Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mike Butler: Tide turning for same-sex couples?

Fair Go presenter Alison Mau put her case for same-sex marriage, on TV ONE’s Close Up on Wednesday, by claiming that "there's a tide of feeling globally about this issue”. As a woman in a same-sex relationship wants to get married, Mau said “it's the fact that I could get married 15 years ago when I married for the first time...and suddenly I can't marry who I want to marry now. And that seems odd and silly and outdated."

Is there an actual tide of feeling, or is it that the tide of feeling involves a few luminaries (United States President Barack Obama, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and now Mau) supporting same-sex marriage for political or other reasons?

Appearance seems to eclipse reality when it comes to this issue. For instance, opinion poll organisation Gallup found that while on average United States adults estimated that 25 percent of Americans were gay or lesbian, in fact only 4 percent of all those surveyed in 2011 and about 8 percent of those surveyed in 2002 correctly guessed that fewer than 5 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian.

One explanation for this mismatch between perception and reality has been attributed, perhaps tongue in cheek, to the numerous gays on television, where a disproportionate number of characters in TV sitcoms and dramas are homosexual. A second factor is that homosexuality features disproportionately as a theme in movies and books. In this instance, culture eclipses reality.

Figures from New Zealand’s 2006 census show that same-sex couples make up fewer than 1 percent of all couples in New Zealand. The numbers of homosexual men living together rose slightly from the 2001 Census to reach 0.3 percent in 2006, while the number of homosexual women cohabiting made up 0.4 percent of all couples living together. Numerically this means that there were 3516 female couples and 2655 male couples living together in 2006, compared with 867,696 couples of the opposite sex.

The 2004 Civil Unions Act allowed New Zealand same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples. This near-equality is a relatively recent development since sex between men was only decriminalised in 1986.

To illustrate the low uptake on civil unions, I worked as a wedding DJ, and of the 240 weddings done between 2004 and 2012 I entertained at just one “two brides” celebration and zero “two grooms” events.

Close Up revealed the results of a ONE News Colmar Brunton poll that revealed nearly two-thirds support for same-sex marriage. Asked if they think same-sex couples should be able to get married, 63 percent of respondents said yes, 31 percent said no and 6 percent did not know or preferred not to say.

Carey Baptist College vice principal Laurie Guy admitted on Close Up that it is quite likely Christians will just have to accept same-sex marriage, and said he thinks the church is probably losing the debate.

That may be true, but it does not mean that churches would be required to deviate from doctrine if there are doctrinal and biblical reasons to oppose same-sex marriage. Despite the fact that 63 percent of poll respondents said yes to same-sex marriage, if same-sex couples make up under 1 percent of all couples in New Zealand, church leaders or marriage celebrants who did not agree to it would not face many requests from same-sex couples, and if they did, could just say no.

On the other hand, for those vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage, were it enacted, because it would involve so few people, it would make hardly any difference at all.

If liberal politicians feel pressed to legislate for same-sex marriage, they would still have to contend with dictionary definitions of marriage. The Concise Oxford Dictionary says marriage is the “condition of man and woman legally united for purpose of living together and usually procreating lawful offspring” or “the act or ceremony or procedure establishing this condition”.

By definition, marriage involves a man and a woman, usually for procreation. Same-sex couples cannot procreate; therefore legalized same-sex marriage could only refer to the ceremony and legal benefits, if any.

Of course, legislators could re-define “marriage” in legislation, and if they wished to go further, they could set about re-writing dictionaries. But, they would have a more difficult task re-defining and re-writing people’s prejudices.

Comments on this blog are now closed.


Anonymous said...

This is an assault on society's moral compass, and on religious foundations, in particular. Civil union is one thing, in order to confer legal rights of intimate partnership on the same/similar level as marriage, the absence of which had created injustices. Marriage is, and should remain, what it has always been.

But we a living in a time when destroying societal/cultural/moral norms is the order of the day in the western world. There is no benefit to same-sex (or 'straight') couples of marriage as opposed to civil union. There is simply an agenda to attack and destroy all that has opposed same-sex relationships.

Most western churches (and similar religious organizations) have been seriously divided on the matter, with many acrimonious splits. Unfortunately, the activists will not be happy until they split nations, and it should also be viewed as part of the wider assault on the concept of the nation state.

However, most religious organizations have not helped stem the tide. Most western religious leaders have failed to stand up for traditional values, and have contributed to the perception that traditional values and those that want to uphold them are somehow extreme.

Nobody respects weakness and appeasement, which has been a much greater contributor to the generally diminished respect for religious leaders than the likes of Roman Catholic abuse scandals.

I am not a Christian, but the Christian scriptures say that a man now known as Jesus said he came to bring the sword, which is claimed by Christian scholars to mean division. In that regard, Christianity and societies based on Christian values have succeeded.

In New Zealand, Christians have been unable to agree, or even set red lines. Unfortunately, liberal and nominal Christians have been allowed to set the agenda, and everyone who believes that marriage is a red line that should not be crossed are being set-up as a new ostracized 'other', seemingly for no better reason than the need to bring down traditional values and create an anything goes least in respect of morality.

Sadly, the majority of people are as vindictive as ever. In other matters of justice in our society, the need to extract retribution for the slightest 'sins' remains high on the majority's agenda. Same-sex activists and their supporters are simply creating a new minority whose values are undermined and increasingly ridiculed, without any genuine gains for anybody. And I strongly believe the majority will be the loser.

Evan said...

Dead issue. Let's remember where this all started - the outbreak of AIDS meant that countries in New Zealand moved to get gays confident about identifying themselves. I see the option of civil unions and, better still, gay marriage as encouraging long term monogamy among gay people.

The prejudices of people tend to break down when society moves on. Take de facto relationships for example. The trend to permissiveness means that today cohabitation prior to marriage is the norm - and I can say that I have seen this in both agnostic and highly serious religious young folk!

All this article seems to promote is conservatism whereas we need progress.

Mike Butler said...

Yes, prejudices do gradually break down over time, but I don't expect this to lead to a wide uptake of a homosexual lifestyle, especially since same-sex couples make up fewer than 1 percent of all couples in New Zealand. We need progress in many areas, and our society no longer locks men up for buggery. But legislation that will keep fewer than 1 percent of society happy is not going to mean a great deal of progress, if that indeed is progress. After 40 years of trashing old cultural norms in the name of progress, look at the sort of a society we have now?