Is it just me, or is the gay lobby getting painfully tedious? There’s now a near-universal consensus that we should get the whole marriage debate over with, so that all the wingnuts on both sides of the aisle will shut up and let us get on with our lives. Tim Wilson can’t seriously think we’ll believe him when he says marriage must ‘evolve’ to include gay couples if it’s to remain ‘relevant’ in the 21st century. The idea that straight people suddenly need gays to buttress their millennia-old institution is pure carp. If evolution depends on Tim Wilson for anything, I say we dig up old Darwin and give him a good slap. But no one’s really buying Cory Bernardi’s argument that marriage will collapse if we let gays marry, either. ‘Defending the sanctity of marriage’ is now an exceptionally lame dad joke. No conservative has been seriously able to rebuff claims that marriage was thoroughly desecrated decades ago. From no-fault divorce laws to whatever it is the Clintons have going on, it’s easier to renege on your ‘till-death-do-you-parts than it is to cancel a Telstra contract.
Of course, that’s no good argument for same-sex marriage. On the contrary: it shows how totally absurd the whole plebiscite is. We’re arguing over who gets to sit where on a boat that’s sinking faster than the Sydney Morning Herald’s subscription numbers. Sure, that might not matter to most Australians. I suspect it doesn’t matter one lick to most of the pro-SSM lot, who are more worried about being included in the institution of marriage than the institution itself. Call me a homophobe (go on!), but if marriage didn’t already exist, I can’t see Penny Wong breaking a sweat to bake it from scratch.
Fact is, marriage can’t ‘evolve’ like a Pokachu (or whatever it is these kids keep wandering into my yard looking for) because the whole institution has become a cheap parody of itself. What began as an exclusively religious rite with exclusively religious connotations has become just another bureaucratic rubber stamp. It’s a nationalised, secularised sacrament, and in any other context every journo from Sydney to New York would be noting how ‘eerily Orwellian’ the whole arrangement is. Imagine if city halls across Australia distributed the Eucharist every Sunday, only they scrubbed all reference to Jesus Christ. Imagine if every town in the Western world held a Passover Seder in April, but without ever mentioning Moses. It would be silly at best, dangerously authoritarian at worst, and wouldn’t come close to simulating the transcendent for a profane, materialistic society.
Anyway, I think we all know deep down that civil marriage’s days are numbered. With the rise of de facto partnerships, there are only two sorts of people who still care about getting hitched: the sincerely religious, and profoundly insecure lefties who feel a need for the government to ‘validate’ their relationship. That’s not to discount the power of Oedipal statists, but we oughtn’t to have any illusions that, once same-sex marriage passes and Big Brother’s given his blessing, the allure of marriage will evaporate altogether. Requests for marriage licenses will taper out, making it unsustainable as a government enterprise. The Guardian will start firing off editorials about how even this ‘evolved’ form of marriage is ‘a vestige of a more sexist, homophobic chapter in our history that we’d be better off closing’. And, eventually, civil marriage will be abolished altogether – to the uproarious applause of those who now argue that SSM is the most important human rights achievement since women’s suffrage.
If we were big enough to admit the sheer inevitability of it all, we wouldn’t be talking about marriage ‘evolving’. Rather, we’d be talking about it devolving: that is, returning matrimonial powers to the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples where it belongs. Rather than trying to define marriage in a secular context – about as confused and fruitless a venture as trying to define superannuation in terms of the sacred – we’d get the government out of the marriage racket entirely. Religious couples would consecrate their union in the eyes of God, as they have done for millennia; irreligious couples wouldn’t feel the need to substitute ‘God’ for ‘parliament’. Urban trendies would go back to mocking organised worship and all its dated rituals, rather than insisting they make those rituals ‘relevant’ to modern Australia. We, the faithful remnant, could go back to being scorned and condescended, and I think we’d be pleasantly surprised at what a tremendous relief that is.
Vote however you like in the plebiscite, but I never miss an opportunity to advance same-sex marriage. The sooner the whole farce is exposed, the better. The sooner we acquiesce to this inevitable victory for ‘civil rights’, the sooner the Left will lose interest in their new toy. It may be too late for you old folks, but I hope I live to see the day when the bien pensants come to their senses and deride marriage as the backwards, superstitious claptrap they’ve always known it to be. Then we can talk seriously about ‘the sanctity of marriage’ – about curbing divorce rates, guaranteeing children a two-parent household, and lifting spousal love out of the Jenner-Kardashian mire. Anything less is life support for the Left’s cult of the state. Better to lift the veil from its idols before they finish ‘repurposing’ ours – before they’ve so cluttered our altars with rainbows and sparkles that we lose sight of them altogether.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues