© Brendan Triffett 2018-2019
All rights reserved.
St Michael the Archangel, defend us.
All rights reserved.
St Michael the Archangel, defend us.
I’m not sure whether I’m married anymore, Joseph.
What do you mean, Phillip? Have you separated from Clare?
No. We do have our moments, but we are committed to each other. We were married in the Catholic Church. We believe marriage is a sacrament and that it cannot be dissolved.
So you are still married. What’s the problem then?
We are certainly married in the eyes of the Church. And we are married in a “natural” sense too. I mean: even if we didn’t marry in the Church, there would still be an objective union between us on account of the solemn promise that we made to each other before witnesses. What I’m not sure about is whether we are still married in the eyes of the law. I mean Australian law.
You’re being hysterical, Phil. When the legal definition of marriage was changed last year, that simply allowed another “type” of couple to get married. Same-sex couples now have the option of having their marital vows recognised under Australian law. Changing the definition of marriage didn’t annul any of the marriages that were already recognised in Australia before the change. If you didn’t get a divorce under secular law, then you are still married under secular law.
I’m not so sure. When we signed those legal forms on the day of our wedding 20 years ago, we became legally married under the old-fashioned understanding of things. That’s what we took our marriage to be back then: a loving, consensual union between one man and one woman, committed to each other exclusively for life. And in our minds, our marriage had some connection to the noble purpose of raising children in loving family, if we were lucky enough to have them. Everyone thought that. No-one doubted for a moment that marriage is something that only a man and a woman can enter into. This new idea of “same-sex marriage” was simply not on the radar.
Well yes, that was how people thought back then. But we’ve moved on as a nation. Even Alf Stewart has moved on. Isn’t it time you got with the program? Things change, Phil. There’s nothing you can do about it.
My point is simply this. Clare and I signed up for marriage—for “secular” or “legal” marriage—under the traditional understanding. So did everyone else in Australia, and the rest of the world actually, until not very long ago. But what’s the status of that legal agreement now? Is our marital covenant still recognised in the eyes of the law in this country?
Of course it is Phil. As I just said, you are still recognised as married under Australian law. You are both still alive—and for that matter, neither of you has been declared “missing” . You didn’t get divorced. The covenant you made 20 years earlier carries over automatically. You don’t have to go and get married again, or sign another form. When the change was made in the definition of marriage a year ago, nothing changed about your legal marriage. You still have all the same rights as a married couple. So relax!
But does the law still recognise our marriage in the way that we understood it when we got married? Let’s not worry about the religious side of things, the sacramental aspect of our marriage. Let’s worry about that “traditional understanding” I was talking about before—the “old-fashioned” concept of marriage which everyone took for granted back then. Is marriage in that sense recognised under Australian law?
Well no, it’s not. The purpose of the change in the law was to be more inclusive. In Australian society there has been a paradigm shift, a progression in our understanding of love, sexuality and marriage. To reflect that change, we decided as a nation to embrace a broader definition of marriage which does not exclude same-sex couples. The traditional understanding of marriage, the less inclusive definition which only allowed opposite-sex couples to be recognised as married, is no longer represented in law. But why get worked up about that? In the eyes of the law, you’re no less married than you were previously. It’s not as if you have to go and get a male partner now instead. Nobody has to change their sex or gender either. Opposite-sex couples still qualify!
It’s not that simple Jo. And you didn’t answer my question. I’ve been told that I’ve got an outdated, “heteronormative” understanding of marriage. Progressives use that term as a pejorative term, but as a conservative I’m proud to embrace it. For them, heteronormativity is abnormal; it’s false and unjust. But for me, heteronormativity is normal; it’s right and just. Everyone who got married 20 years ago saw marriage in “heteronormative” terms—though no-one had that word in their minds, because there was no other alternative on the radar. Now I haven’t changed, and neither has my wife Clare. And we are not the only ones—far from it. At least 40% of Australian adults are what you might call “heteronormies”. Some people think that that percentage will only go down with each generation. But that’s unlikely, given trends in immigration, not to mention Muslim fertility rates compared to fertility rates in the “more liberal” population. But anyway, as you’ve just admitted, the Australian Government no longer recognises anyone’s marriage using a heteronormative criterion. The “more inclusive” definition of marriage now operates in law instead of the “less inclusive” one.
However, the supposedly “more inclusive” definition excludes heteronormativity from the law, doesn’t it?
And that “more inclusive” definition leads logically to the prohibition of heternormativity in the public domain. We haven’t become “more inclusive” as a nation at all, Jo. We’ve simply shifted from one paradigm to another. The first paradigm was exclusive in one way; the new paradigm is exclusive in another way. The new definition of marriage excludes the heteronormative definition, and vice versa. The two definitions articulate opposing worldviews. It’s a zero-sum game.
I see where you’re coming from.
It was dishonest for the gay lobby to say that their more “inclusive” definition of marriage would accommodate the traditional view of marriage, as if the two could sit side-by-side in perfect harmony under the umbrella of a more “generic” definition. No, this is war. The Left has launched a holy crusade against every last vestige of heteronormative thinking. They want it stamped out, forever. They will stop at nothing in order to achieve their sacred goal. They will reshape the law more and more in their own image. They will then use it—they are using it already—to separate children from the “heteronormative violence” of their parents and from the “heteronormative violence” of the Church. In their crusading religiosity, they are unable to slow down, even for a moment, to stop and think. They have no respect for anything that might be sacrosanct or “off-limits”. Like Lenin and Stalin, the Final Goal is all that matters to them, and this is to be achieved by all means necessary. They do not recognise the innocence of children as a limit to their will. They have become a blood-thirsty horde of monsters, running full speed ahead with their weapons out, losing their minds in the exhilarating movement of an irrational collective. One cannot reason with these hordes. One can only resist, and pray, and weep.
So … are you still married, Phil, or not?
The heteronormative “framing” of our marriage, and everyone else’s marriage in Australia, was annulled on the 9th of December, 2017. The Government, following the “will of the people”, re-interpreted our marriage. Nothing changed in regards to the basic nature of our marriage—the State cannot possibly affect that. And nothing has changed in regards to the sacramental status of our marriage either. What has changed is the public and legal interpretation of our marriage. Our marriage was taken from its original framework and inserted into another. In the new framework, heteronormativity does not appear—it is silenced, negated, declared void, and by implication, declared to be hateful. If we conservatives are right, and marriage is heteronormative by its very nature, then marriage as such does not appear in the new framework, despite the use of the word “marriage”. Indeed, the word “marriage” is now used to stamp out the essence of marriage, to which the State is now hostile. But for argument’s sake, let’s put aside for now the question of whether we conservatives are right about marriage. When it comes to Clare and me, our understanding of marriage, our day-to-day practice of marriage, is heteronormative through-and-through—and the same holds true for all of us “heteronormies”. So how could we possibly recognise our marriage under this new definition?
The legal definition of marriage in Australia is “a union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” I still can’t see why you and Clare don’t recognise your own union in that definition. Your marriage certainly ticks all the boxes.
When we say “marriage”, what we mean is a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. We don’t take this heterosexual arrangement as just one option amongst others. We take it as being essential to marriage as such. Heteronormativity is inseparable from our marriage—it is included in our experience of marriage, in our practice of marriage, and in our understanding of marriage. In our married life, we participate in a universal truth—the belonging-together of man and woman—and we express that truth in our married lives. Our marriage is a particular embodiment of “heteronormativity”, if you like. That is the marriage that doesn’t appear in the new definition.
But surely it isn’t excluded. You are still free to experience and understand your marriage in that way. It’s just that your heteronormative experience and understanding is no longer reflected in the legal definition. In the same way, people are still free to marry people of the same race. More than that, they’re even allowed to interpret marriage (in their private lives at least) as something that can only be entered into if the two partners are of the same race. Being-of-the-same-race is not reflected in the legal definition of marriage as something essential. But the law doesn’t say: if two people are of the same race, they can’t be legally married. Nor does it say: if people understand marriage in those terms (racism), then they can’t be legally married.
Yes, the new definition doesn’t exclude heterosexual coupling as a possible expression of marriage. But it does exclude heterosexual coupling as a necessary feature of marriage. And that’s the problem. We conservatives see every marriage as a concrete expression of a deep and universal truth—the truth that man and woman are destined for each other by nature, and ultimately by God, for a special purpose. That man and woman belong together in a special way. That the belonging-together of man and woman across sexual difference (biologically understood) has a unique power to bring life into the world, and with it, light.
I haven’t heard anyone put it like that. Do go on.
Man-and-woman, reconciled to each other in martial love, is a powerful symbol of the world made whole. The unity-in-difference of man-and-woman is full of depth, radiance and warmth. Think of it this way. A child who does not know mother and father reconciled to each other in marital love, is a child whose world is torn in two. A person who does not know his father, his mother, and the unity of the two in a family based in marriage, is a disintegrated person. He is a person in need of healing.
Well that is certainly the effect that a broken family has on a child.
A child cannot experience true wholeness in her world (both “outer” world and “inner” world; the two are inseparable), if she does not experience mother-and-father united in love. No child can trust reality at a deep level, unless mother-and-father approach her and embrace her with their loving presence, simultaneously two-and-one. It takes man and woman, united in marriage, to represent Reality to a child as a trustworthy embrace of love. If you want to tear children apart from the inside, then tear their worlds apart. If you want to tear their worlds apart, then tear the world apart. If you want to tear the world apart, then tear apart, at the level of culture, the two co-ordinated principles of life which keep the world together—man and woman. How do you do that? You remove from culture every positive reference to the belonging-together of man and woman. You stamp out heteronormativity. And how do you do that? You make heteronormativity appear to be evil.
So no, Joseph, my marriage is not recognised under Australian law. On December 9th, 2017, marriage ceased to exist in the “official” public sphere. To be sure, marriage as a healing, reconciling, integrating, life-giving force will still make itself present in other ways. As resistance. As truth-speech, when it is not suppressed as hate-speech. As an irrepressible principle of nature. As the terrible consequences of denying reality. As the humble witness of married men and woman, faithful to their vows, raising children as best they can in this increasingly broken world.
The gay lobby is hell-bent on tearing the world apart. They have no qualms about tearing children apart in the process. To make room for themselves, they need to devour everything. They need to defile every last trace of innocence.
Shame on them.
Dr Brendan Triffett