Today I looked at the Iona Institute’s document The Argument for Preserving Marriage in a Nutshell. This document has a number of bullet points that supposedly argue a case in support of opposite-sex marriage. I read through the points, but found that they’re a case of talking lots but saying nothing. In fact, they don’t even really talk about marriage that much at all.

  • Every society has an interest in encouraging mothers and fathers to raise their own children together

Yes, to an extent. But this point is “parent-centric”, in contrast to Iona’s supposed “child-centric” view of marriage (see below). Society accepts that sometimes mothers and fathers are, for whatever reasons, unable to raise their children together: separation, drastic change of circumstances, divorce, death, absent parent, etc. Because of this, society allows for fostering and adoption of children, as well as welfare options for parent(s) who need it, to ensure that the child in question has the best possible chance of having a full and positive childhood.

The issue of raising children is misplaced in and separate to this discussion, and I feel that the Iona Institute are using it as a strawman argument to the real issue. But, in their document, Iona continue with the “raising kids” fallacy:

  • Every society in history has developed the institution of marriage mainly for that purpose

This is a bit nonsensical. If marriage exists just to allow people to procreate, then what about all the families with unmarried parents? Or what about the marriages where the couple do not wish to have children?

If you go to a wedding, you will find that the ceremony is about love and dedication of the people involved to each other. People who are in love get married. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with having children or not. Therefore, this second point from Iona is moot, as anyone who has ever been to a wedding can see.

  • It is this child-centred view of marriage which is enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This isn’t correct. Here is Article 16 of the Declaration:

16(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
16(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
16(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

As you can see, Article 16 does not say anything about a “child-centred view of marriage”.  It says that people are entitled to have a family, and that such families are to be protected. It does not say – as Iona seem to be suggesting – that all families must have opposite-sex parents. It also does not say that only people of different sexes can get married.

This is somewhat of an aside, but earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights found that in the case of X and Others vs Austria, Austria was in violation of Articles 14 and 8 in the European Convention of Human Rights (be careful not to confuse this with UDHR). The Court found that it was discriminatory to prevent one person in an unmarried same-sex couple to adopt the biological child of the other person in the relationship, while it was perfectly acceptable for opposite-sex couples to do so.

Again, Iona are trying to use a “won’t someone think of the children?” argument to try to raise emotions, and to try to garner support for their views on marriage, which is a separate topic and should be treated as such.

  • Abundant research shows that the family based on the marriage of a child’s biological mother and father generally produces the best outcomes for children (See note below)

And yet again, the Iona Institute willfully ignores the fact that marriage is about love and companionship between two people, and not about raising children. But let’s take a look at this “abundant research” in the note they mention:

Note: ‘Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low conflict marriage’ – Marriage from a Child’s Perspective

That’s it. A single sentence. That is not abundant research. However, what real abundant research shows is that there is no difference between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples when it comes to raising children. I wrote about this research in a recent post, Are Gay Parents Bad Parents?

  • Changing the definition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples logically leads us to say that being raised by their own mother and father does not matter to children or society

You may need to read that point a few times to get past the grammatical car-crash, but in essence it says that children don’t care if they’re raised by their biological parents. I think that is very insulting, as it completely undermines the loving relationships people have built with adoptive parents, and trivialises the complex nature of different family structures. Of course it matters to children how they are raised, but again, it has nothing to do with marriage.

  • It is not discrimination to treat something that is unique in a unique way, and marriage as currently defined is uniquely pro-child

I’d like to see this definition of marriage and where it’s pro-child. As I said, people can have children outside of marriage, or be married and have no children. As marriage is about two people in love, it is discrimination to treat their love differently just because of their sex.

This reeks of the attitude perpetrated by the likes of Susan Phillips (who calls same-sex relationships “friendships” and demands that they use another word instead of “marriage”) where some people seem to be annoyed that gay people are being treated the same as straight people.

  • While it is obviously true that not all married couples have children, nonetheless it is equally true that every child has a mother and father

So? This is a point that adds nothing to Iona’s views. Obviously people have a mother and father, that’s common sense.

The document ends with the loaded question:

Should we have an institution which encourages fathers and mothers to raise their children together?

I’ll leave you, the reader, to figure out why things are much more complicated than this.

That’s the end of it. What do I make of this document about marriage produced by the Iona Institute? Well, it actually talks about raising children much more than than marriage. It’s also populated with moot points that don’t add anything to the conversation. This literature is a very thinly-veiled attempt at undermining marriage and people’s love, and it seeks to do so by dragging in the issue of child-raising as if it somehow supports the anti-same-sex marriage stance the Iona Institute have.

I’d love it if Iona were actually honest with their points and gave some real reasons as to why they oppose same-sex marriage. But I have a good feeling I know why they don’t: the Iona Institute is a group in support of religion, and all these views on marriage echo the stances put forward by the Catholic Church. I’d have much more respect if the group said as much in their literature, instead of trying to hide the religious reasons as to why they believe gay people are second-class citizens.