What are your views on marriage equality?

The Atheist Foundation of Australia’s stance on same-sex marriage is that many of the arguments that appear to be posed against it are based upon religious grounds. On that basis, and due to historical evidence and other arguments in support of same-sex marriage, marriage equality is something that should be supported.

Marriage is a secular contract in Australia, presided over by the Government. Marriage ceremonies do not have to be performed in a church (in fact, you’ll find numerous venues, halls, even gardens and restaurants that cater to non-church marriages, and celebrant ceremonies are held in places all over the country), nor must it be conducted by a church minister to be considered valid and legal. Civil and societal laws exist in Australia, which is a secular country, and that tradition has existed for a long time. You can find more about Australia’s secular history in a book of essays contributed to by a number of academics and writers, called The Australian Book of Atheism.

The Marriage Act was amended by John Howard in 2004 and it can be amended again to include same-sex marriage. The campaigns by groups like the “Australian Marriage Forum” includes a number of claims that can be found to be false.

Some of these false claims include that the status of opposite-sex families will be somehow changed by the acceptance of same-sex marriage. This is based on no evidence, and certainly the existence of civil unions, de facto and polygamous relationships do not change the status of opposite-sex families, since human rights and legal precedence do aim to protect relationships and people in cases such as prejudice and discrimination. There will probably still be divorces, breakups, remarriages and retaking of vows as there usually are for opposite-sex families in an equal-marriage world, no matter if their neighbours are gay, straight, whatever.

Other arguments include that marriage is for procreation and opposite-sex marriages are necessary for happy and healthy families. People may choose not to (or may not be able to) have children if they are married and yet their unions are still considered legal. Mothers and fathers may be single-parents, or divorce (and remarry, and even remarry again, and so on) – and yet we see many happy, healthy, well-adjusted children growing up in our communities. There are children who live with guardians, with their grandparents, with other relatives and may even be legally emancipated and working with no family whatsoever – and they can live fulfilling and meaningful lives:

Multiple studies across the social sciences have repeatedly demonstrated that there is no difference in psychosocial outcomes between children raised by opposite-sex couples and those raised by same-sex couples. There is no evidence that children are psychologically harmed by having two dads or two moms. The American Psychological Association (APA), the American Sociological Association (ASA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has each endorsed the legalization of same-sex marriage and its capacity to provide a stable familial framework for children.

Finally, there’s the argument that traditionally marriage is only between opposite sexes. I would point out that for a long time, societal separation between different races was a ‘tradition’, and so was women not being educated the same as men (or not being educated at all), and marriage between people of different races seen as ‘wrong’. There are also countries where marriage can mean something completely different to ‘one man, one woman’ and therefore to say that Australia has it ‘right’ is very culturally narrow-minded.

Times change, traditions change. Ireland – with one of the most established Catholic demographics in the world – and the USA – known for a large number of religious groups – are just two countries that now have marriage equality. It seems nonsensical for Australia to adhere to a limited definition when the world is moving forward.