The concept of same-sex marriage has only been regulated through the law. The expansion of legal rights and protections afforded to same-sex couples in Australia is well developed at both federal and state level. For example, legislation now exists in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory that provides for the legal recognition of relationships, including same-sex unions. The Catholic Church has exceptionally strong views about marriage and strictly supports only the right of traditional marriage between a male and female. After conducting interviews and analyzing a number of secondary sources, there are many answers and opinions the prolonged question. There is speculation between many parties, whether the Catholic Church should finally follow national laws regarding same-sex marriage.
The Law in Australia
At the federal level, in 2008 and 2009, there was a wide-ranging suite of reforms to provide equal entitlements and responsibilities for same-sex couples in areas such as social security, employment, taxation and superannuation. However, at one point, there remained one significant area of difference between the treatment of same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and that is in relation to the institution of marriage. Undoubtedly, for some in the society, the concept of same-sex marriage is complex and controversial. Issues like social, religious, moral and political questions were raised causing uproar throughout the community. The Catholic Church and the majority of members did not agree with the change. Years and years after the debate on the law, a member of parliament finally stood up for the people. After Malcom Turnbull in September of 2017 raised the bill and demanded for change in the laws, same-sex marriage in Australia has been legal since 9 December 2017. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017 and received royal assent from the Governor-General the following day.
The Church’s View
The Church views marriage as a unique relationship between a woman and a man. Marriage is also a fundamental institution for all societies because of its importance in uniting spouses as potential parents and in providing for the upbringing of their children. It has therefore been understood as the union of a man and a woman in all cultures and religions until very recent times, and is still so defined in international law and the law of most nations. The recognition that marriage is between a man and a woman is not the assertion of prejudice, religious view or irrational tradition, but a recognition of the natural form of human ecology. Homosexual unions contradict nature. They imitate, but they do not complement, and that is key. The same-sex inclination is objectively disordered. It does not prohibit persons of the same-sex entering into other legal relationships. To insist that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman is not a criticism of other kinds of relationships. By recognizing this particular type of relationship our community and its marriage laws do not unjustly discriminate against other relationships: rather, our community and its laws recognize the essential connections between male-female bonding and child-bearing, and between children and their natural parents. Redefining marriage would deliberately create motherless or fatherless families, which would deprive children of at least one of their biological parents and would put the preferences or interests of adults before the right and interests of children. After discussing with Father Stan, a parish priest of St. Ignatius Church, the views the Church have on same-sex marriage, it was said that it’s not necessarily considered a ‘marriage’ as such. If a same-sex couple were to ask to be wedded, Father Stan “would have to refuse, and only proceed to give the couple a blessing”.
Consequences of Change
The Church recognizes that same-sex marriage would have flow-on consequences, where essential roles like motherhood and fatherhood would likely be erased from the law to the detriment of children. A child will have to be brought up with two parents of the same-sex. Faith-based schools, with a responsibility to pass on the faith, may be affected when teaching that marriage is only between a woman and a man. People of faith will be affected as religious organizations and agencies are unable to freely bid for government contracts or other funding without being forced to endorse same-sex marriage. Each of these freedoms have been challenged overseas, where the definition of marriage has changed. In Australia, Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous has taken to the state anti-discrimination commission for distributing a booklet explaining the long held Christian view of marriage, upon which societies through the ages have been built. Although there are a number of negatives, as Father Stan said during his interview, one of the main positives to allowing same-sex marriage in the Church will allow equality between all people. This will increase the number of weddings performed in Churches and a boosted number of happy couples. As simple as it may seem, the consequences of changing marriage are very real and upfront.
Although the law in Australia changed in 2017 to finally legalize and allow same-sex marriage, currently the Catholic Church hasn’t followed in the same footsteps. The strong views of traditional marriage that have lasted for centuries seem to be sticking. There are negative impacts, but the positive seem to outshine as equality is such an important part to society in this day and age. The Catholic Church should follow in the Federal Government’s tracks, finally jump on board and allow same-sex marriage in their churches, which will create a great deal of happiness and equality to communities all over Australia.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. 2019. Same-Sex Marriage| History, Status Around the World, & Facts| Britannica.com. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/same-sex-marriage
- Same-Sex Marriage – Parliament of Australia. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook44p/Marriage
- Wikipedia. 2019. Same-Sex Marriage in Australia - Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Australia
- ABC News. 2019. Thousands of Couples Have Tied the Knot Since Australia Legalised Same-Sex Marriage - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-09/thousands-of-same-sex-couples-tie-the-knot-in-australia/10598058
- Homosexuality| Catholics Come Home. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.catholicscomehome.org/your-questions/moral-issues/homosexuality/
- Catholic Action for Faith and Family. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.catholicaction.org/same_sex_marriage.
- Business Insider Australia. 2019. Here's Where Australian Churches Stand on Same-Sex Marriage| Business Insider. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/heres-where-australian-churches-stand-on-same-sex-marriage-2017-9 [Accessed 02 September 2019].