ON January 9, 2010, I looked into the eyes of my beloved and vowed to take her as my wife,’to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part’.
Seven years and car full of children later, there can be no doubt that those vows have changed our lives completely – and for the better.
On September 12 up until November 7, Australians will be invited to take part in a postal plebiscite on the definition of marriage.
The government currently defines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
The marriage debate has become unquestionably polarising and controversial in Australia, not least because it affects all of us.
Just post something on social media and see what happens.
Over the next three weeks, I will write three short columns on the marriage debate, what the Church teaches, and how this might influence our vote.
I focus here on the spirit with which we should engage, and what it is that we’re actually debating.
1. Debate with truth and love
Firstly, in St Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he writes, “conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone”.
If we’re going to have a voice in this debate, we as Catholics, must engage with grace.
You may have noted that not all of the voices in the marriage debate are willing to be gracious and gentle, but not all of the voices claim to know and follow Jesus Christ.
Jesus calls us, Catholics, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43 – 48). So let’s speak the truth, but let’s be gracious, gentle and forgiving. Aggression is not the way of our Lord.
2. Understand the question
Secondly, we have seen some effective slogans particularly by the “Yes” campaign. Slogans such as “marriage equality” and “love is love” have powerfully moved people to feel a sense of injustice that those who are same-sex attracted cannot marry a person of the same gender.
It has created the sense that a “Yes” vote is a vote for equality and love, and a “No” vote is a vote against equality and love.
In order to engage on either side of the debate, we must be honest enough to recognise that everyone already has an equal right to marry.
No matter who you are and where you’re from or what your sexual orientation may be, you have a right to marry.
Marriage is however, by current definition, between a man and a woman, so in order to qualify; you must find someone of the opposite sex. All of that is to say that when you’re considering your own position, the question is not – “do we want equality” or “do we want love” – of course we want equality and love, but it is not equality and love that is at stake. The question is: should the government redefine marriage?
To consider this question, we must consider what the role of marriage plays in our society.
Are the vows I made back in 2010 important for society?