One of the things that we hear often in the debate over the proposed changes to the marriage law is that a change in definition will not affect anyone else.
The claim is put eloquently by the leader of Ireland’s (and now Australia’s) redefinition campaign, Tiernan Brady. In speaking about the Irish referendum which ushered in same-sex marriage, Brady has said: “All that happened was that nobody lost anything and one small group of people in society – our lesbian and gay friends and family members – were allowed to get married.”
It all sounds very nice to be sure (to be sure), but unfortunately, it is at best naive and at worst, misleading.
In the coming weeks on catholicTalk, I would like to begin highlighting ways in which there is potential for people outside the “one small group of people in society” mentioned by Mr Brady to be affected.
One of the ways in which this will occur is in the ability of every day citizens to speak about marriage, and our freedom to gather – even in private – to discuss the meaning of marriage.
We have seen a few very striking examples of this in recent weeks.
First, there was the planned gathering of around 100 people in order to discuss campaigning in favour of preserving marriage. The group was meant to meet at the Mercure Hotel near Sydney Airport, but chose to withdraw the booking after details of the event were leaked on an LGBTI advocacy website and the hotel received “more than 10” phone calls which were “intimidating in nature” and included “physical harm and threats.”
The activists – many, if not all of whom had never set foot inside the hotel – also decided to rate the hotel negatively on various websites. To try and arrest the damage, the hotel shut down its Facebook page.
There were two groups affected by this brand of activism. Obviously, the group which made the booking had to relocate and hold their function in secret, which is something which should not happen in a peaceful country like Australia. The other group were the hotel employees: immediately, those who received the threatening phone calls and, as a secondary group, those whose rosters might have been affected by any downturn in business based on the negative reviews. In choosing to remain neutral in the marriage debate, the hotel and its staff were punished.
This does not seem to be in keeping with the “live and let live” mentality which Mr Brady espouses. Instead, it is much more militant, aggressive, totalitarian.
And then we had the drama surrounding the launch of a book by Dr David van Gend. Titled Stealing from a Child: The Injustice of Marriage Equality, the book unapologetically provides a child-centred discussion of the consequences of redefining marriage.
The day before the book was due to be launched, the printer decided that “due to the subject matter and content” of the book, senior management had come to a decision to not proceed with the printing.
In the “live and let live” world marketed by Mr Brady, such things would not happen. In that world, medical professionals who seek to publish books about their concerns for children would not be silenced. But in a world where the redefinition of marriage has a broader impact than on those same-sex couples choosing to exchange vows, this thing will happen more frequently.
This was expressed well recently by the editor-at-large of the Australian, Paul Kelly. In a public forum on the topic, he said:
Marriage equality is essentially an ideology. It’s compared by many of its advocates with the elimination of racial discrimination; a comparison I believe to be false. Yet, the advocates embrace this comparison and it does lead to powerful conclusions. There can be no halfway house on racial discrimination... It is obvious, however, that once we legislate same-sex marriage, there will be a new campaign based on litigation and anti-discrimination law to extend the provisions and I remind you of the nature of ideology. Ideologies, and particularly ideologies that are winning ultimately do not tolerate or enshrine dissident institutions. So this raises for me one of the central political issues in this debate. Is the push for same-sex marriage based on “tolerance” or “intolerance?”
He sums it up well. Despite promises to the contrary, advocates for same-sex marriage will not stop at a change in the marriage law. They will pursue their campaign until everyone’s freedom is restricted enough so that they are forced not only to tolerate, but to wholeheartedly accept and even celebrate the new definition (or undefinition) of marriage.
The “live and let live” world we are being promised by same-sex marriage advocates does not exist. There will be consequences for everyone.
Monica Doumit, catholicTalk contributor