The Coalition's decision to keep its marriage policy unchanged has been met by predictable howls of discontent. But it's no wonder there is caution. The implications of such legislation for the community are enormous, while the contributions from advocates are often limited to slogans, and the occasional slur against anyone who disagrees. (Canberra Times 13/8/15)
If you claim to be for "marriage equality" and "equal love", then you must be in favour of any loving relationship between consenting adults being recognised by marriage. If not, you have to explain why.
The same arguments used in favour of same-sex marriages would, for example, allow polyamory – group marriages between three or more people.
In the United States, there is no longer a reason to pretend group marriage isn't a possibility. It's already being acknowledged as the next step.
The same day the US Supreme Court allowed same-sex couples to marry, on June 26, the magazine Politico published an article spruiking group marriage. After all, the article explained, the same arguments that won the court case also apply to group marriage.
Many supporters of redefining marriage freely admit their support for polyamory. The campaign spokespeople are not so forthcoming. Their eye is on the prize of a parliamentary vote and they don't want to have to worry about inconvenient facts. The details might trip them up.
Arguing equal love and then limiting it to two people is just arbitrary and exposes the weakness of the case for change.
Marriage includes the implied right to start a family, so allowing same-sex marriage would create an expectation of children that can only be satisfied by surrogacy or other reproductive technology. Any endorsement of surrogacy would signal it no longer matters if a child grows up with his or her natural mother and father. It would also endorse the exploitation of poor women as surrogates.
A child produced by surrogacy might be the result of an egg donor, a sperm donor and a surrogate mother who carries the child to birth. None of them need be related to the people who commission the child and stand in as parents. So the child is separated from one or both her genetic parents. It's unjust to the child to deliberately engineer such a situation.
By contrast, the strong reasons for keeping marriage are clear.
Marriage is based on a biological truth. An intimate relationship between a woman and a man can lead to the birth of children. This is the defining feature of marriage.
Same-sex relationships provide love, companionship and comfort, but they cannot produce children without surrogacy or reproductive technology.
To recognise this essential difference is not unjust discrimination. It is an acknowledgement of reality.
Marriage exists to help make sure that there is some stability in relationships between women and men, so children can grow up with their natural parents.
Not all married people will have children, but all children deserve the best possible chance to grow up with their natural mum and dad.
A recent Galaxy poll for Australian Marriage Forum found 76 per cent of Australians agree that "where possible, as a society, we should try to ensure that children are raised by their own mother and father".
Sociologist David Popenoe of Rutgers University says, "Few propositions have more empirical support in the social sciences than this one: compared to all other family forms, families headed by married, biological parents are best for children."
That's not to condemn parents in other families who are doing their best despite unfortunate circumstances. It is to say we should not be deliberately creating circumstances that are not the best for children.
Many children are already being well looked after by same-sex couples. They are often children who are the result of a previous relationship by one of the same-sex partners. They are in that situation by circumstance, not by design.
The objection to same-sex marriage is that it would, by an act of Parliament, deliberately facilitate fatherless or motherless families by law.
Children are entitled to be brought up by their natural mother and father where possible. The basic purpose of marriage is to help that happen. It doesn't always work, and families aren't always perfect, but we shouldn't be setting up situations where we deliberately deprive kids of those relationships.
Those who want to change marriage should be held to account for the full implications of such a radical step. Once you separate marriage from its biological foundation, you can define it as anything you want and the right of children to know their natural parents will be trampled.
Paul Monagle is national president of the Australian Family Association