About this Issue
Marriage continues to dominate the headlines in Australia. As we go to press Labor’s national conference is underway, and the party is facing a determined push from within its ranks – principally from the left wing faction – to officially endorse gay marriage in the party’s policy platform. Meanwhile gay marriage advocates – and much of the mainstream media – continue to cast the issue as one of equality and discrimination, as if the very notion that the state might reasonably treat substantially different types of relationships differently were somehow inherently unjust. Among same-sex marriage advocates, there is a willful refusal to accept that the heterosexual union, by virtue of its inherently procreative capacity, demands the special attention of the state. The union of a man and a woman naturally and inevitably (albeit not without exception) yields children. Such children must be raised to be happy, successful, productive citizens, and it is therefore incumbent upon the state to do all it reasonably can to ensure that the one and only procreative human relationship is characterised by stability. It really does make sense, and yet all sense is somehow ignored in the heat of the debate.
The other dominant theme of same-sex marriage advocacy is the notion that marriage is a means to personal individual fulfillment, and that it is therefore an injustice to deny same-sex attracted persons an opportunity to experience such fulfillment. As one News Ltd commentator put it, “I support [gay marriage] out of the conviction that it’s heartless to deny people happiness.” Such a view ought to be contrasted with the traditional view of marriage as being a difficult, daring, but ultimately necessary and worthwhile service to one’s spouse, to one’s children, and to society at large. This view was deftly articulated in 1996 by English philosopher Roger Scruton, who, writing in theSalisbury Review, observed:
“The family is a child-bearing monogamous marriage. It is the institution that has made Western civilisation possible. It is the single most efficient means ever devised for conserving the material, cultural and spiritual capital of one generation and handing it on to the next. It requires two people to set aside their pleasures, their opportunities and their ambitions, in order to provide for their children. It requires fidelity, self discipline, economy and faith in the future.” (emphasis added)
At the National Marriage Day breakfast celebrated in the Great Hall of Canberra’s Parliament House in August this year, The Hon Kevin Andrews MP mounted a concise and stirring defence of marriage-as-we-know it, exploring the institution’s philosophical underpinnings, and warning against the “soft despotism” which would presume to make marriage a mere political institution to be defined and redefined at the whim of prevailing political opinion. His speech comprises the first article in this, our final edition for 2011.
The state’s strong interest in the institution of marriage does not end once vows have been exchanged. Not only does the state have an interest in men and women marrying; it has a further interest in men and women havingsuccessful marriages. And yet, as Profession Alan J Hawkins of Brigham Young University observes, pathways to a healthy, stable marriage are increasingly convoluted and challenging for young people today. In response to such challenges, Professor Hawkins proposes a series of welcome and eminently achievable policies aimed at “Revitalising marriage and avoiding unnecessary divorce”, in a paper first delivered at the Australian Family Association’s national conference in Brisbane earlier this year.
In a similar vein, we are pleased to present the executive summary of the For Kids’ Sake report, authored by the University of Sydney Law School’s Professor Patrick Parkinson. The report tracks the deterioration in the wellbeing of many children and young people – especially adolescent girls – in Australia over the last 10 to 15 years and examines the extent to which this is the result of the increasing fragility of Australia’s family life. Once again, the importance of marriage to the wellbeing of children is brought to the fore, and the report proposes a series of considered policy recommendations directed at restoring family integrity for the sake of our nation’s children.
The final two articles tackle the complex issue of housing affordability. The first, by the Australian Family Association’s national research officer Tim Cannon, surveys the growing concern over housing affordability in Australia, with the Australian housing market having been adjudged the most unaffordable in the world in 2011. The final article is from Robert W Patterson, editor of The Family in America, the quarterly publication of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in the United States. Patterson presents a fascinating insight into the important role that mortgage-market regulation once played in fostering stability in American families, and the inadvertently destabilising effect that market deregulation has had on the family in recent decades.
On behalf of all the staff at the Australian Family Association, we’d like to thank all of our contributors in what has been a tumultuous year for family policy in Australia. We’d also like to thank you, our readers, for your ongoing support, and we wish you and your family a happy and holy Christmas, and all the very best for the coming year.