04 Jul 2016
CathNews July 4, 2016
Archbishop: 'Same-sex marriage opponents not bigots'
In a recent wide-ranging speech, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, made the case against a plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage, writes Archbishop Anthony Fisher in The Guardian.
Her three claims were: that opposition to same-sex marriage is essentially homophobia; that the Australian people cannot be trusted to have a respectful discussion about such matters; and so the matter should be left to the parliament.
Is it true that all defenders of the traditional definition of marriage act out of "condemnation . . . animosity . . . casual and deliberate prejudice . . . [and] hate" towards same-sex attracted people, as Penny Wong suggests? Well, until a few years ago the senator herself opposed the redefinition of marriage; so did her leader, Bill Shorten; and so did a number of other political leaders. I do not think they were being hateful bigots at that time.
Straight politicians don't understand what it's like to hide their relationships in fear.
Presumably, their views of marriage and family, or of the needs of same-sex people, or of the proper role of the State and culture etc then supported leaving marriage as it was; presumably, over time, they were persuaded differently. Others still hold the position these leaders previously held: Why presume they are driven by hate? Could it not be that they have real reasons for supporting the traditional conception of marriage? And real questions about the proposed alternative?
Only a decade ago same-sex marriage was a radical proposal with little support among the major parties or general population. Then Penny Wong was in the vast majority. Shifting opinion might be explained by growing sympathy for those with same-sex attraction or changing views (and increasing confusion) about the meaning of marriage. But another reason might be that people have felt pressured into supporting this social change (or cowed into silence) by fear they will be tagged "bigot" if they don't.
The fact is that many ordinary Australians are both pro-gay people and pro-traditional marriage. They know and love people with same-sex attraction and want only the best for them. They know that such people have often suffered injustices in the past and sympathise with the complaint that something is being denied to them still. But they also believe that marriage is a unique relationship that unites people of the opposite sex as husband and wife and, more often than not, as father and mother. Such ordinary Australians are not bigots.