Gay Marriage “Watershed Moment” – Feelings or Thoughts?

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My wife and I watched the excellent Iron Lady last week. About halfway through there is a telling moment when Thatcher goes to see her doctor. He asks her

how are you feeling?

One of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas!

So very, very true, and bourne out not least in the ongoing debate over “gay marriage” here in Australia.

About 3 weeks ago on the ABC Q&A programme there was yet another question on this topic. The two to answer were Joe Hockey, the shadow Finance Minister (a conservative married Catholic) and Penny Wong, a finance minister in the ruling Labor government and a lesbian who had recently “had a child” with her partner – in many ways Wong is the poster-girl for the “gay marriage” campaign. Here’s how it went:

The transcript is available here.

smh reporter Judith Ireland suggested it was “a watershed moment” in the debate.

It may only be brief but activists are calling the exchange a ”watershed moment” in their campaign for same-sex marriage – both allowing people to understand the debate at a personal level and demonstrating its status as a mainstream political issue.

Indeed it was, but perhaps not for the reasons being suggested. What the exchange served to demonstrate was that the argument of “gay marriage” advocates is entirely one of feelings over thoughts. Consider first the answers given:

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I don’t believe we necessarily make better parents because we’re a male and female. I must confess my view has changed since I’ve had children and that’s very hard and lot of my friends, whether they be heterosexual or gay, they hold the same view as you. But I think in this life we’ve got to aspire to give our children what I believe to be the very best circumstances and that’s to have a mother and a father and I’m not saying that – I’m not saying gay parents are any lesser parents but I am being asked to legislate in favour of something that I don’t believe to be the best outcome for a child.

It’s hard to know how he could have answered it better, given the circumstances. Note clearly what Hockey is arguing – it’s not about individuals but “the best outcome for a child”. There’s a idea that can be tested – what family situation gives the best outcomes for children? It moves us beyond rhetoric and anecdote to real stats. And the stats are pretty clear – study after study show that the best outcomes are achieved for children when they are raised by both biological parents. So when Hockey (and others) argue that this legislation would be to the detriment of children they’re not just pushing an unfounded agenda.

But note Wong’s reply. First, contrary to Ireland’s suggestion that,

Wong was not expecting such a personal question on Monday night – as is clear from her look of surprise and intake of breath when the question was asked

she was well ready for it, and in fact greeted the question with pleasure. The only view we are given of her (at approx. 0:30) is a gentle smile and appreciative nod. When Wong answers she knows exactly what she’s doing – it’s well prepared.

Well, there’s almost nothing I can say. I think the first logical point is marriage has generally not been prerequisite for children, so I don’t think, you know, the logical position holds…

This is, of course, patent nonsense. Marriage has long been understood to be prerequisite for children, indeed much of marriage law centers around how children ought to be treated. Conversely when somebody needs to see a lawyer about their marriage they go to a “family lawyer”. The two have long been understood to go together, like the proverbial horse and carriage. Now, granted, in recent decades the divorce between children and marriage has become far wider, but the evidence is obvious that this has been to the detriment of society. Children of single-parent families have, on average, worse outcomes. Again, that’s not to say that single parents are somehow worse at their job, but their job is certainly harder. Wong continued:

…but just from a sort of values perspective, it is sad, I think, that some families have to feel that they have to justify who they are because when you say those things, Joe, what you’re saying to not just me but people like me is that the most important thing in our lives, which is the people we love, is somehow less good, less valued, and if you believe that then you believe that but I have a different view.

Now note how the conservative position has been misrepresented. Hockey states that he wants the best outcomes for children in general and yet Wong says he  and others are seeking to “justify who they are”. Again, Hockey states that Wong is, no doubt, not a lesser parent but she turns it into him making an attack on those that she loves. It’s simply dishonest misrepresentation that seeks to continually switch from thoughts to feelings. And then the coup de grace:

TONY JONES: Is it hurtful?

PENNY WONG: Of course it is but, you know, I know what my family is worth.

And that’s meant to be the knock-down blow. Wong knows what her family is worth to her and so, also, ought we. She loves them and so for anyone to deny them their “equality” is to deny the worth of the family they have created. So a number of observations are needed. Despite her opening sentence, Wong shows us that she understands perfectly well that any argument about marriage is an argument about family. She is not afraid to use her own view of “family” in order to bolster her case. But what a bizarre view of “family” she has to put up.

Now what I say next will, perhaps, sound harsh but we ought to face up to the reality of what is going on here. Wong and her partner are, themselves, unable to have children. Unlike a heterosexual infertile couple this is through no aberration in them whatsoever. It’s just the plain facts of biology – 2 women together cannot make a baby. Yet they were not happy with this situation – they argue that their relationship is natural and yet are not willing to accept the natural outcome of that relationship and so they acquired the sperm of man outside the relationship, used it to fertilise one of their eggs (presumably Wong’s, since the baby has distinct asian features) and then implanted the embryo in Wong’s partner. They then go on to insist that they be regarded as legitimate parents just as natural biological parents are. Now, consider this very carefully. When Wong says she knows “what my family is worth” she is demanding that we affirm a quite bizarre situation – that we state that a baby has “a mother and a mother”, a biological fiction.

Now, don’t get me wrong on this – there are some situations that are comparable but noticeably different. When an infertile heterosexual couple seeks sperm donation it’s not quite the same since the intention is to rectify what should normally be achievable (and, for the record, I don’t think it’s a good thing in those circumstances but here I’m only really seeking to do the comparison). Similarly when a heterosexual couple adopts a child they are also establishing a family system that is consistent with how things are in nature. All of those (and other scenarios that have been suggested) tend to be working towards a restoration of what should be there in the normal course of events. What Wong and partner have done is different.

Of course, none of this diminishes the strength of emotion that they feel for this child – that is never in doubt. To suggest otherwise is palpable stupidity. But just because they feel the strength of emotion they do is that a reason in and of itself to utterly change our definition of what family is? Even more, is it a reason to seek to brand those who disagree as the worst possible sort of bigots? But that’s where we’ve ended up – at this watershed moment. A nonsensical bizarre redefinition of family and marriage that is being driven forward because of what people feel.

Friends, no matter what you think of Thatcher’s politics you surely have to concede that on this basic matter she was correct.

One of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas!

Thoughts and ideas are being trampled in the stampede to push through this social re-engineering.

But it does mean we need a word of caution. I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that every discussion about “gay marriage” must become a discussion about how we as a society judge things – how we consistently appear to be employing feelings where thoughts and ideas ought to be given the lead. Gay marriage should be opposed not just because of what it is, an utterly unnecessary redefinition of the core building block of society, but because of what it increasingly represents – the watershed moment for our nation where it throws rational argument under the bus for fear of upsetting a vociferous minority (but only one minority; others with equal claim (polygamists, polyandrists, incestuous couples etc) are currently discriminated against by these “gay marriage” advocates).

If we love our nation we ought to consider that a very dangerous thing indeed.

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