Strapping on the ranty pants – Marriage Equality edition (again)

I was really excited to hear that New Zealand was considering a marriage equality bill, and hoped to avoid reading comment from homophobic alarmists, decrying the current decay of modern society, and stating that allowing “teh gays” to marry will bring about the collapse of civilisation as we know it.

However, today a few people on Twitter linked to a “he said, she said” article from stuff.co.nz which sought comment from Christian religious personnel regarding their thoughts on marriage equality, one Catholic Priest and one Uniting Reverend.  The comments from the Catholic Priest, Father Merv Duffy were jaw-droppingly astounding, and so ranty pants strapped on, I’m all prepared to have a go.

It is dangerous to redefine marriage because it is such a basic concept threaded through all our legal and social systems.

Right, because marriage has never been redefined before in the history of ever, people of different races have always been able to get married (it was illegal for white people to marry Indigenous Australians once), and women have never been chattel.  It was also never ever previously legal anywhere in the world to have more than one wife, and you never ever had to get your parents permission to marry you could always just marry the person you fell in love with.

What are the consequences going to be of this change? Who can envisage them all? Law holds up ideals to  society as well as setting limits; it has a teaching role. Widening the definition of marriage will blur this teaching.

You know what allowing marriage equality will teach?  That it is ok to be queer, that it is ok to be in a committed same-sex relationship, that bigotry against the LGBTIQ community is outdated and wrong.  These are good and important lessons that learning won’t hurt.  And as so many other countries have legalised marriage equality (which is just a weird thing to type on reflection), I think the consequences can be envisaged.

I’m sure that the same arguments were made when women won the right to vote, first in NZ even, and when slavery was abolished.  It’s a tired argument, one that should be retired.

Will groups within society who employ married couples be permitted to discriminate on the basis of wanting hetero-sexual couples?

God I hope not, because that would be horrible, and seriously, what groups employ married couples specifically because they are heterosexual?  Unless they are religious organisations who want to continue to demonise a group of otherwise innocent queers because they are attracted to people of the same sex.  I think that Father Merv hasn’t gotten out and spoken to many same-sex couples and listened to their stories.

Will marriage, already under threat from no-public-commitment co-habitation become less attractive to young couples?

Hang on… if we allow the queers to marry, will people who already had no intention of getting married, or getting married right now and perhaps living together for a bit first because they want to make sure it’s going to work, not get married?  WTF is this guy smoking?  Will a queer couple marrying really put people off marriage if that’s what they want?

You know how many heterosexual relationships that will be affected by marriage equality?  None.

Another danger to redefining something is the precedent it establishes; if marriage can be redefined once, it can be redefined again. What of polygamy? Why is marriage restricted to couples? We could be stepping
unwarily on to a slippery slope that could change our society out of all recognition.

Slippery slope logical fallacy, and he even identified it himself.

Marriage has been constantly redefined throughout history.  The world hasn’t ended and  society has not crumbled.  It has been redefined from polygamy to monogamy, it has been redefined from ownership of belongings (women and children), to partnerships, it has been redefined from something that secured inheritance and transfer of land, title and money, to
something that anyone could do because they wanted to.

To allow marriage to change from a formal monogamous relationship to another form of relationship requires far more legal legwork than removing any gender qualifications in NZ law for marriage.

The same departments will incur another significant expense as every marriage document and database has the words “bride” and “bridegroom” removed and replaced by some bland gender-neutral term. The symbols and customs of marriage are an interlinked network of mutually supporting ideas. Changing the definition rips a hole in that web of symbols and weakens the whole structure.

Seriously, this is the first time I’ve heard any argument against marriage equality in the “ooh the Government would have to updates systems, form templates and forms – woe!”

Also gender-neutral terms are not necessarily bland, and updating document templates and databases to use gender neutral language isn’t terrible.  The symbols and customs of marriage have changed every decade since marriage was invented with new things to do, new things to say, who you invite, what it means… everything.  Everyone’s ideas of marriage are slightly different, so although they may be “mutually supporting” letting queer people marry isn’t going to result in the world ending and the sky falling in.  Neither will allowing two people who are committed to each other marry actually do anything to change marriage except take out the expectation that the two people marrying are of different genders.

To suggest that allowing same-sex attracted people marry people of the same sex is going to be so disastrous for heterosexual marriage as a whole, makes me also wonder how fragile the concept of heterosexual marriage actually is.

It is unnecessary because the New Zealand Civil Union Act has allowed almost all the legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

Ah yes, the almost, but not quite equal status.  I’m not a great fan of it myself.  If I was almost, but not quite equal to someone, I’m  likely to feel that I am missing out significantly.  Real equality is something we should all aim for, not “almost equal”.

Women are still fighting for actual equal pay, we’re not happy with “almost equal pay to men”, we want actual equal pay to men.  Almost equal, is not equal.

New Zealand is already an extraordinarily tolerant society, especially younger New Zealanders. The perceived problem is not of the scale to justify such a fundamental change in our legal system.

This legal system, I do not think it is the same legal system that I am considering.  Removing gender from the requirement of marriage (that is that two people of opposite genders be the only ones who can marry) is not a fundamental change to the legal system.  It is a fundamental change to the way that certain anti-marriage equality proponents think, but since
marriage will still be defined as a union between two people, all the existing legal structures that support marriage and it’s dissolution if necessary, will still be able to be utilised.

Redefining marriage is social engineering of unprecedented proportions.  Law is the servant of society and it should not be used to change the fabric of that society.

Unprecedented, like the abolishment of slavery, or the recognition that discrimination is generally a bad thing, or that women should receive equal pay for the same work performed by men, or women being granted the vote, etc.  These are all individual cases of law changing the fabric of society and/or law reflecting the general wishes of society.  If there is widespread support for marriage equality in NZ, and I assume there is otherwise the Bill would never have gotten off the ground, then this is not changing the fabric of society, that horse has already bolted.

This is a classic clash between liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe they can make things better, conservatives want to hold on to what is good.

I cannot even believe that this statement was written and published.  The suggestion that liberals do not want to hold on to what is good, and that only conservatives are interested in “good” (which is undefined) is rather astounding.  Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it is necessarily “good”, nor does it mean that it is necessarily “bad”, but if something that has always been done a certain way, which also excludes a minority group for no reasons other than “because”, that’s not good.

At the very least, New Zealand could afford to wait and see what effect changing this law has in other countries. Will Spain and Scotland be the better for it?

There are plenty of nations that allow same sex marriage, for whom no drama has been recorded.  The Netherlands passed a Bill in 2001, as they are still a functioning society and the sky hasn’t caved in, I think we have sufficient data (there are other nations that were also early adopters of marriage equality) to suggest that New Zealand can go forth and consider the Bill without the fear that marriage equality will tear the nation apart or cause some other disaster.

I’m not really that surprised at Farther Merv, he is a Catholic Priest after all, and I trust him and his institution’s judgement about appropriate human relationships as far as I can spit into the wind.

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3 thoughts on “Strapping on the ranty pants – Marriage Equality edition (again)”

  1. “I don’t believe just ‘cos ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy” – Tim Minchin

    But I lol’d at the “It’ll be expensive” argument. Really? Forms? That’s your compelling argument? Bwahahahaha. I’m pretty confident every time a government department changes its name, or its address, it costs more.

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