Marriage Equality: A Christian's Perspective

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Our country is about to engage in a public debate that has the potential to be incredibly spiteful and harmful. On one side, we have those who say that any pair of adults, regardless of gender, should be able to legally marry. On the other, are those who want to retain the legal status quo and maintain marriage as the legal union of one woman to one man.

In general, Christians are characterised as wanting the maintain the current legal definition. But that's a generalisation that will fuel further divisions in our already fracturing society.

I'm a practicing Christian. I go to church almost every Sunday, sometimes twice. I listen to a lot of Christian music, a sermon or two via podcasts each week, go to a fortnightly "growth group" (bible study in the old days) and studied at a theological college. I suspect many of my friends will disagree with me about this. But that's okay - as long as they do so in a respectful and loving way.

I support marriage equality - with one caveat.

The caveat is that ministers of ANY religion should not be forced, by law, to marry ANY couple they believe is in a relationship that is counter to their beliefs. At this point, I believe that civil celebrants should, without discrimination, marry any couple who is legally allowed to do so.

If that is considered to be discriminatory then so be it. But I don't think the law should make anyone do something that is contrary to their personal faith. Down a slippery slope that leads.

Why I am not against marriage equality

I get that my views are contrary to those of many Christians. And that many will quote numerous Bible verses at me about why I'm wrong. Frankly, if you want to play Bible-verse ping-pong then find another place because I'm not interested. Besides, that's a game you play on almost any matter you want. Heck, I'm damned for all eternity if you're a fan of Leviticus 19:28 seeing as I sport a fair bit of tattoo ink on my chest and shoulders.

Marriage is a topic that is important to me. I'm going to be married for the second time later this year. According to some churches, the fact I'm divorced and remarrying will label my wife and I as adulterers.

Assuming ministers of religion are not compelled, by law, to marry a couple who's relationship falls outside what they consider lawful (in a theological sense) then the changes in law are largely irrelevant in a practical sense.

What worries me are bodies such as the Australian Christian Lobby. I've disagreed publically with the ACL before. While they are a very vocal group, it's important to understand they are not representative of all Christians - I'm not even sure they represent a majority of Christians, particularly among my circle of friends.

The rhetoric that comes from such groups can be incredibly divisive and unhelpful.

Christianity is not one set of religious practices

While Christianity is not a single set of beliefs and practices there are a set of core beliefs that I think are not negotiable.

  1. God sent his son, Jesus, to earth
  2. Jesus' earthly ministry, including a sinless life, culminated in his execution on the cross
  3. Three days after dying on the Cross, Jesus body was resurrected

If you believe those core values, then I think you're a Christian. And that deep belief drives YOU to a lifestyle that follows all of Jesus' teaching as revealed in the Bible.

Outside those core matters, churches have wildly divergent views on many things such as the roles of women in ministry, infant versus adult baptism, what age children can participate in the rite of Communion, and any other number of things.

Churches should not follow society Some will argue that it's the role of Christianity to follow the needs of the society. That's not correct in my view.

The church ought to act as a beacon or leader, not be a follower.

In an ABC interview John Anderson highlighted the thing that most disturbs me, as an Australian Christian. The "debate" we are hearing is poorly framed and the extreme ends of the debate are engaging in hateful speech and vilification.

Saying somemone's religious beliefs are irrelevant is, at the very least, disrespectful. We are all guided by some moral compass. Frankly, I think knowing someone's faith background is helpful. At least you have some clue as to how they'll make decisions.

I love the musical Hamilton. Aaron Burr's "Talk less, smile more. Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for" refrain is a reminder that knowing what someone believes is useful - whether you agree with them or not.

A Christian response

There are many areas in the law that challenge Christians. The best response a Christian can make is to pray, vote in the postal poll according to their conscience and pray that, regardless of the outcome, God's will is served. For non-Christians, that might seem a little piss-weak. But as someone who has seen, first-hand, the powerful effect on prayer in situations that seem otherwise hopeless I assure you it is not.

While I don't want to engage in Bible verse ping-pong, there are some parts of scripture that I think can be helpful.

1 Corinthians 10:23 says

"I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything" - but not everything is constructive.

In other words, just because something is legal you don't have to do it if it is not helpful to your faith. For the vast majority of Christians, the fact that two people of the same gender can marry doesn't mean they (as in Christians) should. Similarly, there's clear advice of how sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage. So, while it is legal for a pair of consenting heterosexual adults to have sex outside marriage, it doesn't mean they have to.

When it comes to the debate, I go back to the two laws Jesus told his followers to obey before all others.

Matthew 22: 37-40

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If Christians approach this debate in anything less than a loving way then they are not acting as God intended. We don't have to like someone's actions or lifestyle, but we are to love them nonetheless. That means being thoughtful in what you say and write. Telling someone they are going to go to Hell for voting a particular way isn't just unhelpful. It's theologically wrong (at least in the way I have been taught and studied theology).

For non-Christians - please do not assume that everyone coming from a faith background different to you will instantly be against marriage equality. And if they are, understand that believing something that you don't agree with doesn't make them a bigot.

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Comments

    Well written and an interesting article. Thank you for sharing your views on the subject.

    I'm non religious myself but I do agree with your point that religious leaders not be forced to marry couples.

    Pretty much my position, too. No reason why same sex couples shouldn't be able to get legally married in a civil ceremony. Religious marriage should be done (or not, as the case may be) in accordance with the tenets of the respective religion.

    Well thought out and well written, as a non practising person (multiple beliefs culminating in a not sure but hey whatever floats your boat approach to religion) i am all for marriage equality, and while understanding everyone is different and have their own opinions also agree no religious leaders should be forced to marry same sex couples..

    I could be wrong but can a church not already refuse to marry a couple (man/woman couple i mean) or do they just need the sticker the bars have "management reserve the right to refuse entry/service to anyone"

      Yeah, I think they can. There are however protected classes of people.
      You cannot refuse/fire/discriminate against people based on race, religion, sexuality etc.

        Generally, what you say is true although some elements of anti-discrimination law provide some organisations with exemptions in some states (lots of weasel words in that but that's because it's complicated). For example, Christian schools can selectively hire Christians for teaching roles and not hire non-Christians. The job ads are typically written using words like "must support the school's Christian ethos".

        My kids all went/go the a Christian school and the way they are taught "secular" subjects like maths and science is through a Christian lens. For example, science isn't dismissed but taught through the lens of God's awesome creation.

        That's different topic of discussion though.

          Yeah, that is true. I wasn't going to go into all that.

      Different churches have different positions on this. Some insist couples go through some sort of marriage preparation. For my first marriage, this was a day long session. This time around, it's about six shorter sessions.

      Others will marry pretty much any couple that "makes a donation" to the church (fringe benefit - depending on the church and what community services they offer this can make at least one of your wedding expenses a tax deduction!).

    the issue becomes how much are personal beliefs protected.
    In Canada you have you have a case where they are attempting to shut down a law school at a Christian Uni because Christian views vs Canadian law.
    with out getting into the case, just saying its never black and white we all live in the grey part.

      Agree about the grey. And it only takes one person with an extreme view, from either side, for it into a nasty, divisive pyrrhic fight.

    As an Athiest, my beliefs are obvious, but I have to wonder, if you can deny a marriage because of the church's tenets, surely the same tenet would define a Gay person as someone not able to go to church in the first place. There is some confusion there in my mind.

      I can't speak for all churches but the only people we don't welcome are people that come in on purpose to stir up trouble/disrupt things and child predators because we have lots of kids about.

      It's not like anyone there is perfect, we have all done wrong stuff.

        You've missed my point. How can one thing be disavowed and the other not? It just sounds hypocritical to me, surely if they can't marry gay's because they're, well gay, then gay's should be disavowed too. Oh, full disclosure, if we have to vote, I'll be voting YES. :)

      It varies. But if you're going to exclude people who are guilty of some sin then churches would be empty. And "grading" sins and deciding which is more severe is dumb and, besides, it's not biblical.

        if you're going to exclude people who are guilty of some sin then churches would be emptySee, that just sounds hypocritical and saying it's not biblical is just silly, it is after based on the "Bible" No? This is where religion and particular biblical ones, are completely nonsensical, you want to have your cake and eat it too.

          Yes that would be hypocritical. That's why he gave it as an example of what churches don't do.

            Seems to me, that you are reading into his comment what you want to read into it because that's not how I read it! Just like most people who believe whats written in that big book is actual fact and not the writings of men who wanted to control the masses. A deity didn't decree that Gay's can't marry, the Church elders did.

              Thanks for your comments

              One of the things I didn't have the opportunity to address in the original article is what "sin" is. Most people (Christians and non-Christians alike) think sin is about a specific action. I don't think that's the case. Sin is a condition of being apart from God. Our behaviour is a symptom of that "apartness". Kind of like a fever isn't an illness - it's a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection.

              What the Bible does say is that if you desire a close relationship with God, then you need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. That doesn't mean being same-sex attracted excludes you from church. It does mean that if you are sexually active outside of a marriage relationship (as defined by God) then you are acting in a way that is not what God wants from His covenant relationship with you.

              In my mind, there's no difference between sex between a same-sex couple and sex between a heterosexual couple outside marriage.

              All that said - faith is a deeply personal matter and I'm certainly not going to judge anyone about their lifestyle (In John 8: 7 Jesus says ""Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.").

                I don't want to get into a "tit for tat" on this so I'll make this my last comment.
                If you truly believe the book as rote, then you need to do a little more in depth search on how and when it (Old Testament to new) was written. There were several contributors over millennia, each with their own bias on what was written and church elders over the years had their own agenda, so they tweaked it a bit more. In other words, the Book is tainted, always was, always will be. There is no malicious intent here, just a point of view from someone outside that environment.

      There is no prohibition in the Bible on anyone going to church under any circumstance. There is a instance where a believer committing a form incest is expelled, but in the very next book that same individual is to be accepted back in the church upon cleaning up their act.

      I'm not against marriage equality, it's a secular issue in s country with constitutional separation of church and state.

      As one of those pesky born agains I'm not in favor of watering the faith down, in the same way a practicing Muslim would also be against compromising on the beliefs set out in the Koran.

      Ultimately you cannot legislate an individual into heaven, putting restrictions on behavior by means of law, such as same sex behavior achieves nothing.

      Faith is a matter of the heart and spirit and a real Christian gets it.

      Let the gays have marriage....and divorce for that matter. But also be prepared that there will be pushes for polygamy and other relationships to be accepted once this is fully embraced.

      And don't expect your same sex marriage to be respected when traveling in Indonesia or the Middle East.

        Faith is a matter of the heart and spirit and a real Christian gets itHeh! Love it when Christians pull this old nugget out. Stop using the word "Faith" as away to justify your lack of evidence that your God exists. "Oh, we can't prove it, but we believe"

          Can you unequivocally prove that there ISN'T a God? No one can. Do you BELIEVE there isn't a God? If yes, then you too are using faith in that belief. Everyone has a form of faith. Heck I have faith that when I turn my light switch on that there will be light! I have faith that tomorrow the sun will rise. Faith is, according to a dictionary definition "complete trust or confidence in someone or something". Now whether you feel that faith in someone/something like God is stupid is not up to you to decide only up the the person involved.

            Do you BELIEVE there isn't a God? If yes, then you too are using faith in that belief.No, that's what you want to believe that I believe. I don't have "faith" that there is no "God", there is no evidence and the entire myth of "God" was invented by controlling men and then their manifesto, the "Bible" was adjusted over the aeons to suit a lot of other men! I don't have "Faith" that my torch will light, or that the Sun will rise, that is a proven and verifiable fact! Faith is, according to a dictionary definition "complete trust or confidence in someone or something"No that's something you choose to believe in deference to a complete lack of evidence. Look, I've had this argument a thousand times with people of Faith" and I know for a fact that I can't sway you, I'm not arguing because I like banging my head against the wall, all I'm trying to do is open up a little crack in your lack of evidence base belief. Believe what you want, but if you are going to argue about it, you should expect a damned good fight. Anyway, that's all from me, my head is sore.

    Thanks @anthonycaruana
    As a practicing Christian at a large Melbourne church, your position is one that most closely reflects my own. I have heard a similar position put forth by Tony Campolo (what's the deal with you Anothonies). Personally I will be voting no, much to the disappointment of my LGBTI friends. Not because I am homophobic, but because I don't think there has been enough civil debate on the matter. Both sides of the argument are too polorised.
    I personally would like to see something like the French system (I think it's the French). Where marriage is reserved for and defined by the church (and other faith traditions I guess), while everyone else can have a civil union as defined by the state, which allows for the union of all couples.
    Anyway, it's all become a bit messy, too polarised, and too personal (in some cases). Your article strikes the right balance (IMHO). Thank you.

      Thanks Neil. I think the distinction between a civil union (which is "governed" by the state) and marriage (which is a religious/traditional rite) is important but, under Australian law the two are conflated. And there are certainly conflated in the current debate, particularly by some parties.

      As long as you consider your vote prayerfully and listening to God you're doing the right thing.

        Anthony, and this applies to the guest below as well, marriage is not a religious institution and while it has been co-opted by all major religions it is not and never was their idea.

        Marriage has existed as a concept (although radically different to what we consider it now to be) since well before the idea of Christianty was formed. Marriage in Europe was a civil institution and it was not until the 12th century that the Catholic church defined it as a sacrament.

        There is one applicable legal definition of marriage in Australia at this time and it has no religious definition. If you would like that to be the case then this is an additional issue and one that is not currently up for debate. People that undergo a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony are married. That will not change once same sex couples are allowed to marry.

        What will change is that same sex couples will be able to legally marry and obtain the additional rights that go with that legal definition. People who have no interest in same sex marriage will be entirely unaffected and will live out their lives without noticing any difference.

        Also, at no point is anyone wanting to force churches of any particular denomination to marry people if it is against that religions belief system. Although, as mentioned by someone else above, the hypocrisy of not marrying people but allowing them to attend as a member of a congregation is quite glaring.

          Given Christianity grew from Judaism, and the concept of marriage is described in the second chapter of the Bible and Torah, it's fair to say it's been around for a very long time as a religious rite.

          Although you can chose to have either a religious or civil ceremony, you end up signing the same civil documents.

          That said, I agree with you that "People who have no interest in same sex marriage will be entirely unaffected and will live out their lives without noticing any difference."

          As for the hypocrisy you describe of "not marrying people but allowing them to attend as a member of a congregation is quite glaring." - I'm fairly certain churches are full of people who are not acting in abeyance of what God wants. But church is not for the perfect. It's for the human.

          There are churches I know of that won't allow couples that co-habitate to marry as they ought not be having sex outside of marriage. Is that right? I don't think so but I'm not their judge.

            Anthony, I think you know as well as I do that their are thousands of years of recorded history prior to Judaism. Just because there was a concept in your particular religious book doesn't mean that the concept is 'owned' by anyone. Any religion claiming any such ownership is doing so on false pretenses.

            Marriage as a concept has existed in all cultures that I'm aware of and significantly preceeds any such claim by Christiantity, Judaism or any other Abrahamic religion. Marriage existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and even further back to ancient Babylon.

          Thank you @ma61turbo - a concise and eloquent description of why this should not be a debate at all and certainly have nothing to do with religious freedom.

            So you agree with me that same sex marriage should be legalized. Why I struggle to understand (and not just from your comment but in general) is why people believe their cultural viewpoints deserve to be heard any more than someone else’s. What’s wrong with saying “I see where you’re coming from. You have a right to a dissenting view but I don’t agree with you”. Let’s be thankful we live in a country where dissenting views can be heard and not then spend the next few months demonizing each other.

        'As long as you consider your vote prayerfully and listening to God you're doing the right thing.'

        Many terrible things have come from this kind of thinking.

      Perhaps we should be voting to convert the legal term "marriage" in Australia to "civil union" in that case. Marriage can still happen in religious circles, but all current heterosexual legal marriages can become civil unions instead, at the same time as these then-legal-civil-unions can be applied to same sex couples.

      The issue is equality, and this is why I would urge you to vote yes instead. Why should one couple's relationship be seen as inequal to anothers? Perhaps it uses a term that takes on a different meaning in religion, however the question being put to us is not a religious one. It is not suggesting same-sex marriages would be approved (or not) in the eyes of the Lord or any other religious figurehead. It is suggesting same sex marriages be approved by law.

      The one word means completely different things depending on what you are applying it to. This vote is solely about the legal term.

      In France only civil marriage is recognised by law, religious marriages are purely ceremonial.

      See:

      http://france.embassy.gov.au/pari/Marriage.html

      "To be legally recognised, a marriage in France must take place at a Town Hall (Mairie)."

      Vive la révolution!

        My understanding is the same applies here. When you are married in a church you complete the same paperwork as a civil ceremony. The religious rite is not the legal marriage. But I'm happy to be corrected if I have that wrong (I'm not a lawyer and all that)

          Yes, but in France you can not do the official legal part of marriage anywhere but the town hall. So when I went to my friends ceremonial 'wedding' in a church nothing happened legally, they'd already been to the town hall to complete the official marriage.

          True separation of church and state.

      What civil debate do you need? Either you accept that same sex couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples in their ability to get married or you don't.

      There wasn't civil debate when John Howard added the current "man and woman" definition to the Marriage Act in 2004. Back then of course, Labor supported the change and so it was passed without opposition.

      Would you have the same position on allowing women the vote? Or perhaps allowing Aboriginals to vote when they were previously regarded as Australian fauna?

      I really don't understand the requirement to have a civil debate as to whether or not a subset of the population gets to have the same legal rights as everyone else.

      Last edited 14/08/17 5:03 pm

        Former Nationals leader John Anderson said, and I agree, that the Marriage Act was changed by Howard in order to ensure it aligned with what the majority of the population believed marriage was at the time.

        The current PM and opposition leader should change it back - on that I think we agree.

        The debate needs to be reasonable because we are civilized people. And it needs to be respectful.

        Conflating his with other debates from a different time is unhelpful.

          Putting perspective on an issue is always helpful.

            I agree - perspective is helpful.

            But - giving women the vote was done in the social context of a very patriarchal society over 100 years ago. I can't transplant myself into that time. I'm a product of my time.

            With giving Aborigines the vote - that needed to be a referendum as it was a constitutional change - one that was carried by more than 90% of the population.

          Its hard to have a civil debate on this issue when almost all of the arguments against SSM are not civil and have no basis in fact.

          Its like asking to have a civil debate back in the day on wether women should be given the right to vote. You cant have a civil debate on that when the arguments against it are based on prejudice

            @djbear That's sort of where I'm at. Some people feel that they're being discriminated against, and there's a legal (let's leave religion OUT of it) construct they're not being permitted to take advantage of (marriage).

            I agree with the person that says all existing marriages should be converted to civil unions (and maybe those who've gotten married in churches can get issued "sacrament of marriage" certificates so that they're LEGALLY "married" in terms of the civil union and RELIGIOUSLY "married" in terms of their marriage certificate) ... then all laws and policies citing marriage can be voided as religious discrimination since "marriage" is now only available to those who get it done in the church, and replaced with laws about civil unions. THEN I'd accept that SSM isn't required.

            But whilst "marriage" gives people a different and superior set of rights to civil unions, which it does, "marriage" should be open to all.

            Straight and raised Catholic and old (over 45), but in favour of SSM because I view it in a LEGAL context rather than a religious one.

            And I agree with Anthony that civil celebrants should not be given "right of refusal" but that religious celebrants should not be requiring to perform a religions rite intending to couple up one man and one woman on a same-sex couple. This is a bit awkward because lots of weird stuff such as Mormon polygamy has hidden behind the cloak of religious belief, but it usually takes religions a while to join the party when societal expectations evolve (the Mormons no longer officially practice polygamy, I think it had something to do with government funding becoming an issue if they didn't give it up).

              (the Mormons no longer officially practice polygamy, I think it had something to do with government funding becoming an issue if they didn't give it up).
              The US government started seizing church assets, which essentially forced the LDS prophet (at the time Wilford Woodruff) to pray about what they should do (since they wanted to keep practicing it). God showed them that all the assets (temples etc) would end up being taken by the Government, so it was stopped, because the ability to perform certain ordinances was more important.
              https://www.lds.org/topics/the-manifesto-and-the-end-of-plural-marriage?lang=eng

          You'll have to provide some evidence that the act was changed because it aligned with what the majority of the population believed at the time. Just because the Nationals leader at the time said it doesn't make it true. There was significant opposition to it at the time with many pointing out the discriminatory nature of it. Both the Democrats and the Greens were opposed and even Anthony Albanese made pointed comments as to the devisive nature of the changes.

          There was no asking of the nation to see if that was indeed the case whereas now, every single poll performed over the last few years has shown that a majority supports it.

          So, again, why is there any need for additional debate? The only reason for debate is for the minority that want to impose their 'morals' on everyone else to air their views as to why a subset of the Australian population doesn't deserve the same rights they themselves enjoy. Each and every time one of these people open their mouths they sprout outright lies, mistruths and prejudiced statements; facts are nowhere to be seen.

          The need for civil debate is ridiculous and unnecessary and only serves to malign and demean people.

            I can't provide an exact moment when public opinion changed. Marriage law has evolved over the decades (this is a useful resource) but I note that the law here was changed not long after The Netherlands legalised same-sex marriage. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-17/marriage-in-australia-how-love-and-law-have-changed-in-130-years/8430254.

            The thing about a democracy is that we listen to both sides and then vote. My personal view is that the parliament should just change it - no vote needed. But that's not where we are now so, there will be campaigning and a vote. I agree there is no need for a vote. But if there is to be one, lets be civil rather than sinking into hate speech and vilification. That goes for both sides.

      According to what I've read on the history of marriage it pre-dates religion, so for it to be 'reserved to be defined by the church' is an interesting position. Voting no because you don't think there has been enough civil debate is also interesting. What is it that you don't think has been covered / discussed on the topic? I think the whole thing is pretty simple really and not something that will have any effect on anyone who isn't going to get same sex married.

      Try imagining yourself in a position where you feel you aren't being treated as equal to others in society (difficult for a white Australian Christian in this country) and now imagine someone telling you 'I don't give a toss what you want for yourself which has no bearing on me, that's just how my religion tells me to be on the topic'. Where is the compassion? What are you afraid of?

      Last edited 15/08/17 9:37 am

      Thanks Neil, I was thinking the same thing.

    It must be nice to pick and choose which bits of the bible to believe, while ignoring the bits that show it to be repellent.

    Like the bit where jesus rips families apart, setting them against each other, because he is the only one they are allowed to love.

    If there is a spiteful and harmful debate, its because christians have made it so.

      Both sides have been spiteful. And there's no place for spite here.

    The question cannot simply be about same-sex marriage. The question is about whether or not the believer is willing to declare and defend God’s revealed plan for human sexuality and gender as clearly revealed in the Bible.

    Bible verse ping pong and various views on controversial do not neuter the clear prohibitions regarding the sin of homosexuality. To endorse homosexual sin is to endorse sin. To endorse any sin is not the gospel.

      Why not? What's so wrong with all people being equal under the eyes of Australian law? I am not sure how two people getting married matters to you at all? As long as they are two consenting adults, what does it matter if they are two women or two men?

      Australia is not a Christian nation and any suggestion that ancient superstitions and controlling mechanisms like 'sin' should have any bearing on our laws and what rights people have is disgusting. Comments like yours are exactly the reason why there is no benefit for a 'civil' discussion on the matter.

        If Australia is not a Christian nation then why are Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday public holidays?

          Probably the same reason why we have public holidays for a bunch of other things. But public holidays are hardly a definition of what a Christian nation is now are they?

          Our constitution and law system is not based on Biblical law in any way which is what would be required if we were to be a Christian nation. Our nation is secular and always has been. For examples of nations that are religious nations I'd suggest you take a look at Saudi Arabia, Iran etc where Sharia (religious law) controls daily life.

    Marriage is not something Christians own nor should their beliefs be applied to those not of their religion. I can guarantee a lot of the christians who are against marriage equality due to their beliefs would take issue to Islamic law being applied to them.

    My message to christians against gay marriage is simple

    If you dont like gay marriage, Dont have one, Simple. You have no right do define how others live their lives just like we athiests dont have the right to define how you live your lives.

    A great article.

    I am getting married in a civil ceremony in October, and my future wife and I are being forced to state during the wedding, via our celebrant, that marriage is "between a man and a woman, excluding all others". This has been law since 2004, when the LNP changed the marriage act *without a plebiscite* to include this rule. You cannot get married in Australia, even in a non-religious ceremony, if you refuse to include this statement in your wedding ceremony. It does not matter whether you agree with it or not.

    So, apparently, it's OK for Christian's - via the Liberal National Party - to force their bigotry into our non-religious wedding. Fortunately, the gay family members and friends who are attending the wedding have heard this nonsense many times at previous weddings, so will not mistake these statements for our beliefs.

    Christian's will tell you that it's all about "religious freedom". Not really. It has always been about forcing their beliefs on others.

      At a civil ceremony I attended recently, the couple stated very clearly that they believed marriage should be for any couple. So, even though the law states things in a particular way, you can say whatever you want in protest. It's your wedding - say what you like.

      BTW - the LNP changed the law with the overwhelming support of the parliament. John Anderson (ex Nationals leader) explains the reasons in an interview he recently did with the ABC.

      I agree the law should be changed back.

      OK, that's a bit creepy. Being an immigrant, I have yet to attend an Australian wedding.

      My wife and I didn't get a celebrant or do it officially for this very reason. We had a ceremony, the party, the works but we are only de facto in the eyes of the law because we didn't want to say that shit. When it changes then we'll do it for real.

      It's really disruptive to the ceremony. On your wedding day you're going to have to choose between not saying anything and having a snarky jab at homosexuals in your wedding ceremony or you're going to have to stop your ceremony to say 'hey, this is bullshit, but we're legally obligated to do this'. Too sacred to touch, until we need to remind homosexuals they don't have real feelings like us normal people.

    Interesting discussion.

    It raises the point that in 1953 Australia Mick Daly and Gladys Namagu were refused the right to marry because Gladys was Aboriginal and Mick, who was white. I think most people would have to find this reprehensible now. In 50 years time what will people think of same sex marriage being likewise denied?

    The Northern Territory Director of Welfare, Mr. H. Giese, has refused permission for a white man to marry an aboriginal girl.

    The man had been living with the girl.

    In Katherine Police Court to-day the man, 33-year-old drover, Michael Daly, told the magistrate. "This is not fair. I want to marry the girl. They said I could not live with her illegally but they will not let me marry her."
    From The Canberra Times 12 August 1953 - http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/103127849

    As a gay person I would hope the prliament does pass the law with provisos that a recognised minister of religion cannot be forced to marry a couple. That they will always retain the right to excuse themselves if it's against theor beliefs. This seems only fair to me.

    Marriage equality is a no brainer:
    *Christians can't knit pick want they do and don't like in the bible. If they accept the "grave sin" of homosexuality as espoused in the bible then they must also accept the bible mandated punishment of death by stoning or whatever.
    *Every society has a minority population that is naturally inclined towards homosexuality. Did God create these people with this inherent "sin" that they have to live with and struggle against? That's unfair and nonsensical.
    *Religion is entirely false and concocted with proven and indisputable errors. We shouldn't allow it to deprive people of feeling equally part of Australian society. Not to mention, religion is transient: what you follow today may not be what your descendants follow. The author is a prime example. His surname appears Maltese and harkens back to Kairouan in Tunisia. This would strongly imply Islamic ancestry. This religious transience shouldn't be an excuse to hold back human progress.

      Christians are not, all, nit-picking when it comes to what they like in the Bible. I'll take the good with the bad. In your example of stoning - I'll go to what Jesus said about whoever is without sin casting the fist stone. He pretty much put stoning out to pasture in that instance.

      God made us ALL in his image. And he loves everyone. But that doesn't mean he likes what we do. He doesn't like adultery, theft, murder, etc. I'm not going to grade sins on their severity. But I don't see sex between two people of the same gender as different to sex between an unmarried couple.

      My name is Maltese. My faith is not transient. Linking race to faith is not helpful.

        We have to remember though. The bible was written by man. Not by god. And it was written by men during that time wanting control over the population.

    This isn't a religious issue so a religious person's perspective is about as relevant as my dogs perspective. I really dislike that religious groups see the work marriage and automatically assume they own it.

      Marriage means different things to different people. Everyone has a right to be heard in a civil and open society.

    The caveat is that ministers of ANY religion should not be forced, by law, to marry ANY couple they believe is in a relationship that is counter to their beliefs. At this point, I believe that civil celebrants should, without discrimination, marry any couple who is legally allowed to do so.

    If that is considered to be discriminatory then so be it. But I don't think the law should make anyone do something that is contrary to their personal faith. Down a slippery slope that leads.

    You're making an assumption that gay people would want to be married by an institution that discriminates against them. I feel this would be extremely rare and to hold off on a step towards equality because of an extremely rare thing that may possibly happen that won't actually impact anyone is just a ridiculous as religion in the first place.

      From what I am reading, and messages from clergy across a number of denominations, I expect many churches to happily marry same sex couples. Not all churches are the same. There is a wide continuum of difference in religious practice for Christians.

        I've got a bit of a problem with it because it basically says "religious belief can trump law". Does this proviso mean that female genital mutilation is now OK and not sexual assault as long as it's done by people who believe with all their heart that they're following their religion?

        If not, what's different about it? The only thing I can see is the age of the victim. What about if the victim of FGM is above a reasonable age of consent like 16 or 18?

        If there's a slippery slope, THAT, and not the issue of SSM, is the one that I see -- allowing people in religions to take "conscience exceptions" to the law and do things that would otherwise be illegal, but for cover of their religion.

        That said, I see convincing churchgoing Australians that their church must offer marriage to same-sex couples as pretty much impossible because of the hatred and odd fear around this issue, and I'd guess that the majority of people affected by the legalisation of SSM don't particularly care either way about that, so it's easiest to just leave that whole thing out by giving religious celebrants a right of refusal.

          I would also ask the question as to why you have made the statement that the law should not make anybody do anything that is contrary to their personal faith but then don't permit a civil celebrant the same ability to decline to marry a couple that a minister would have. Surely if it is acceptable to permit a minster to decline a civil celebrant should also be afforded the same protection.
          Now that we have opened that door, where does it end? Why should the cake decorator who finds a SSM against their personal faith be forced to provide their service. They may find that it affects their business model as they may lose, or gain, other customers but why is their personal faith worth less than a ministers?

            I didn't go into it fully but I see a civil celebrant as an extension of the government. So, by that reasoning, they would have to follow the law. Once the survey is completed and counted (the results will be made known in mid November) we'll see the actual law that will be put to the parliament.

            Ministers of religion already have certain exemptions under equal opportunity law and I assume these will be extended to same sex marriage.

            As for your examples - I don't think businesses should be allowed to discriminate. My gut feeling is this will be tested in the courts at some point.

    You touched on it above, Christian as a catch all term for followers of Christ has only recently become the default answer to the religious question in the last 30 or so years. Prior to that if you were asked or asked someone, the answer was usually their denomination, Catholic, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist etc. The ACL abuse this to their advantage.

    I generally object to the Government forcing anyone to take action against their will. I'm interested to know how many gay people are members of a congregation that doesn't support marriage equality that would still want to get married in their Church. Understanding that I am speaking with complete cis straight white male privilege, I suspect that gay Christians would gravitate toward supportive congregations. If I am way off base please, let me know.

    I'm agnostic and I fully support marriage equality, and i'm sure many Christians also support it; however, let's not beat about the bush: there is no way a Christian who takes his religion seriously can ever support marriage equality. It's like saying one's a Christian and also rejects that Jesus is God. Ain't possible. In reality, Anthony has chosen to have his cake and eat it, but let's not kid ourselves that this is ever compatible with proper Christian laws and values. As an agnostic, though, i am rather pleased with such a liberal mentality because it is these sorts of Christians that lead to the demise of Christianity over time.

      Thanks for your thoughts Jimmy.

      Let me be really clear. I will be voting yes but that doesn't mean I think same-sex marriage is a path to salvation. But I don't think writing a law that forces one group of people to conform to another group's version of "right" is useful. I'll paraphrase that short passage from 1 Corinthians I noted in my original story. Just because the law says you can do something doesn't mean you should.

      Adultery is not illegal. But I don't think we should engage in it.

      Christians (and those of other faiths) will live their lives according to the rules and precepts of their faith. I don't think I should decide what those rules are for everyone.

    I blame Constantine I. Up until then, believers adhered to Jesus' own remarks regarding the separation between the "Church" and the "World" (or as we'd call it nowadays, "State"). Once Christianism became an Empire's (state) religion the pervasive idea that Christians are not only "responsible" for the politics and cultural standards of a nation, but that it is also their "duty" and, worse, their "right".

    Even though we've slowly managed to reintroduce the idea of the importance of church and state separation, much of that pervasive thinking remains and is rationalised with seemingly positive platitudes such as "we can change the world", "bring Heaven to Earth", "reclaiming God's Kingdom", etc. which are, nevertheless, contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible.

    If we live in a society that has come to regard the union of adults of the same gender as within their constitutional human rights, your personal beliefs are of no relevance. You don't have to vote "yes" if you don't want to, but I can imagine no justification to vote "no".

    Hey Anthony,
    Thanks for your well written article. I appreciate the lack of condescension you’ve applied to both sides of the spectrum and particularly in how you’ve been handling replies to comments here. I’ve been thinking about my own views after reading this a couple of days ago. I myself am a Christian although find myself in a more conservative position than yourself. Though we may disagree on same-sex marriage I agree that it’s really an in house issue for the church to resolve and not one that ultimately compromises the essential beliefs for what it means to be a “Christian”. I should say that none of what I’m about to write is intended to be offensive to the LGBTQ community but with the current state of debate today it seems impossible to avoid. So to those I offend, I do apologize as my words are not intended to do you harm. I should also say Anthony that not all of what I write is directed at you, some of it is in relation to the comments posted.

    For me, it’s still strange to read the term “marriage equality” as it seems to imply that there is some level of discrimination that is currently occurring based on one’s sexual orientation. This isn’t true however – after all a gay man can marry a gay woman - the law is blind to sexual orientation in this sense. Nevertheless I appreciate and understand that perhaps it seems unfair to many people that a man and woman can marry but not two men or two women. Really what is at the core of the debate is what people believe marriage to be – and this is where current culture has really separated itself from traditional (and particularly conservative Christian) worldviews.

    While current culture views marriage as a monogamous relationship between two people entered into for life (although even that is under threat these days with polyamorous and so called “open marriages”) the traditional orthodox Christian view of marriage goes much further than this. For one, it’s not merely a contractual agreement entered into before the courts or laws of the land, it’s a covenantal relationship entered into before God. But then also secondly, the marriage relationship is a fulfilment of the design and purpose God has had for mankind from creation – both in the unique roles and characteristics men and women inherently possess as image bearers of God and then also reproductively between them in populating the planet and raising families. For the Christian, marriage is at the very heart of what they believe God’s purpose was in creating the world.

    It’s for this reason, that I’m having trouble understanding your paragraphs describing “why I am not against marriage equality”. You write,

    “Frankly, if you want to play Bible-verse ping-pong then find another place because I'm not interested. Besides, that's a game you play on almost any matter you want. Heck, I'm damned for all eternity if you're a fan of Leviticus 19:28 seeing as I sport a fair bit of tattoo ink on my chest and shoulders.”

    It’s hard for me to understand the argument here. You seem to be arguing reductio ad absurdum that biblical texts don’t hold authoritative value - which is totally fine if you’re not a Christian or you’ve given up the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. However, if you want to maintain a doctrine of biblical inerrancy (as I and I think most other Christians do), then you need to do the hard yards in coming to a holistic hermeneutic that allows you to explain your interpretation of what a biblical worldview is. On the flipside, if you’re okay with giving up biblical inerrancy then it’s hard to see why you would quote bible verses later on in the article. Nevertheless, while I think one has to twist scripture quite hard in order to classify homosexual activity as moral, I’m not sure that specific bible verses are even needed. I’d urge you as a Christian brother to consider not just specific verses prohibiting homosexual activity but rather look at the entire narrative of humanity in terms of the purpose God has created us for, the unique characteristics and roles of men and women and our reproductive functions. It’s probably even worth considering the metaphor between a groom and bride being compared to that of Christ and the Church.

    Now of course, all that I have mentioned so far is probably anathema or at the very least nonsensical to any non-Christians following along. My main point here is really just to highlight that on a conservative Christian worldview, marriage as a concept is already quite different to how secular society sees it, and to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions moves the definition so far from that conservative position that it cannot in good faith even be called marriage anymore. I suspect this is where some of the opposition lies for Christians, since for married folks it retroactively redefines their relationship into something other than what they believe it is.

    For my part as a married Christian man, it’s hard for me to know how I will feel about the laws redefining the relationship I’ve been in with my wife for five or so years now. On the one hand, sure, we’ll still be married, but on the other hand what marriage means would no longer be representative of what I personally hold it to be. I’d have my marriage before the state and then my marriage before God but they will mean entirely different things such that the term “marriage” will become ambiguous. I worry that equivocation over time will confuse and erode that distinction away for many folks.

    The second and probably more justified opposition to same-sex marriage is actually out of a deep sense of care and concern for LBGTQ friends. It’s hard for me to feel that a vote for same-sex marriage isn’t enabling, encouraging and normalize behavior which I ultimately believe runs counter to God’s desire for man. From where I stand, being loving doesn’t mean enabling and permitting behavior which ultimately harms the individual in question. I cannot support homosexual behavior any more than I can adultery, lust, pornography etc. Note that this is not arguing about someone’s eternal destiny, but rather I am claiming that an individual is actually most fulfilled in this life when they are living inside the will of God. I am speaking here from my personal experience in remembering that the times I have been most joyful and fulfilled are not when I’ve been trying to maintain an element of known sin in my life, but rather when I continue to choose the Good despite the temptation not to.

    I appreciate that a non-Christian would struggle to make sense of what I have written here; take God and a Christian worldview out of the picture and it’s hard to make sense of a claim that homosexual behavior does any harm to an individual. But that is also precisely the point; the (conservative) Christian view of the world is so different than a secular perspective that in order to understand the opposition to same-sex marriage one must at least try to understand that worldview first. A Christian’s opposition to same-sex marriage has honestly got nothing to do with homophobia or bigotry but has everything to do with attempting to prevent people from falling further away from God’s intended purpose for their life – it’s a concern born out of love and care and not one out of hatred. For many it’s probably easier to label Christians as bigots because it justifies having righteous indignation toward them. Really though, if one finds themselves disagreeing with a conservative Christian perspective, then they’d be more accurate in labeling them as confused or mistaken.

    Whilst I personally don’t find it offensive for someone to label my religious beliefs as irrelevant (I make an effort to try and not be offended all that easily) it does confuse me. We seem to operate in a society where people think of “religious beliefs” as though they are a special kind of belief that can be neatly tucked away when it comes to issues concerning the whole of society. I strongly disagree with this however. I believe that to live as an authentic Christian, the Christian perspective should be completely integrated to every area of one’s life. It forms the basis of your worldview such that it not only affects what you may do on a Sunday, it affects how you conduct yourself at work, how you raise your children, how you relate to others, how you treat authority, how you vote politically and even to mundane things such as how you drive your car. Without a holistically integrated worldview you run the risk of being caught in dichotomous existence where you hold beliefs that are contradictory to one another. This isn’t special treatment for Christians; I’d expect the same from anyone else. I’d expect an atheist’s views on God’s non-existence to permeate through every aspect of their life too - for them not to would be inconsistent. After all, a worldview is a description of how an individual sees the entirety of reality from their perspective and this should extend and inform what policies and laws they believe should be in place. Note that that doesn't mean intolerance of all other views since tolerance itself could be a virtue in someones worldview (tolerance here meaning tolerating differing viewpoints despite fundamentally disagreeing with them)

    The point is that in a democratic society where everyone comes to the table with differing worldviews, it’s not really fair to expect that you can exclude a whole class of people from having a say because they share what may be deemed to be a “religious” worldview. Religious or non-religious, a worldview still describes someone’s actual opinions of how they see the world.

    For the reasons above I am also very wary of a law that tries to create particular exemptions for “religious” celebrants vs civil celebrants. Why should a civil celebrant who is personally opposed to same-sex marriage be forced to marry couples simply because their worldview doesn’t make reference to a deity? You write:

    “I don't think the law should make anyone do something that is contrary to their personal faith. Down a slippery slope that leads.”

    The term “faith” here allows you to stay within the religious framework, but I would prefer to say that we shouldn’t make laws which force anyone to do something that is contrary to their personal beliefs or convictions regardless of whether those beliefs are religious or not. Willingness to force its citizens to engage in actions which they personally believe are immoral by law is a scary position for a country to take. I would prefer us to leave open the option for all people to decline to engage in a particular activity on the basis of their conscience.

    So where does that leave us in regard to what laws we should be implementing in order to treat same-sex couples with the same fairness that heterosexuals couples enjoy through marriage? Though I know views vary drastically, if society wants to equally legally accommodate same-sex unions (which it seems it does), then I would support converting existing marriages to civil unions under law with identical rights to those now in place in marriage. This seems to me to be the best compromise in terms of allowing the law to treat couples fairly whilst also preventing equivocation and dilution to the term “marriage”.

    I’m doubtful this would be enough for the LGBTQ community. While there may be concerns over complications with international travel and other practical matters, I suspect that the real reason this would be insufficient is because the LGBTQ community doesn’t merely want to be afforded the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, they want their relationships to be normalized to the point as to be seen as identical with heterosexual couples culturally. As a conservative Christian that views men and women as equal in value yet not identical in function, I hold that heterosexual marriage has a unique dynamic that can never be fully replicated in a homosexual relationships. As a result, I can't support such a change since the term “same-sex marriage” is actually a non-sequitur on my worldview - I understand what a secular society means when it’s uttered but that meaning is antithetical to my views on what marriage and its purpose actually is.

      Thanks Brad - that’s quite a lot to digest. I’m not going to answer you point by point but wanted to mention one thing.

      Saying I’ll vote yes is not saying it’s ok. My vote comes down to saying I don’t have the right to “inflict” my views on anyone else. I’m about to be married for the second time. I’ve been thinking long and hard about marriage as my fiancé and I prepare ourselves.

      I don’t see marriage berteeen two men or two women as being any different to adultery. Adultery is not illegal. And it’s not condoned in scripture.

      I would find it very hard to take if my church conducted same sex marriages. That would be contrary to God’s law as it applies to Christians.

      But for a non-Christian engaged in a civil process/ceremony I think it’s different.

      One of my concerns is that Christians who speak publicly against same sex marriage could be prosecuted. This is happening today in Tasmania to a former classmate of mine.

      As long as Christians remain free to preach the Gospel (and other faiths from their scriptures) I can live with this law change.

        No worries with not replying point by point - there's quite a lot there! Thanks for the clarification on your views and if I misunderstood them initially.

        I hear what you're saying regarding your vote being about not having a right to inflict your views upon others. However, I'd encourage you to think about what a democracy is and how it functions. I'm of the view that democracy only works because people are willing to let their views be known and "inflict" these on others. Inflict probably seems too strong of a term to me since it seems to imply an element of purposeful malice, but at the very least we should say that in a democracy our views affect others. I mean, this is the entire point right? We vote for candidates that best represent the worldviews we hold and will implement laws and policies that are inline with them. Really a vote in any direction has the intention of placing ones views as the majority and thereby affect all citizens.

        Think about it from the flip point of view. Should the LGBTQ community vote "no" because they don't want to inflict their views upon anyone else? Of course not! They are entitled to hold their beliefs just as much as any other group and should feel free to vote according to their conscience. More to the point, if you vote "yes" then that is already a vote to place that view upon others (namely those that oppose SSM)

        Really in a democracy the only certain outcome is that someone will be affected, so why not vote according to your conscience and worldview - you are just as entitled to it as any other citizen who has voting rights. Democracy would cease to function if we were unable to freely assert what we believe to be true and right about the world.

        I think what we really want to maintain is an individuals right to freedom of belief and freedom of speech such that regardless of the laws in a democracy someone cannot be made punishable merely for believing and articulating a view. As I understand it, this is exactly what separation of church and state is all about - namely that people should be free to choose their worldview regardless of the churches doctrines and laws shouldn't be decided upon by the church but rather by the citizens of that democracy. What it doesn't mean however is that citizens with religious worldviews shouldn't be free to vote based on their conscience or advocate an opinion at all.

        This freedom of belief and speech is what allows the LBGTQ community to advocate for changes to law in the first place. And it's what I believe should allow conservative christians (along with other people groups) to continue to advocate for heterosexual marriage if/when laws on marriage are redefined.

        You write:
        "I don’t see marriage between two men or two women as being any different to adultery. Adultery is not illegal. And it’s not condoned in scripture."

        And sure I agree with you that not everything that is legal is morally permissible, but that line of reasoning only goes so far right? Part of the reason we have laws in the first place is because as a general consensus among a countries citizens we find some actions to be immoral and worthy of punishment. Law to at least some degree is informed by societies moral compass.

        I take it that murder is illegal because society has a common moral intuition that all human life has a right to life. If someone were to advocate that we should have the right to murder others, then I would oppose them and vote against them if I were given the opportunity. I wouldn't in good conscience be able to vote in support of it reasoning that I have no right to oppose this since there are other legal activities which I also disagree with. For example, I happen to disagree with the death penalty even though it's legal in some states of the US and would oppose it if it was brought into Australia.

        Hopefully some food for thought :)

        I'd be interested to know the details of the case Anthony, but understand that you probably won't be able to comment.

        Fundamentally, there are laws in place where speech that is interpreted as hate speech is illegal. If your friend has crossed that line, and I've seen many comments from people who are against SSM that are definitely across that line, then he will be, quite rightly, prosecuted. The hurtful comments coming from the negative side of the argument (funnily enough you don't find them coming from the pro side, unless you consider calling people hateful bigots) can be and should be dealt with as per the law. Suicide rates amongst LGBTI people are high and a large reason is because of hateful, bigoted people.

            This is exactly the kind of speech that should not be allowed and quite rightly has been referred to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

            If you feel that the kind of things he has been saying, according to that article, should be allowed, I'd suggest that you rethink your point of view. The only ones sprouting hateful and hurtful things are not on the pro side and any intimation, that you keep on making, that both sides are equally at fault with lack of respect is a false equivalence.

            People are, rightfully and respectfully, pointing out all the time that LGBTI lifestyles are natural and normal. Homosexuality is in evidence in something like 5000 animal species. Feel free to disagree with the lifestyle but openly deriding it based on beliefs that come from an ancient book are not on.

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