Position statement on same-sex marriage

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Summary

The SSM postal survey question asks  Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? Currently the law defines marriage as between a man and a woman .

In summary, the Secular Party of Australia (SPA)  have applied a simple analysis based on human rights, and then a more detailed estimation from consequences. We recommend a yes vote.

Further, SPA has evaluated the claims regarding children in such families, whether by donor insemination, surrogacy, adoption etc. According to the majority of peer-reviewed studies, there is no intrinsic damage to children of same-sex relationships.

Statement

Argument from Human Rights

SPA support (a) equality of rights for everyone, (b) as long as such rights do not infringe upon the rights of others. A simple prima facie method can be easily applied.

The effect of  a yes decision would be to extend to same-sex couples a right which is already enjoyed by others, which complies with clause (a).

A yes decision would not  infringe on the rights of others, such as any individuals, or couples comprising a man and a woman, so it also complies with clause (b). The best course of action is clear.

Argument from Consequences

For a deeper analysis, SPA support the use of scientific tools including the use of evidence and sound reasoning. Such tools are exemplified in (Ref 1). In evaluating several different options, the method entails estimating the effect – who is affected and to what degree.

Firstly, those of diverse gender and sexual orientation have been estimated as up to 11% of the population (Ref 2). Perhaps a third of those (4%) would consider marriage. A yes decision will clearly have a large positive effect on those, as they will now be able to achieve their desire. They will also benefit from certain legal provisions restricted to married couples. Further, the hate and discrimination they often receive is expected to abate as their relations become accepted.

Secondly, the effect on the rest of the population (individuals, opposite sex couples, and gender diverse people), would seem to be unaffected in any meaningful way. The UN  Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Ref 3), to which Australia subscribes, lists 30 Articles, which together are deemed sufficient to ensure human welfare. Analysis shows that a yes vote would not decrease the welfare of those opposed.

Thus, a yes decision has strong positive effects (benefits) and apparently no negative effects (harms). There is no loss of freedom, security, peace of mind etc for anyone.

In later sections we examine the arguments used by opponents, and other potential consequences. There are no surviving adverse effects, so the net effect of a yes decision has to be positive.

Comparison with being left handed

Gender orientation is understood to be a product of genetics and  conditions in the womb – the same causes as left handedness  (Ref 4), which affects a similar 12% of people.

Banning gay marriage is analogous to banning everyone from writing with their left hand. Such enforcement was practiced in may schools for hundreds of years. It caused harm to left handers, while having no effect on right handers. This is similar to the position on same sex marriage.

Examining arguments against

Are there any bad consequences of such a change?  SPA have discussed many social issues with supporters and opponents, and thus have heard arguments for the no vote. Opponents also list such objections on web sites such as that of the Coalition for Marriage (Ref 5). Objections, with our comments, include:

  • A desire to impose will on others – We know what is best for them. Opponents often display a wish to enforce a moral code of their own choosing on a group they perceive as different. Attempts to force change through gay conversion camps, for example, have caused only distress and confusion.
  • Freedom of conscience – as if what group A does affects the peace of mind of group B, should they know about it.
  • Against God’s wishes as revealed in a holy book – this does not stand up, as many clerics and religious people support SSM.
  • Corruption of the English language, in that the word marriage would suffer from being corrupted (Ref 6). But of course only sentient beings can experience pleasure and pain.
  • Being gay is not natural – science indicates that sexual orientation is influenced by genetics and perhaps natural events during pregnancy. There is nothing manmade so it is in fact natural.
  • What gays do is abhorrent – such emotive words do not constitute an argument. In any case, it has been estimated that much more sodomy occurs in straight relationships (due to their larger number) than in male gay relations.

For the above objections, the perceived offence occurs only in the minds of individuals suffering from delusions or biases. There is no protection from such offence in the Universal Declaration, as it does not influence human welfare.

None of these arguments carries any real merit, and no harm from a yes decision is indicated.

The effect on adults is explored in more detail in a separate document.

Extended Consequences

The opponents list several other issues which they claim support a no vote.

  • Slippery Slope, leading to the collapse of morality – no evidence for this view has been  presented.
  • Provision of services to gay ceremonies, such as  music, flowers – currently no one is forced to provide any service to anyone, and this will not change. Anti-discrimination laws lie outside the scope of the same-sex marriage issue.
  • Effect on adopted or IVF children – in short it is irrelevant because the SSM decision will not affect children, and any change in such laws would be the subject of separate legislation. However, this issue is much raised by opponents of same-sex marriage, and is discussed in the following section.

Effect on the welfare of children

This issue is much quoted by opponents of SSM. Same sex couples are currently able to access fertility services and surrogacy to obtain children carrying genes from one of them. Moreover, they are able to adopt children under the same rules as straight couples.

This situation will not be changed by the SSM outcome. However the welfare of such children is much quoted by the opponents, with statements such as:  it is better to be raised by a mum and a dad than two mums or two dads. This argument is in error because it contains hidden premises which are not valid:

  • That there is an unlimited resource of ideal straight couples available to adopt – untrue, such couples are scarce, and often a same-sex couple can offer a more suitable placement.
  • That only the children matter – untrue, as the welfare of gay couples wishing to adopt a child is also a consideration.

The actual welfare of children brought up gay vs straight couples (through IVF, donor insemination, adoption etc)  is also misrepresented by the opponents. The evidence clearly shows that children brought up by SSM couples fare no worse than by male-female couples. This is detailed in a separate document.

References for Statement

  1. Practical Ethics, Peter Singer 2011.
  2. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/face-facts-lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-and-intersex-people
  3. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
  4. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-are-some-people-left-handed-6556937/
  5. https://www.coalitionformarriage.com.au/
  6. https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2017/09/demolition-meaning/
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