Recently I posted my thoughts on why a postal plebiscite may be the best way to resolve the same-sex “marriage” issue politically. Now it seems we’re having one (barring the government’s proposal being struck down by the High Court of Australia). But I’m worried that there will be a number of Australians who understand marriage to be an exclusive, lifelong, legal, social, sexual and domestic union between one man and one woman – but fail to express their convictions by voting NO in the upcoming plebiscite.
One of my points in favour of holding a postal plebiscite in the current political climate was: “A postal plebiscite will see the side that can best mobilise people to vote for their convictions win.” And so I feel a burden and responsibility to encourage people who believe in marriage (as presently defined) to participate in this process, in order to achieve what is now the best chance we have at preserving the proper definition of marriage in this country.
A while back, I would have taken it as a given that almost all of my Christian friends would vote NO in a public vote like the one we’re anticipating will be held over the next few months. But I’ve realised recently that the mood amongst Christians in Australia has shifted a bit, not only in terms of how we think through relating to those who identify themselves according to their sexuality (LGBTI&c), but how we respond to their totemic issues (including “marriage equality”).
I’m concerned that some of my Christian friends will decline to participate in the plebiscite out of fear they will have to give an answer to their gay, lesbian and pro-SSM friends, colleagues and family members – and that confessing that they voted NO will be an alienating element in those relationships.
I’m concerned that some of my Christian friends will take their cues on this issue from online pieces by Christian leaders advocating non-participation in the plebiscite – as the balanced approach after taking all things into consideration – such as this recent post by one of Queensland’s most prominent Christian bloggers.
I’m concerned that some of my Christian friends will decline to vote because they can’t be bothered participating in the potential resolution of such a vexed and drawn-out social issue. And I’m even concerned that some will vote YES because they don’t want to be guilty of any kind of discrimination or oppression against sexual minorities and see the plebiscite as a matter relating to fundamental human rights.
I’m not out to coerce or intimidate anyone into voting or voting a certain way – but I do think it’s really important that as many people as possible vote NO, so I am out to persuade you to a particular course of action. To that end, I want to do my best to tackle some of objections and alternatives to voting NO, while encouraging anyone who’ll listen to vote NO for the best possible reasons, without unnecessary fear or guilt about doing so.
REASONS TO VOTE NO
For this initial post, I hope to briefly outline reasons I believe Christians in Australia should actively reject any proposed changes to the Marriage Act, by using the postal plebiscite to express their objections to the redefinition of marriage. My aim will be to write further on some of these points, as time permits, in the coming days and weeks. I’d also like to address genuine concerns people might have about the plebiscite and the consequences of voting NO, in the hope of removing barriers to them taking what I strongly believe is the best course of action in this situation.
1. The Christian voice can be legitimately expressed on social and moral issues in a pluralistic democracy
There is nothing inherently wrong with Christians (or indeed others) participating in a pluralistic democracy by expressing their deep convictions about the goodness of marriage. In fact such involvement can be very good! This includes voting to reject proposals for legal changes to the Marriage Act when we are unconvinced of their capacity to promote the common good in our society.
2. The language of the Marriage Act represents a true understanding of marriage.
The definition of marriage that currently exists in the Marriage Act appropriately describes what marriage is in reality and should not be altered to make marriage mean something other than what it is. Redefining marriage is endorsing a lie about the fundamental distinctions between heterosexual marriages and committed, long-term same-sex relationships.
3. Only the present definition of marriage has close to unanimous, voluntary recognition in the Australian population.
The establishment of an exclusive, legally-contracted, social, sexual and domestic union between a (consenting and biologically unrelated) single adult male and a single adult female is socially and philosophically recognised by almost all Australians as a marriage.
The same cannot be said of relationships that do not meet the above criteria, which creates problems as to why recognition of a widely unaccepted definition should ever be legally enforceable. Voting NO is about rejecting forced recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages, by people who sincerely believe they’re not marriages.
4. To vote NO is to reject bad legislation that could forseeably lead to encroachments upon fundamental civil liberties and human rights.
It is entirely feasible that forced recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages will lead to the Marriage Act and anti-Discrimination laws being weaponised against people who sincerely hold a different belief about marriage. It has been noted that there are completely insufficient protections for religious freedom and freedom of conscience to protect Australian citizens under current legal arrangements, should the definition of marriage change and politicians appear negligent in addressing these issues.
5. Invented rights should not be allowed to trump fundamental ones.
The right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of speech are genuine, fundamental human rights and it is dangerous for any government to impinge upon them. The right to legally compel your fellow citizen to recognise your relationship as a marriage against their conscience or will is an invented right which is dangerous to the free exercise of the aforementioned genuine, fundamental rights.
To Vote NO is to assert that contrived rights relating to sexuality are not equally or more important than internationally recognised rights to freely practice religion and express personal convictions. It’s important that everyone’s most basic rights are protected before invented ones are enshrined.
6. Christians fundamentally disagree with SSM-proponents about the capacity for homosexual activity and relationships to bring good and happiness to those who pursue these things.
From a Christian perspective, homosexual activity itself contributes nothing positive to anyone in Australian society – including for those who embrace it as a core part of their identity and lifestyle.
This is not the same as saying that people who identify as homosexual contribute nothing positive to society or to the lives of their friends and relatives, or even the children they may have in their care – that would be grotesquely untrue. But proponents of SSM and Christians fundamentally disagree over whether homosexual activity is itself positive and fulfilling or negative and destructive – and this leads to diametrically opposed ideas of its relationship to human flourishing (see Romans 1:24-27).
Christians should take an absolute stance against the promotion of homosexuality. From a biblical perspective acting out on same-sex attraction is not a matter of pride or something to be celebrated.
But I’d suggest it is also important to resist pushes to further normalise it as a positive lifestyle or conflate gay relationships with the concept of heterosexual marriage.
Voting NO in a plebiscite is saying no to the further normalisation of something we sincerely believe brings no good, in and of itself, to any affected parties.
7. There are genuine concerns about the impact that enshrining SSM in law will have upon future generations of Australians
The more entrenched in law the supposed goodness of same-sex relationships and their equivalence to heterosexual ones (especially marriage) becomes, the more pressure there will be on institutions (especially government ones) to promote a certain understanding of sexuality.
We don’t believe its beneficial to children for them to be indoctrinated from a young age by systematic untruths about human sexuality (as they are being through government education systems already in some parts of the country).
And irrespective of whether the laws of some states already allow for homosexual couples to adopt children or undergo surrogacy processes – we have grave concerns about the impact upon children if our society continues to move in a direction that says we no longer recognise the importance of a child being brought up by a mother and father wherever possible (and most preferably their own biological parents).
8. Loving our neighbours means seeking what we honestly believe to be good – for everyone involved.
Following points 6 & 7 directly above, I believe that voting NO in the plebiscite is a means of loving our neighbour through political engagement. Some may be motivated to vote against same-sex marriage by hatred for gay and lesbian people. I’m advocating the opposite.
Voting NO says, “I sincerely don’t believe that affirming your relationship as the equivalent of a heterosexual marriage is something I can do if I’m truly seeking your good as a person. I don’t want to come across as arrogant or paternalistic, but I believe God has shown us what is best for human sexuality and relationships and that anything other than sexual fidelity between a man and woman in an exclusive, lifelong relationship is not conducive to happiness. And I believe the law should reflect the special role of committed, heterosexual marriages as the overall, best environment to produce and raise the next generation of Australian children.”
You’re free to disagree and keep pushing for recognition if you wish, but I express my NO out of sincerity and love.”
8. In conclusion, voting NO in the plebiscite is an important means for Christians to express their sincere beliefs about the goodness of divinely-ordained marriage and sexuality for the benefit of Australian society.
Australia isn’t a Christian nation. And so, if we were promoting a certain ideal of marriage under the reasoning that it was the way Christians should behave in a Christian society – our approach would be flawed. But Australia is a society in which the culture, traditional values, social institutions and legal system have all been significantly impacted by Christian ideas and in which Christians continue to have a legitimate role in the democratic process.
Voting NO in this plebiscite is not about attempting to initiate a Christian Raj over an unwilling, non-Christian populace. It isn’t about requiring non-Christians to obey Christian moral teaching. It isn’t about coercing political opponents to bow down before us against their will, nor is it about denying human rights to a small sector of the population and promoting ongoing discrimination against them.
Voting NO is part of promoting goodness in Australian society: seeking what we believe is best for the nation as a whole – even when it proves unpopular. It is entirely consistent with the biblical concept of seeking the welfare of the city (Jer 29:7) and with the political ideal of a commonwealth – where law and governance reflects the common, public good to the greatest extent possible.
And many Christians have come to the conclusion that it’s in the greatest interest of society as a whole for marriage to remain defined as it currently stands in Australia.
So I urge, and will continue to urge my friends to vote NO – for goodness’ sake.
I have written a postscript dealing with the 10 points listed by Nathan Campbell as his justification for abstaining from the postal plebiscite, but decided to post it separately to this piece. You can find it at this link.
 duncan c No (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr.