Chris Meney, the Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney had an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald today entitled "Australia is not ready to say 'we do' to gay marriage
". See below for the full article.There are many voices striving to be heard in the public space on same-sex marriage. In broad terms, those against argue from the principle that marriage has always been about one man and one woman and their children. Those in favour maintain that the meaning of marriage is malleable and that the current policy as defined in the Marriage Act is unfair and discriminatory.However, a recent poll of more than 1200 adults conducted for the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty reveals in some depth what ordinary Australians really think about this issue. One of its major findings is that same-sex marriage is a divisive issue, and Australians do not want to rush into making such a significant change without knowing its social impact.The survey, by Sexton Marketing, contains a number of other significant revelations. These include that, while Australians are somewhat conflicted over same-sex marriage, they also think that there are more important issues. In fact, while 49 per cent support changing the Marriage Act, it is by far the least important of the six significant social issues surveyed.The survey also shows that this issue is not just about rights for homosexual people but also about the responsibility of society to always act in the best interests of children.Responses to several questions around this theme confirmed that a clear majority of people feel that the traditional meaning of marriage is important, that it is the best way to ensure that children are raised by their mother and father and that a child will usually grow up happier if he or she has a home with both a mother and a father. Nearly 70 per cent of Australians believe that marriage between a man and a woman and their having children together is an important social institution that should be upheld. Three out of four respondents, including a surprising majority of those in favour of same-sex marriage, believe that as a society we should try to ensure that children are raised by their natural mother and father and promote this norm.A substantial proportion of Australians are also concerned about the possibility of changes to the Marriage Act having unintended consequences. Respondents were less likely to support same-sex marriage when they reflected on possible consequences such as a greater severing of links between biological parents and their children, more children growing up without having both father and mother role models, the mandatory teaching in schools of the equivalence of homosexual and heterosexual lifestyles, and the silencing of those who desire to speak out against same-sex marriage on the basis of their deeply held beliefs.Even one-third of those in favour of same-sex marriage are concerned that a significant social change is involved and agree that we should not rush into this without knowing the real impact, especially on children.Those in favour of changing the Marriage Act were also less enthusiastic when asked about how such a change may diminish a person's right to speak out against same-sex marriage. While there was almost universal agreement about the importance of upholding the right to free speech one in four people opposed to same-sex marriage felt social pressure to remain silent.Unsurprisingly, the religious are more opposed to same-sex marriage than the non-religious, those over 50 are less supportive, women are more supportive than men and a majority of Labor and a minority of Coalition voters favour a change.Although fewer than one-third of Australians feel strongly about the issue, it does have the potential to change votes. If a major party advocates same-sex marriage, they could lose about 2.2 per cent of their total primary vote. Given the significant number of seats that are likely to be marginal in the next federal election it is unlikely that party strategists will fail to note the importance of this survey. Arguments on the basis of principle clearly matter. However, ordinary Australians seem to feel that this is a divisive issue, that there are more important issues to be dealt with, that the interests of children must be considered along with the rights of adults and that any hurried change has the potential for unintended and undesirable consequences - some of which strike at the heart of our free and open society.