The (Imaginary) Horror Of Marriage Equality

by Sirlan Soosay

Opponents of marriage equality seem to have given up arguing over marriage itself. Instead they try to create fear and panic, arguing that it will lead inevitably to all sort of other dreadful consequences. Nicholas Butler had created an incredibly detailed rebuttal of all their claims: you can read the full document at the foot of the page. So next time you need to argue with an equality opponent, you’ll have all the ammunition you need.

Meanwhile, here’s a summary of his main points.

Were already equal

MYTH: Same-sex couples already have all of the rights of opposite-sex couples, and same-sex marriage is therefore unnecessary.

There are many legal rights that only marriage conveys: civil unions or partnerships are not sufficient. Same-sex couples can now be recognised as de facto partners, but it is difficult to establish proof of the relationship. And only marriage grants partners recognition as each other’s next of kin should one of them die.

Package deals: government

MYTH: Same-sex marriage is a package deal with other policies because some governments support both.

Governments support a vast range of policies, for example from immigration to national security to taxation to renewable energy. Adopting one doesn’t make adopting the others inevitable. Each proposal must be independently evaluated by the legislature: passing one policy does not making passing another any more or less likely.

Package deal: campaigners

MYTH: Because some same-sex marriage supporters also support other pro-LGBTI policies, same-sex marriage will trigger the implementation of e.g., the Safe Schools Coalition. This is patently absurd.

The fact that some people advocate for more than one policy does not mean that the other policies will be implemented. Where same-sex marriage and other policies are implemented together, it is only because the government wants to implement both, and is successful in doing so.

Adoption, surrogacy, IVF

MYTH: If same-sex marriage is legalised, state laws prohibiting same-sex adoption, surrogacy and IVF will be overturned.

These laws are state laws. The federal government has no power to legislate for these matters.

MYTH: If same-sex marriage is legalized, commercial surrogacy is an inevitable next step.

In April 2016, a bipartisan parliamentary committee recommended that commercial surrogacy remain illegal in Australia. The Labor party platform does not support changing the prohibition. Even those who have concerns about commercial surrogacy can be sure that same-sex marriage will not trigger its legalisation.

International law

MYTH: Under international law, marriage is a “compound right” to found a family, so if a state grants marriage rights to same-sex couples, it must also grant them the right to have children.

Wrong. The right “to marry and to found a family” (Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) applies only to “men and women of marriageable age”. States are required to grant the right to found a family to opposite-sex couples only. They are not required to grant this right to same-sex couples.


MYTH: If same-sex marriage is legalised, it will lead to sex education in schools that includes homosexuality.

Australia’s national school curriculum is determined completely independently of the Marriage Act. The current curriculum is determined by the Review of the Australian Curriculum, announced by then Education Minister Christopher Pyne on January 10, 2014. This review took place without regard to marriage law, and its conclusions and recommendations will not somehow be changed by a change in the Marriage Act.

MYTH: Because of same-sex marriage, US public schools are required to teach young children about LGBTI issues.

Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 U.S. states, yet California is the only state that has such a curriculum. If such a curriculum really was a “package deal” with same-sex marriage, it would be implemented in more than one state out of 50.

MYTH: Because of same-sex marriage, the United States allows transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The U.S. federal government implemented this in response to a bill passed by the state of North Carolina forcing transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex. It was not triggered by same-sex marriage. The federal law under which the federal government issued the directive is Title IX of the Education Amendment Acts 1972, enacted 32 years before the first U.S. state legalised same-sex marriage.

Freedom of speech and religion

MYTH: If same-sex marriage is legalised, freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be undermined.

Same-sex marriage opponents quote instances of people being sued under anti-discrimination laws for opposing same-sex marriage. But the threats to freedom of religion and freedom of speech that they speak of never come from marriage laws, but from anti-discrimination laws. Changing the Marriage Act will not change the operation of antidiscrimination laws or make them more stringent

Damage to hetero marriage

MYTH: Same-sex marriage has caused marriage rates to fall in places where it has been legalised.

A 2004 study in the Journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy found heterosexual marriage rates and divorce rates in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands displayed no significant change in trends after implementation of rights for gay couples; longstanding trends in nonmarital birth rates did not change; nonmarital birth rates showed the same changes in countries with and without partnership laws.

MYTH: Same-sex marriage increases divorce rates in opposite-sex couples.

In almost all jurisdictions with same-sex marriage, divorce rates had been rising long before same-sex marriage was legalised. In one notable exception – Spain – rising divorce rates coincided with the legalisation of same-sex marriage because same-sex marriage and liberal divorce laws were adopted in the same year.

The full document

Download (PDF, 247KB)