Print Version    Email to Friend
The topic is marriage

 The most politicised success of the pro-same-sex marriage lobby has arguably been in Ireland, where just over 60 per cent of the registered population turned out to give a 62.1 per cent yes vote to changing its constitutional definition on May 22 this year.

Although this equates to only 36 per cent of the total number of registered voters, it is being hailed as an important step forward.

The international lobby saw Ireland as significant in the push towards same-sex relationships being recognised as a marriage in law and poured money into a vote yes campaign. It was considered an important precedent for other western countries and especially the United States of America.

However, in many ways the debate within society has become side-tracked. In introducing a private member’s bill to the Australian parliament in Canberra on June 1, the leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, used the words equality and justice repeatedly, but marriage, rarely.

In the lead up to the Irish referendum, vote yes for equality was a major catch cry and the principal issue discussed, rather than the basic subject of the referendum—marriage.

Although Shorten’s bill seems doomed to fail, at least in the short run, there are some governments across the world  giving their blessing to same-sex marriage, despite opposition from various groups, including Churches and civic groups, within their societies.

But Shorten’s politics are good, as equality and justice are motherhood issues and difficult to be against, while images and individual views of marriage within any society are diverse and often polarising.

Some people in Ireland said that although they do not believe in same-sex marriage, they still voted yes, as they thought the public debate was polarising society and figured that if it did not succeed this time, then it would next. So get it over and done with.

But ironically, while marriage and family are intricately connected and most people rate family as their greatest source of happiness in  life, the nature of marriage, or even the need for it, remains elusive in the public eye and can even be reduced to a game on reality television.

The push for same-sex marriage is also gaining momentum in Hong Kong, which begs the question, what contribution can the Church make to the public conversation that is already, and will continue, taking place.

At a discussion on family life held at the Tak Sun School in Tsim Sha Tsui on February 6 this year, William Tong pointed out that the question this prompts for the Church is how to face the matter with faith in all its ramifications, which he said are legal, ecumenical and social.

“Our response must be positive and constructive,” he stressed.

As a practice among peoples almost universally, marriage pre-existed the Church and the state. However, each one has codified it in law as it understands the relationship between man and woman in the context of society’s future.

But it is often presumed that societies have a fairly homogeneous understanding and image of what marriage is. However, as with most presumptions, it is not necessarily so.

Society would benefit from a fresh and compelling narrative on the nature of marriage. It must be at least as much a part of the conversation as the relationship of the same-sex attracted. JiM