April 22, 2021

by Professor Nick Tonti-Filippini, Associate Dean and head of Bio-Ethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne, June 2011):

 

Civil Union is Enough

Those same-sex couples pushing for it want to be able to call themselves married, because it gives them social recognition. They’ve got all the things already.

When the Rudd Government came in, they passed a huge number of pieces of legislation to ensure that same-sex people had all the same rights and the same services and so on that people who are married have.

So there’s nothing excluded to them that married people have. So there are no injustices in that respect. So all that’s left is the recognition, that being able to say that they were married, would give them, and being able to have the ceremony and so on. So, in most states they’ve already got the ability to have their civil unions recognised, but they just don’t have the name ‘marriage’.

 

Permanency of Mother and Father

The exclusivity and the permanence are both things that relate to children. Children need a relationship to be between their parents, to be permanent, so that they’ve got that security, and it needs to be exclusive, so that the child knows that the child is the child of those parents, and also then has a clear relationship to their siblings.
In other words, it’s very important, the family formation, for their relationship to be both permanent and exclusive. If it weren’t for that; if a relationship between a man and a woman did not generate children, the law would have no interest in it. The only reason why the law has an interest in that relationship is because it can generate children. And if it does generate children those children need to be protected.

They need their identity protected, their status protected, and their relationship to both a mother and a father protected. So the purpose of a legal concept, or a legal institution of marriage is to protect those things for children.

 

Biological Marriage is in the interests of Children

If it was legal that same-sex couples could have marriage, then everybody would have to refer to marriage in that way that included them, and marriage would no longer be about children. Marriage would then be about just the romance between the couple, so it would change what marriage means. And when we teach marriage now, say, in a religious school, we teach about marriage not being just about and between the couple, but also being outreaching. A married couple find fulfilment in being able to outreach through having children.

That would go from what marriage means and they would no longer be able to teach that; so if you’re a teacher in the school, you would have to be teaching and producing and having books and so on about James and John and Jill and Mary, rather than teaching about the marriage relationship and what that means for children.

 

Sociological Disruption

Biological Marriage has such a huge impact on children.

The permanence and the exclusivity of the relationship at the moment as it’s defined in law, means it’s a commitment on the part of the couple towards the children. Once you remove that, by changing what marriage means, so it includes people who are in same-sex relationships, it’s no longer, then, about that, so it would be a huge change, and in the long term it would remove marriage as a vocation.

At the moment we talk of marriage as a vocation that people aspire to, not just for the sake of each other, but also in giving their love to each other, to including children. Once you remove that element, and marriage just becomes about romance, then it all becomes very trivial and I guess the next step would be; we’d have to ask the question, “Why has the law got any interest in marriage at all?”

Because it’s no longer about children, no longer about serving children. And you’d have to ask why would the law be interested in exclusivity and permanence? Those things are orientated towards children. You take the children out of it and you’d have to ask, “Well why bother having those things in marriage at all?”

We know at the moment that those things are affected by the divorce rate, but people are still making that commitment, even if a proportion of them end up breaking up. They still, at the time they get married, are making a commitment to permanence and they’re making a commitment to exclusivity. Those are the two things that they decide on when they get married and those things are really about securing a place and securing a family for children.

And so this would be a huge development. We’ve already seen development in relation to reproductive technology where the way (certainly in Victoria, and it looks like it’s heading the same way in the other states) we’ve done away with fathers altogether in the legislation.

Now I know how it is in Victorian legislation: there’s the birth mother and then there’s whoever she appoints as the other parent or plural parents of the child. So in other words, we’ve done away with the security for those children so that parenthood becomes an optional thing, and she can opt out it, and declare (if she wants to) she can be a surrogate and appoint others to be the parents of her child.

In other words, parenthood then becomes optional; it’s got nothing to do with the biology. And these are huge changes because the way in which parents would normally work in terms of marriage, the couple are committed to each other, they’re committed to having the children, the children grow up and are nurtured by both the mother and the father and they are related to their relationship.

The child is, in effect, evidence of their relationship.  The fact that the child exists is a witness to their union. So that means that a family is formed on a very strong basis. It’s formed at a biological level, a psychological level, a spiritual level and an emotional level. So at all levels, the children are the children of that couple.

When you move to what we’re seeing now with reproductive technology, then you’ve got a multiple range of different kinds of parents; you’ve got genetic parents, casual parents, birth mother, and then whoever their partners are and then for a time you’ve got the pathological parent – the person who cares for the child in the laboratory for a time. In other words, the whole way in which we think about parenthood which is bound to the way the law treats marriage, would disappear.

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