Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why the Christian Right has already lost the marriage equality debate

It's hard to gauge whether the current Bill proposing marriage equality will succeed. What is certain though, is that regardless of the way the media is trying to frame the debate, this is not a case of two sides with strong arguments and no clear winner, there is actually no debate to be had. 

The only thing standing in the way of this Bill becoming law is weak minded MP's in the Labour party that have lost all touch with the general public and are so worried about losing the next election, they seem to have forgotten that they lost the last election.

So why is there no debate? Well putting the popular support for marriage equality aside for a moment (let's not forget that the majority of the public wanted to keep the right to abuse their children), there are a few main arguments put forward against marriage equality: the slippery slope argument (if we allow gays to marry, soon babies will be able to marry toads); the 'doing it for the children' argument (marriage was developed as an institution centered around the welfare of children and most gays are child molesters); and the man/woman argument (marriage has always been between a man and a woman, the state has no right to redefine marriage. Also known as the 'two men kissing is icky' argument)

Essentially all the arguments lead back to an idea of christian morality regarding the institution of marriage (you'll quickly notice that every opponent of marriage equality has a religious background). Thing is though, that christians have no rightful claim over the institution of marriage in New Zealand, and they haven't done so for more thn 50 years.

This is the part of the debate that keeps getting left out. In 1908, more than a hundred years ago, the Government of the day passed the Marriage Act, which allowed non-religious people or people of 'other' religions to get legally married at the registrars office (s 34). The emphasis was certainly still on christian marriage, but here was the first hint that the State recognised that marriage was more than a 'christian value'.

In 1955 a new Marriage Act was passed. This Act was far clearer. It stated that not only could anyone get married (with some limits), but anyone was entitled to apply to be a marriage celebrant as long as they were of 'good character'. From this point on the State made it clear that marriage was not a religious act. Marriage was a committment of partnership recognised in law to help protect the rights of those entering the partnership [note: the Marriage Act 1958 does not say anywhere that marriage is between a man and a woman, however as homesexuality was an imprisonable offence in 1958, the courts have made the assumption that this is what was intended].

So for over 50 years any man and woman have been able to marry, regardless of whether they are Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, Atheist or Satanist. Marriage doesn't have to involve love. For example, there have been many cases of students legally getting married so that they could get a better student allowance. People who don't ever want children, people who are bisexual (yes that's right, including icky man/man kissers) and even the people who one day want their babies to have the right to marry toads, are all allowed to get married. None of these people are banned from marriage. With all this in mind, the current situation regarding marriage in New Zealand defeats every silly argument against marriage equality. All that is left is a weak moral claim that there is something wrong with people of the same sex getting married, and this is purely a religious claim. This last remaining discrimination is simply a hangover from when christian influence had far to much power in this country and the law regarding marriage should have changed back when homosexuality was legalised in 1986.

The point here is that marriage is not a religious institution. Everyone has a right to put forward their views on marriage, but christians don't own the guidelines, they are just another interest group like any other. In the context of marriage and the law in New Zealand, there is no moral argument that can be forwarded by the christian right that holds any weight and that has any relevance beyond the year 1955.

5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Ha yes tru. This is what happens when you have a baby and are always rushing things. Will change now. Thanks!

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