Sophie York on the case for traditional marriage

Wednesday 16 August, 2017

On 16 August 2017, it was Sophie York who graced Warrane College as the Wednesday Night Guest. A lecturer in Public International Law, Legal Philosophy and Jurisprudence, she is also a successful lawyer, published author, naval officer, and mother of four. But on this date she was in capacity as a spokeswoman for the Marriage Alliance on a very topical issue: the definition of marriage.

Marriage and its history

York began by talking about what marriage is, and its place in history.

Marriage in the history of the world came about as a sensible arrangement for the survival of the human race,” she began. “It’s been around in every culture since time in memorial. A man and woman would bond together and form a family. The commitment and ongoing protection offered by the man, the actual bearing of the children by the woman, and the raising together, was a remarkably natural and sensible feat by humankind and that would explain why it’s endured.”

“Marriage makes sense biologically, philosophically and theologically,” said York. She explained that biologically, there’s no child created without a mother and father. On a philosophical plane, marriage reflects the natural human right for a man and woman to marry and procreate. And theologically, there are many references in the Bible: “at the beginning of creation God made them male and female”; “be fruitful and multiply... for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh...” and so on.

York continued: “It’s cross-cultural, timeless, and it predates registration by the machinery of state. Throughout history there have been numerous marriages for reasons of great love, and the desire to form a family with the other person, and because of the important nature of marriage, people have also sought to use it for other purposes – even strategic purposes in some cases: to bring influential families together, to end wars between nations, to improve social position, to gain access to wealth and title...”

Opposing same-sex marriage is not about discrimination

York explained to the boys how marriage has historically been understood as being between members of the opposite sex. “And this fact was acknowledged internationally,” she said, “even where there was tolerance of homosexuality such as Ancient Greece and Rome. And until recently this fact was also respected in modern civilised Western culture... The Universal Declaration of Human Rights...recognises that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by the society and the state.”

In other words, she said, same-sex marriage is not a human right. This is reflected in Australian law, which has so far always defined marriage as between a man and a woman. York told the boys: “In short, law merely codified what human nature had defined. The parliament does not and never has bestowed the right to marriage...the right predates the machinery of government which merely recognises the right and offers protection and a framework for it.”

York went on to explain that opposing same-sex marriage is not about discrimination against homosexual people (in fact, laws have been changed to remove discrimination in this area). The actual issue here is the definition of marriage itself. “Marriage is a particular thing; it is unique,” said York. “And if I can use an analogy to demonstrate, it’s like water. Water is H2O...and we know that H2O doesn’t include milk, for example. Milk has its own features but it’s a different compound. And to acknowledge that doesn’t mean we’re being mean to milk; it’s just acknowledging a fact, isn’t it?”

York went on, “Orwell warned in his novel ‘1984’ that eventually politicians would control our language, and when they did that, they would also control our thoughts and take away our freedom. Language is powerful. Words have a built up cache of meaning attached... the word marriage and matrimony presume the inclusion of a female; it doesn’t even make sense to apply it to two men.”

“To treat people the same when there are actually demonstrable differences - that is actually discrimination,” said York. “To treat unlike as like is discriminatory. So for example in sports there are different requirements of women and men, recognising that women and men have different strengths and physiques.”

She talked about how in some countries, words like husband/wife or mother/father can no longer be used on official forms; it’s become progenitor 1 and 2. Documents like birth certificates, which are meant to be a snapshot of truth, now can be altered to avoid this so-called discrimination. Are things going too far?

Fighting for the traditional definition of marriage

York went on to tell the boys about her work with Marriage Alliance, and why she believes what she does.

“Marriage Alliance is an independent apolitical grassroots organisation...launched in 2015,” she said. “Our aim is to preserve the current definition of marriage, which has served Australian society and its children very well...”

York told the boys how at the moment, about 22 countries have redefined marriage, while around 174 have not. The countries which have changed it often did so by robbing the people of a say. There are numerous cases overseas where things are getting more out of hand at the expense of others’ rights or freedom of conscience. By judicial default, polygamy is now possible in Ireland…; people have been jailed for not administering gay marriage licenses against their conscience; and in some places people can identify as whatever gender they feel like at that moment – something which is problematic for women’s only hospital wards, jails and so on. Unfortunately, it looks like the options are to either to agree with this supposed majority, or to be sued.

York finished up: “The reason I defend marriage is this: I think marriage has served Australia very well, and it will continue to do so. It doesn’t need to be redefined, and in fact in the countries where they have legalised it, the percentage who have availed themselves of it is tiny...after all that hoo-ha in the Netherlands, 80% of gays don’t even want it, they don’t see it as relevant to their coupling. We don’t need all the societal fallout we’re seeing overseas.”

She continued: “And I want to make this point: if you want to build a building in Australia, you have to get an environmental impact statement. You have to be upfront about all the anticipated problems and how you’re going to solve them. And what we’ve seen here is that there’s no social impact statement. We’re not being told about the impacts it’ll have – in fact the opposite! We’re being told there will be no impacts and that’s completely false! So why should we ever agree to change the definition of marriage?!...Australia needs to rule a line...we are the start of the pushback; the political correctness stops with us.”

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