The issue of gay marriage is probably going to raise its head again in the next term of government. It’s been on the periphery of this campaign, though the Greens and Family First are doing their best to bring it front and center. One of my friends emailed me yesterday saying:
“The fact we live in a country that doesn’t allow gays to marry I find completely baffling.”
He suggested any opposition is due to either homophobia or a belief in arbitrary rules.
I responded. I actually don’t have a problem with the government allowing gay marriage (what are they doing defining marriage anyway?). My concern is that churches be able to legally conduct marriages for Christians without having to also conduct gay marriages in order to keep their marriage licenses. I think there is actually a pretty sound economic argument for the government positively discriminating for stable heterosexual relationships. It turned into a bit of an email discussion – here are my points.
Why shouldn’t governments protect, incentivise, and legislate benefits for relationships that can produce children. Stable families with parental input from both genders are the “ideal” condition for raising children. Why shouldn’t positive legislation exist to promote that ideal? Economically speaking. After all, as Houston, W, says: the children are our future.
If the government moved away from defining marriage at all – and let anybody call themselves married – but maintained the benefits they provide for families and couples with children – then I wonder if that would defuse the situation? If they framed it not as “banning gay marriage” but as the provision of tax incentives for reproduction for heterosexual families.
It’s discriminatory and a restriction of the kind of freedom Christians should be advocating for to deny gay couples “partnership” rights when it comes to health and estate benefits.
I think the whole debate is framed really unhelpfully because the government has taken on more than its fair share of responsibility.
What the government should be doing is not discriminating against gay relationships, but discriminating for stable heterosexual families.
It’s comparable to indigenous benefits – I was not born indigenous, I had no say in being born non-indigenous. But I, mostly, have no problems with the government trying to incentivise better health and future outcomes for indigenous people by recognising a problem and providing financial incentives for education (Abstudy).
positive discrimination for a subset of the community is not necessarily the same as discrimination against another subset of the community. And governments do it all the time (abstudy and the other examples I mentioned before). Any policy adopted by governments comes at a cost to other proposals.
For example, the “Building Education Revolution” could be said to have discriminated against any public service that wasn’t an educational institute. A hospital couldn’t have a school hall funded under the program – because a hospital isn’t a school. It serves an important purpose and deserves government funding, but the funding will meet different needs because of the different nature of the buildings.
Equally, the program has been shown to be a lemon, because some schools (or education departments) have abused it. This abuse doesn’t mean that the program was bad for the schools that weren’t abusing it, nor does it make it a bad program (in the same way that some bad parents collect government funding). It was a policy designed to maximise the positive of schools having halls.
I also have no problem with the government positively discriminating for mothers (who receive family payments), retirees, the sick and disabled… one could argue that they should also incentivise being gay because gay couples are likely to both work, and generally1 take less time off to look after their children, and thus pay more taxes.
1I understand that some gay couples have children. I don’t think this is child abuse, but I also think different genders have different input into the lives of their children.