What will changing the definition of marriage NOT do?

This was written by Rona Goold and posted originally on the The Civil Celebrations Network Incorporated – CCN Inc is a national non-profit celebrant focused community based association.

The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey is simply about civil law, not religious law.

There are many opposing, and thus confusing arguments, being put in relation to this survey.

In Australia, marriage is a civil legal contract under Commonwealth law, regardless of couple’s religious and other beliefs about marriage.

Beliefs and attitudes are not necessarily based upon facts – rather upon what people think is true and what they feel is important (i.e. opinions).

In a nutshell, the Marriage Equality YES campaign would argue that Australia does not stop same sex attracted people from entering into any other legal contracts such as those related to:

  • leasing or purchasing a home or vehicle or some other product or service
  • owning or running a business
  • employment
  • obtaining an education

So why should they not be given the same rights to enter a legal marriage contract?

So let’s be clear – Voting YES for marriage equality will NOT change any laws related to

  • freedom of speech

    Other laws protect people from defamation (libel and slander) because words can hurt people, ruin their social standing, their ability to make money to support themselves and their families, as well as their mental and physical health. Read more


    Laws that govern any society are aimed at ensuring one person’s behaviour is not harmful to another. When other people are harmed, this affects the community around them, and thus society as a whole.

    So there is always a balance between allowing as much freedom as possible for one individual – provided that does not limit or harm the freedom of another individual. If you believe that our laws related to defamation are too strict, then lobby your democratic representatives about that specific issue.

  • ‘political correctness’

    “Political correctness” is not a law and has got a lot of press lately.  Because words can hurt people, many community programs have tried to use language that is fairer, more inclusive and kinder.

    Being kinder in our speech is good for relationships and communities, and does not stop us having opinions, nor being able to freely express those, unless we are wanting to break defamation laws or incite hate.

    Hate speech is not acceptable if we want a cohesive, relaxed and peaceful society.

  • what any or all religions considers ‘marriage’ to be

    In Australia, marriage is a civil legal contract under Commonwealth law that takes precedence over religious law.

    Some religions allow the marriage of children and some have very specific and restrictive roles for men and women that would not be supported by Australian law and/or values.

    Even so, the Australian Marriage Act authorises 120 Recognised Religions  (22,882 ministers as at 15.9.2017) and 500 religious organisations (524 ministers as at 15.9.2017) to also conduct marriages on behalf of the Australian government. This compares with 8188 independent civil celebrants and 293 state officers  (15.9.2017).

    With almost 2/3rds of marriage celebrants in Australia being religious celebrants authorised under law, it is clear that religious tolerance is currently very generously practised by Australia.

    Some would argue then, that given the tolerance granted to people with religious beliefs, why cannot people with religious beliefs be tolerant of those that support same sex marriage?

    Such tolerance is one of United Nations Universal Declarations of Human Rights (number 30) as is the support for equal rights (number 16) as to marriage (only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses), during marriage and at its dissolution – read more.

    Remember that Section 48 of the Marriage Act currently gives all religious celebrants the right to refuse to marry any couple. The Senate Select Committee on Same Sex Marriage, comprised of different political party representatives, delivered a non-partisan consensus report which did not recommend removing this right for religious celebrants to refuse to marry couples.

  • people’s sexual practices in the privacy of their own bedrooms

    Australia has a number of laws related to sexual behaviour.  Like most laws, these have changed over time. However, the underlying basic principle upon which these are now based is: Sexual behaviour between consenting adults in private is notthe business of the government.

    This principle underpins many laws related to sexual behaviour e.g. non-consensual sexual behaviour including rape (even in marriage), child-adult sexual behaviour, sexual behaviour in public, sexual behaviour with animals, and so on.

  • how children are parented

    There are no requirements under the Australian Marriage Act that married couples have children, and no sections in relation to how children should be raised.

    Death, disability or default by the biological parents means there are many examples where children have been raised by single parents, and/ or by siblings, or other extended family members or even by strangers, without major harm.


    The statistics on child abuse and child murder show that some children are harmed in people in heterosexual relationships including marriage so it is parenting behaviour not one’s gender or type of relationship of itself that causes harm.

  • children are educated in the schools system

    How children are educated in the schools in Australian states and territories is a complex inter-play of government laws, funding, the nature of the schools (private or public), parents and other community members.

    Sex education has been a contentious topic in previous eras, and is likely to continue to be whether same-sex marriage is made legal or not.

Do that mean voting YES will have no effects ?

Voting YES for marriage equality will have some effects beyond this simple legal change

Granting same sex couples the same legal rights to a legal contract that treats their couple relationship exactly the same as heterosexual couples will:

  • reduce discrimination against individuals who are same-sex attracted
  • increase respect and tolerance of other people who are different from ourselves, which is important for social cohesiveness and well-being of all people.
  • enable society to focus more clearly on behaviours that are harmful to others, rather than stereotyping certain individuals or groups of people by unfairly associating harmful behaviours with  them.

One Comment on “What will changing the definition of marriage NOT do?

  1. Love Wendell Berry and this article. Of course I am also being lambasted with posts that thunder fire and brimstone, and being zapped by an angry god (lower case g as this is not the God I know). My main concern is that State schools may introduce the concept of gender fluidity (which is a rare reality) but make it compulsory. O.K, an exaggeration but watch this space.

    Like

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