The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the result of the marriage survey.
The question given to the Australian people was,
Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?
12.7 million people voted (79.5% of registered voters in the nation).
61.6% said yes, while 38.4% said no.
What does this mean? I wish to address two areas of impending decision making, the political and the Christian.
In terms of the politics, a private members Bill will be tabled this afternoon in the Senate, for debate and deliberation (the Dean Smith bill).
Several members of the Government have already indicated that the Smith bill will be used as the blue print, but they are open to amendments. The intention though is to pass legislation and the thus legalise same sex marriage before Christmas.
We do not know what shape the bill will finally take. Senator James Paterson (who supports SSM), has proposed a Draft Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) Bill. This bill provides significantly more protections for Australians than the Smith bill, although Senior Government Ministers have already suggested that this is a non starter.
We need to keep in mind that legislation is more complicated than simply replacing a couple of words in the Marriage Act. When same sex marriage was introduced in the United Kingdom (2014), hundreds of pieces of law required change, and all manner of issues relating to religious freedoms have appeared since. Indeed, the very notion of religious freedom is now more under threat in the UK than in any time since the reign of Charles II in the 17th Century.
Here in Australia, even prior to the law changing, we have witnessed preachers in Tasmania being brought before a tribunal for explaining the Bible’s view of marriage, and a Catholic Archbishop who wrote a leaflet for fellow Catholics, outlining their position on marriage.
If proper protections are not provided, we can expect an erosion of personal freedoms for anyone not subscribing to the new morality. Indeed, if, upon changing the law, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience is lessened from what we enjoy today, November 15th, this country will have taken one giant leap into a shark tank.
Associate Professor Neil Foster has written a helpful summary of the pros and cons of both the Smith and Paterson bills.
I doubt if many people are shocked by today’s announcement; disappointed and concerned, but not surprised. The compass has been pointing in this direction for 50 years, and we have not yet journeyed to the final destination. There is now the important question of how the Federal Parliament will now deal with the issue. Given the support for same sex marriage as expressed by the Australian public, I think it is only right that Parliament respect this democratic process. For those in Parliament who cannot, for conscience, support marriage redefinition, might I propose that you abstain rather than vote against. Doing so enables you to respect the decision of Australians without marring your conscience.
Even prior to any marriage changing, numerous threats have been made against individuals and organisations, for not coming out in support of same sex marriage. Some of these groups had simply made the decision not to become embroiled in the debate. Neutrality, however, is not enough for many same sex marriage advocates; total alliance is the only acceptable option.
This is a test for Australia and whether we truly wish to embrace cultural pluralism and liberal democracy, or whether we will heed the war drums of social progressives and thus move toward a poor replica. We must understand that this is not mere hyperbole, for even the favoured Smith bill will expose many Australians to threats of litigation and reduced freedoms
Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, said on the weekend,
“West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith’s bill guarantees only “the right of clergy and religious institutions” to decline participation in same-sex marriage services and celebrations. There is by omission no recognition of the likelihood of damage to the freedom of conscience for ordinary citizens and their businesses. Smith and many of his colleagues seem unmoved by the encroachments on freedom of speech and conscience already demonstrated in Australia.
Smith’s exemptions approach arguably does more harm than good, for it assumes freedom of conscience is of worth only to professional religionists and not to all Australians. This weakens even further the standing of this important democratic right and makes it an easy target for those who would lobby to erase this exemption and similar exemptions that may remain in state legislation.”
Why is this a problem? Because 4.83 million Australians have said that they do not support same sex marriage. Millions of Australians potentially face loss of income, employment, and facing tribunals for adhering to a view that will no longer be supported by the law.
Will Australians be guaranteed freedom to continue teaching and explaining the classical view of marriage and sexuality, not only in a Church but also in public places including universities?
Will religious schools maintain freedom to teach and affirm the classical view of marriage?
Unless the Government ensure thorough and principled protections, we can anticipate the promises of many advocates being enacted onto our society.
Mauvre Marsden, in the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 4),
“Yes, marriage is not the final frontier. Yes, we want safe schools. Yes, gay conversion therapy is child abuse. Yes, we want transgender kids’ agency to be respected and supported – regardless of what their parents want. Yes.”
Auberry Perry in The Age (Sept 3),
“This survey offers us a conscious opportunity to make a firm stand in support of a secular government and to reject discrimination or favouritism based on religion. It’s our opportunity to say that religion has no part in the shaping of our laws. A vote against same-sex marriage is a vote for religious bias and discrimination in our legislation, our public schools, our healthcare, and ultimately, in the foundation of our social structure.
Decisions for Christians
Today is not a day for outrage, but for mourning. We must learn to weep like Jeremiah, and we must learn to live as Daniel. We must learn to accept injustice as did the Psalmists, and we must come to terms with the truth of Jesus’ words, ‘take up your cross and follow him’.
This is a good day for thankfulness and to remind ourselves of the hope that does not disappoint or fade.
“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
We are mistaken if we define God’s faithfulness by cultural or political successes, rather than by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian hope doesn’t diminish, depending on societal norms and laws. Rather it carries us through whatever transpires in life; this makes us the freest people on earth.
1. Stick with Jesus
Christian hope frees us to hang onto what we have become convinced is true and good.
It is not worth giving up God’s ways for the sake of social acceptance, and we are ultimately not serving them well or God, should we adopt the new moral horizon.
For a set of practical steps for Christians moving forward, please read https://murraycampbell.net/2017/11/14/gearing-up-for-the-marriage-survey-outcome/
2. Love your neighbours
While there are very important questions relating to the impact this change will bring for religious and societal freedoms, we should be less concerned about ourselves, and more concerned for the future of our children, and for the good of our fellow Australians.
We have opposed same sex marriage, not because we hate people but because we love God and we love people, even our gay and lesbian neighbours, and we truly want them living well. Today’s announcement is no licence for changing either our view of marriage or God’s call to love our neighbours. I trust and pray that our resolve to be the best of friends, and the kindest of people, will increase from today onward. Did not God treat us with even greater love?
Today many Australians are celebrating, and many sensing relief. We are not among that number, but neither are we jealous or vindictive. Our hope remains unaltered, and as Russel Moore aptly noted following the Supreme Court decision in the United States to legalise same sex marriage, let’s be ready to embrace and welcome the many refugees who will come through this sexual revolution.
We must prepare today, to keep living out God’s good news tomorrow.
“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly”. (Psalm 40:10)
“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws”. (Psalm 119:30)