As the Australian public has decided in favor of same-sex marriage in a nationwide survey, the deep divide in society as to the question persists. The subject, thus, is seen both as one of the “public issues of social structure,” and presenting key troubles for certain individuals, as their well-being is threatened (Mills 1978, p. 14). With the help of the concept of social imagination, it is possible to understand how religious beliefs, societal norms, and historical circumstances have shaped the views of a large segment of society. Applying the concept of social imagination makes it possible to shift one’s perspective and see the debate from the point of view of an LGBT individual. This paper is concerned with the application of social imagination to the same-sex marriage debate in current Australian society, with the goal of outlining the church’s position, the concept of traditional marriage in its historical perspective, the influence of the ban on the lives of LGBT individuals, and the challenges children with same-sex parents face.
The troubles same-sex partners face stem from the issues present in the Australia’s faith institutions. The Christian Church, for example, views marriage as a union between a man and a woman; The Bible states its goal as multiplying the world population. The believers see same-sex marriage as unnatural, and, additionally, as an infringement upon their religious freedom. According to them, a priest has the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples; a photographer or florist, thus, have grounds for denying services. Due to the law permitting anti-discrimination exemptions to Christian institutions that care for disaster survivors, LGBT people are blamed, abused, and intimidated when they are even more vulnerable (Bouma 2016). From the perspective of LGBT individuals, the Christians fail to understand that people should not have to forgot their desires and happiness to please the society, as their religion values sacrifice above all. Therefore, it might be hard for someone not steeped in religion to see the challenges present in non-traditional marriage. Social imagination, as demonstrated above, can let one perceive the opposition between Christian church and same couples that results in conflicts, mutual accusations, and denials of marriage blessing.
When adoption issues are concerned, social imagination also lets one understand the legal sides of gay couples having children. The laws only recently have been changed for most of the jurisdictions to allow same-sex adoption, and the Northern Territories are still not permitting it (Schubert 2016). Same-sex couples, particularly consisting of two men where none of them have children from a relationship with a woman, see adoption as the only way to acquire heirs, a difficult task while the courts still value the birth mother’s rights above all. On the other hand, a lesbian couple can have equal rights in childcare, even in the case of a surrogate pregnancy (Status of children act – sect 5da rule relating to parentage – female de facto partners n.d). Thus, the way the Australian law views gender norms presents additional problems for same-sex couples.
Social imagination also lets a person have a view of the historical roots of the issue. At the early stages of its formation, the Australian society viewed marriage as a union between two people of opposite sexes, so they might procreate and multiply. One could argue that the role of Australian geography in the nature of its colonization has required a traditional model of family relations from the settlers. Multiple descendants were needed to administer to vast swathes of land, as these helping hands ensured the family’s survival. Generations of Australians have been taught that this model is the only right one through the media, the church, and the education system; it could be argued that it is those individuals who voiced disapproval at the idea of same-sex marriage.
The current Australian society’s survival is no longer dependent on the traditional family model in this post-industrial century. Still, Harris sees the Federal Government as unlikely to overturn the Howard Amendment, which defines marriage as the “union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” as it sets religious freedom above human rights (2017, para. 3). On the other hand, an LGBT person does not understand how their desires and choices as to their future well-being could be a concern for the whole society. They do not want their lives to be policed by those who do not understand their challenges. Another argument of traditional family proponents is that with the opposite-sex parent perceived as missing in the relationship, the child will lack a strong role model and specific life skills. Same-sex parents, on the other hand, often fear that the child will be discriminated against at school, or be excluded from certain class activities.
Through social imagination one can also assess the consequences of this conflict. Society’s pressure leads to a spectrum of mental illnesses, such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. According to Crouch et al., ”same-sex attracted parents and their families often encounter stigmatization, which is known to affect their health and wellbeing”( 2013, para. 9). Legalizing the same-sex relationship would lessen the stigma and improve mental health. Bariola, Lyons, and Leonard indicate that “a public declaration of relationship commitment may socially validate a same-sex couple’s relationship and the sexual orientation of the individuals involved” (2015, para. 2). Therefore, it could be said that the society’s stance is detrimental to the health of LGBT individuals.
Social imagination allowed to take a multifaceted view on the problem of same-sex relationships and assess its impact on the Australian society as a whole. Employing this concept, one can understand that the problem with recognizing same-sex marriage arose from such issues in Australian society as the strong influence of the Christian values and inability of an influential segment of society to think apart from the historical perspective, particularly on the subject of child-rearing. The settlement of these problems appears to be forthcoming. The majority of the public has spoken in favor of the recognition, however, in the event of formal recognition, specific laws would still permit discrimination. All in all, the debate shows a structural crisis in the institution of marriage, and the system of government as well, as it is seen as neglectful of human rights and public health issues.
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Crouch, S R, McNair, R, Waters, E B & Power, J 2013, ‘What makes a same-sex parented family,’ The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 199, no. 2, pp. 94-96. Web.
Harris, B 2017, ‘Human rights and the same-sex marriage debate in Australia,’ Journal of Politics and Law, vol 10, no. 4, p.60. Web.
Mills, C Wright 1978, ‘The promise,’ in The sociological imagination, Penguin, London, pp. 9-32.
Schubert, S 2018, ‘NT should legalise same-sex adoption: Chansey Paech’, ABC News. Web.
Status of children act – sect 5da rule relating to parentage – female de facto partners n.d. Web.