Jesus concerning marriage, recorded in the Gospel of Mark 10:6-9:
“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Here Jesus quotes from the first pages of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, which records how God created the world. Jesus clearly understands marriage to be a heterosexual union—between one man and one woman—for life. And from the universal creation context of Genesis, this understanding applies to all humans in the world, not just Israelites, or believers.
I also note from the context of Genesis that the creation of humans as male and female and their union in marriage, is intimately linked to childbearing (to “be fruitful and multiply”, Genesis 1:28). As the Anglican Prayer Book puts it, “In marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose, so that children may be born and nurtured in secure and loving care, for their well-being and instruction, and for the good order of society, to the glory of God.”
Secondly, in speaking into the public arena, I do not expect non-Christians would automatically be persuaded by the biblical account. However I think it wise for them to hesitate before dismissing the morality of the Judea-Christian worldview, which has been such a positive force for good in our world, and is one very significant influence in shaping Australia and its laws.
However, I also argue that defining marriage as an exclusive, heterosexual union for life is good for society, based on reasons that others might accept, independently of religious commitment.
To begin with, these days many people instinctively claim all discrimination is wrong. But further thought indicates that actually we discriminate all the time.
For example, on the basis of age, children are prohibited from certain activities. On the basis of gender, men cannot claim certain benefits that apply only to a mother. Someone not born in the United States is not eligible for election as their President, and so on.
In other words different situations may justify different treatment. I argue that marriage between a man and a woman is a situation different from a same-sex union, and this can justify some differing treatment in certain respects.
Whether we think our biology has come simply from evolution or by design, most people agree we would be foolish simply to ignore our biology. In particular, and allowing for the exceptions of medical technology, it still requires a woman and a man to produce children. That will (and should) remain the case for the vast majority of circumstances.
Here is an obvious and undeniable qualitative difference between a same-sex union and a heterosexual union. The former can never produce a child. The latter has that potential inherently. Here is a reason to treat such unions differently.
Most people would agree that it is still preferable for a child to be raised by a mother and a father, with the complementary strengths and natures they bring. I acknowledge that there are exceptions for various circumstances, such as single parenthood. I also admit that individual homosexual parents may prove to be very good parents. Nevertheless, our society should encourage the ideal that, wherever possible, a child ought to have a father and a mother. Here is an additional reason to privilege marriage between a man and a woman.
In fact, one might argue that the State has no business legislating in regard to a whole range of personal relationship matters (including sexual relationships, with the exception of abuse). The reason it legislates in regards to marriage is to encourage high standards in regards to the protection of children, and because the family is the building block of society.
I realise these arguments are not accepted by all people. I am aware of some of the objections to them. On request I could supply further argumentation with footnotes, but this is not the place.
I conclude by saying that the fact marriage—between a man and a woman—has been almost universally recognised across cultures and through history as existing as a special category—deserving special treatment—should cause us to pause before removing that special treatment.
Personally I think a relationships register to ensure just treatment in regards to inheritance, property rights, default powers of attorney, and so on, is an appropriate method for recognising same sex unions. However I think it should be extended towards other types of union people may wish to register, such as single brother and single sister who live together all their life, or two single women who have lived together in a non-sexual relationship for many years.
One last comment regards process. The ALP went to the last election on an unequivocal platform stating there would be no change to the definition of marriage in Australian law. Should the ALP change its platform in this matter, it should openly take any new policy to the next federal election and submit to the will of the electorate, rather than having its MPs break this clear promise by trying to alter the law beforehand in the current Parliament.
Canon Sandy Grant
St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong
- The latest, very thoughtful, briefing from the Social Issues Executive of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (to which I belong), on the topic of responding to same-sex marriage proposals, which contains links to previous briefings and other helpful articles
- A lengthier philosophical case for traditional marriage, made without religious appeal, by the editors of the National Review (a conservative American journal)
- A short and strong opinion piece against same-sex marriage, made in an Australian tabloid newspaper, without raising religious perspectives
- Australian-Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville's article in The Australian explains why we should prioritise children's rights over those of same sex couples in this debate (ignore the headline which does not represent her article fairly and is inflammatory)
- John Piper's article on this topic, recently written in light of his US state (Minnesota) legislature’s decision to send to a referendum an amendment to make it explicit that marriage is only recognised there as being between one man and one woman