I have been reflecting today on the news concerning the Australian Labor Party’s adoption of same-sex “marriage”. Thankfully, the Prime Minister prevailed, and Labor MP’s will be allowed – despite official policy of the party – to exercise a conscience vote on this matter. Since the Liberal Party has maintained opposition (as a party, if not in all its members) to such radical social re-engineering, the Bill, when it is introduced, is unlikely to get up. However, we should not dismiss lightly this weekend’s developments. Polling would suggest that the issue is divisive in the community. It is my reading that many of those who do not oppose the proposition of same-sex “marriage” in the polls are not actually “in favour” so much as holding a “don’t care, doesn’t affect me, it’s a private matter, why not let gays marry eachother if they want to”, whereas those who openly oppose such moves have thought about the issue and are truly opposed to any such change to our law.
But now it comes to this. Were such a law to be adopted, would it be a true law? I’m not highly educated in legal matters or in the necessary moral philosophy, but it strikes me that what we are dealing with here is a “positivist” approach to law. Philosophers and moral theologians reading this blog please correct me if my categories are wrong, but I understand an approach to law to be “positivistic” when the law makers believe that by passing a law they can change reality. There are some laws that have no real correlation to reality – speed limits, for instance. The legal speed can be declared to be 100km/h or 110km/h or 50km/h or 3km/h – it is simply a matter of what is expedient to safe and efficient driving on the road. But laws governing marriage are grounded in a pre-existent reality – namely marriage. Marriage is not created by the laws of the State, but rather governed by the State. The State acts with authentic authority when it passes laws concerning marriage that accord with what marriage IS.
To pass a law redefining “marriage” as a life long union between any two persons of whatever sex, rather than between “one man and one woman” would in fact NOT be an exercise of the authentic authority of the State. The State simply does not have the power to redefine what marriage is. We are told that should same-sex “marriage” laws be passed in Australia, ministers of religion would not be obligated to celebrate such marriages. But it goes much further than this: the Church, it seems to me, is obligated to continue to witness to the true nature of marriage by refusing IN TOTAL to accept such a redefinition of marriage at all. Just as if the State were to introduce polygamy, the Church would be obligated NOT to recognise wives two, three or four (or more), so it seems to me that Christians are obligated – not only out of duty to Divine revelation, but to Natural Law, and to plain, cold, hard REALITY – not to recognise in any way the legality of a so-called “marriage” contract between two people of the same sex.
This may occasion acts of civil disobedience similar to the civil disobedience that occurred in the United States over segregation laws. Such laws were unjust. They were false laws, because they did not accord with the reality of equal dignity of every human being. It would be similar to the civil disobedience that Christian doctors exercise when they refuse to carry out abortions. The positive “law” allows it, but Divine Law, Natural Law, and the REALITY of the humanity of the unborn child does not. There are some things that the State simply has no authority to declare legal or illegal: laws outlawing private property, for instance, or depriving parents of authority over their children, would be in the same category.
The social re-engineers believe that Bills passed in Parliament can change reality. They cannot. We have a responsibility to stand against any suggestion that they can. Were marriage to be redefined in Australia’s laws as proposed by the new Labor Party platform, I cannot see how the Church could even recognise such “legal” relationships. A “root and branch” opposition would be required of us, for such a “law” would be no true law at all.
Are we ready to take such a stand? It certainly will not make the Church any more popular than it currently is (or isn’t). But once again, as I said in the post below, who’s really “out of touch” here? The Church, demanding that our government uphold universal and true justice, or the re-engineers who would have us believe that it is possible to turn black into white simply by passing a law to that effect?