I firstly want to thank the National Marriage Coalition for having convened this Forum, and the splendid efforts of all of you here who have travelled some distance to defend the Institution of Marriage.
Today is the day when ordinary Australian families have come to Canberra to say enough is enough.
Today we are drawing a line in the sand.
We are here to state the obvious: that marriage is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others; and that children’s needs are best met when raised by a mother and a father.
The majority of Australians would be quite perplexed by the fact that the Senate needs four months to consider this.
Despite what has been publicly stated to the contrary, it is my belief that those responsible for sending the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 off to an inquiry have most likely very little commitment to the aims of the Bill. By causing this Bill to stall for four months they could well have signed its death certificate.
This is a defining moment in our nation’s history.
To NOT pass this Bill is to drive a knife deep into the flesh of marriage and family.
To PASS it on the other hand, is to strengthen Marriage, and give it the recognition and honour that is its due, on account of its fundamental importance for the benefit of society.
This is the time of decision.
Australian families need to be clear and determined if all that we know and hold dear about marriage and family life (and have taken for granted until now ), does not to slip from us.
MARRIAGE - WHAT IS IN A WORD?
To my way of thinking? …………everything!
The language we use IS important. It is the tool we use to convey meaning.
Buried in that word “Marriage” is the most profound bond known.
The word “Marriage” describes a union that is so complete on every plane that it defies mathematical logic.
When you went to school, one of the first things you learnt in maths was that 1+1 = 2.
Now……put up your hand if you agree with that equation…..
However in a true marriage we know that 1+1 =1.
In marriage, the two become one………the two (bodies / persons / husband and wife ) ……become ONE FLESH…..ONE MIND .. .…ONE PURPOSE…..ONE !!
This could be called the Principal of Unity.
Too hard ? ……..
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
This is a true story………and it happened in my kitchen which at the time was under construction.
It involved a couple of builders who quite innocently gave me a “flash” of insight into the meaning of the word “marriage”.
About eight years ago we had our kitchen renovated, and as an Occupational Therapist with a special interest in Home Modifications I was wont to get under the feet of the builders, listening to them, and watching their progress, always picking up new terms that would help me in my professional work.
However, one day, a particular phrase used by the men struck me and made a lasting impression on me.
The phrase was this: “we’ll simply have to marry these two”.
What did this mean? The phrase emanated so naturally from the builders in question. There was no argument or debate over its meaning.
When I turned around to see what was vexing the men, I saw that the situation was that they needed to join two bits of timber to complete the job at hand.
It was also clear that they wanted the timber to be joined so that to all intents and purposes there would be no join….the join would be seamless.
And so the men set about to find a perfect match for the timber.
When they found what looked liked a good match, the two pieces were shaped, and reshaped ; moulded, glued and sanded. It was not until they were blended perfectly to look as one piece of timber and had the assurance that this was a join that would not drift apart over time, that the timber was declared “married”.
Suddenly all the lights in my head flashed…………..the two became one………..that’s it !
This “ dissolving into each other” is central to the meaning of the word “marriage”.
Marriage is so much more than a mere contract.
If these builders had simply wanted to join these pieces of timber, as in a legal contract, they could have stapled or dowelled or bolted them together in two jiffies - just like they do in those home make over programmes - but I knew from the attention they gave this join that this was special….this was a blending of materials.
Oh my! I doubt that those builders ever knew what a great inspiration they were to me.
Up until now, everyone has had a pretty clear idea of what marriage is, or at least that’s what most people have thought.
However in a climate where our understanding of marriage is being challenged, it is necessary now to clarify with greater focus, some of the key elements of marriage.
What is it exactly, and what do we stand to lose if the meaning of marriage changes.
Marriage is a solemn undertaking between a man and a woman to love each other to the exclusion of all others for the rest of their lives.
This is no easy task.
If a marriage is to last, and be a happy one, it requires the practice of generosity (with our time and possessions), humility (to admit when we have made mistakes), understanding (to help us to bear each others burdens), patience, temperance, self-control, self-sacrifice,……..the list goes on.
These human virtues are not attributes that necessarily come naturally. Most of us find some easier than others to practise, according to our disposition and personality.
However, to enjoy a happy married life, a husband and wife will have to come in time, to acquire the necessary attributes that will allow them to live in harmony.
Where one spouse fails, the other makes allowances, or gently jostles the spouse to improve.
Hence, the two grow together, moulding each other to a more perfect “fit”.
This is a life-long project.
Many obstacles and hurdles will be encountered along the way. Marriage is not for the faint hearted.
However it is wonderful to behold the transformation that occurs over a life time.
A marriage begins with two quite separate beings…different ambitions, outlook, temperaments, ways of stacking the dishwasher…………the petty arguments in early marriage !
But provided the couple keeps their commitment to love each other forever, in sight, they will find solutions to their differences.
It requires daily refining, but in the end they will look back on a life well lived.
We can all site examples of elderly couples where the two are totally immersed in each other. It is especially apparent when one of them becomes ill. The two have moved and breathed together for so long that when one of them breathes their last, the other sometimes follows shortly afterward.
THE CONJUGAL ACT
One aspect of marriage is the conjugal act , so let’s talk about it for a moment.
When I speak of the conjugal act, I am not using this term because I am too polite to use the word “sex” in this esteemed location. Not at all.
The conjugal act is specific to marriage. In marriage, the sexual union is a culmination of the expression of devotion and commitment made between the spouses.
The conjugal act between a husband and wife is so crafted by nature that it elicits a bonding process that is designed to sustain and strengthen the love between the spouses.
True love is essentially a complete and unselfish gift of oneself to another. Given that most people, due to their human frailty, find it difficult to live up to the demands of true love at every moment, the promise to love each other forever as made when people marry, may seem unreasonable or even impossible.
However, the conjugal act, proper to marriage actually assists the spouses to remain in love.
It is of course necessary for the act to be a true expression of love and not one of domination or of self-gratification, in order for these benefits to flow from the act.
It must be understood that only heterosexual unions have the capacity, by dint of their physical complementarity, to receive the benefits attributed to the conjugal act.
You see, men and women are wired very differently, not just physically, but in their very being. In the conjugal act, the man gives himself to the woman …in a receiving way; while the woman receives the man….in a giving way.
It is not fully understood, but it seems that only those who have already committed themselves to each other in marriage receive this benefit fully.
For those who are not married, the sexual union is really just “having sex”. It is not the same as the conjugal act.
FORMING A FAMILY
No discussion of marriage is complete without consideration of the family. Marriage and family are flip-sides of the same coin.
One of the deepest yearnings of the human heart is the desire to have children, and it is no coincidence that the physical union of a man and a woman is naturally oriented to this end…..to the formation of a family.
I told you earlier that in a true marriage 1+1=1.
Well just to prove even further that marriage defies mathematical logic, I am now going to tell you that in most marriages, 1+1=1+1+1+1+1……..
This could be called the Principal of Addition.
While it is evident that a growing number of children are born outside marriage, there is ample evidence to support the view that marriage is the best environment for the raising of children.
To entertain the idea that children will benefit from irregular and experimental household compositions is to ignore the evidence.
Marriage provides a framework of stability and certainty: where spouses work together towards a common goal for the benefit of their children and ultimately for the good of society and the nation.
Research suggests that children of stable marriages enjoy better physical and mental health and better educational outcomes than children of divorced parents and singles.
This is not to belittle the efforts of those parents who struggle to raise their children without the support of a spouse, but simply to highlight the fact that children are better off when both of their parents are married to each other.
This outcome is reasonable precisely because when a couple marry they make a commitment not only to love each other forever, but to welcome and nurture any children that may be born of their union.
Married parents tend to plan for their children’s future with more determination, and are prepared to make the personal sacrifices necessary to achieve the goals they have set.
Married parents also tend to provide more consistent standards when it comes to supervision of homework and recreation, and in applying discipline.
And while married parents are themselves busy acquiring all those attributes (virtues) that help them to become united, their children without being aware are learning by their example.
This sets them up with good skills in dealing with relationships as they grow up, and will help them in their own role as parents down the track.
The flow on benefits should be obvious.
A family truly built on love does not look in on itself, guarding with jealousy its own domain.
No…..quite the contrary.
A family truly built on love has as its mission, service to humanity; it is big-hearted and hospitable; it is both intimate and sociable; it fosters both laughter and sobriety.
The fate of nations hinges on its families.
And the fate of families hinges on the honour and dignity accorded to marriage.
I believe that this is the time for Parliament to do all it can to strengthen marriage,
Not only by passing without delay the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004,
but also by publicly proclaiming the great benefits to society of stable and happy marriages,
and doing all in its power to provide an atmosphere where stable and happy marriages can flourish.
To do less than this in the current climate, is to divest “marriage” of all meaning, and to propel our families further into a tail-spin of destruction.
This Parliament has a choice.