I have a close friend who lives with her partner. They have a young son who is seven years old; he is becoming a better footballer by the day.
My friend’s family, her mum and dad, help with aspects of caring, like many grandparents do.
My friend works tirelessly running a restaurant and when she can’t make it to soccer training, her partner, or the grandparents, take the young man.
This is a boringly normal family that shares the same concerns my wife and I do over schooling, finances, health, travel, housing and life in general.
The only difference between us as couples is we are heterosexual and they are a same-sex couple.
Regardless of the day-to-day life this couple have, regardless of the fantastic upbringing of their son, regardless of the sacrifices they have made to build a business, a home and a family, they cannot get married. The decision to get married is not a decision they can currently make as free citizens in a secular state.
Religious authorities such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are campaigning against same sex legislation and drawing assumptions based on the whim of belief, on non-scientific scripture.
The archdiocese writes on its website: “Confusing the institution of marriage with same-sex unions will have serious consequences for religious freedom and implications for freedom of conscience; and children should be afforded every opportunity to start life, grow and develop with both their biological parents, i.e. their mother and father.” (Episcopal Assembly Statement 2012)
The archdiocese does not know my friends, or their family.
My wife and I have gay and lesbian friends, LGBTQI family and I have never thought of them less ‘normal’ that any of my heterosexual friends.
Having worked as a youth worker in the distant past I saw first-hand how dysfunctional some heterosexual families can be and the impact that had on their biological children’s development.
As an adult I have seen many heterosexual married couples in my circle break up in acrimony, with detrimental affects on children. Clearly, the implied argument that somehow a heterosexual union is naturally better for the raising of children just does not hold.
What the Orthodox Archdiocese misses completely is the fact that many same-sex couples are often also biological parents. Gay men and lesbian women can become biological parents, so why would they not be be entitled to get married, if they wish?
Above all, I do believe in the concept of love and family. A child brought up by loving family, heterosexual or LGBTQI, religious or secular, is a happy child. Many children have grown up in heterosexual families that are bereft of love, some suffer from violence and abuse, so the underlying assumption by some theists that heterosexual love is superior is a belief only, not a sociological, or scientific, fact.
In the process of migration, many children were left in Greece to be raised by grandparents and others in the extended family until their natural parents secured a foothold in Australia. I spent endless hours being cared for by my grandparents as my parents worked in the early 1970s.
Normality is not about sexual preference. Love, respect and caring do not require validation from religious authorities. Marriage, though, does require validation from the state. We live in a secular society, and while we have agreed on freedom of faith, we have also agreed that religion needs to stand separate from the state.
People have the right to believe in stuff many of us find absurd, but the intrusion of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the debate against same-sex marriage is ideology that has nought to do with facts. The same-sex marriage plebiscite will create a rift between those that see love as the more powerful force and those that are stuck in a medieval understanding of family.
As Hellenes we made a virtue of same-sex love in the pre-Christian times. Our ancient philosophers, scientists, political leaders, artists, warriors and poets, those who led the Golden Period of Hellenism, saw same-sex love as part of the natural order. Ancient Greece, one of the most profound developments in human culture, had nothing to do with Christianity.
The archdiocese needs to validate love rather than summon fear; we are, after all, a modern secular state.