In the middle of these changing loves, Christians can ask helpful questions (there’s not much point being polemical when so little thought has been given to the nature of marriage). We can ask our neighbours: ‘Are you sure that you are not missing something? Do you really want to abandon those older loves? Will that actually help us as a community?’.
For marriage has named that part of our social ecology constituted by lifelong, sexually exclusive, gender-complementary relationships. To date, these relationships have been thought unique enough to deserve special recognition. Although not all marriages result in children, marriage affirms the link between children and their biological parents. But a move to ‘marriage equality’ finally dissembles this link. A gay couple must always source its child’s biological parent from outside the relationship, so to call the couple married confirms that biological parenthood is not integral to our understanding of marriage, nor expected of marriage. That in turn suggests that we believe loving biological parenthood is not particularly important to children’s wellbeing.
The public link between men, women and biological offspring has worked for the public good, despite the fact that some married people don’t have children. Opponents of the change simply want to ask others: are you sure you want to change all that? And do the gains in public good proposed for gays and lesbians suffice to offset the public good we think is being diminished? The argument that marriage simply names people’s love for those who want it so named misses the wider social canvas at stake (and the argument that marriage is necessary for gay mental health is simply odd, for surely there are many other means to this end).
To ask the questions ‘Are you sure?’ and ‘Are you missing something?’ doesn’t ‘impose’ anything on anybody. The charge of ‘imposing’ simply distracts us from discussing marriage (and is a form of emotional blackmail that cripples a lot of discussion in Australia).* Even though the Bible shapes our view of marriage, it’s a view that can be useful in public discussion when it gains traction with others and makes sense to them. Our view of marriage makes deep sense to those in society who feel the tug of marriage as we now know it.