This week we have been celebrating the momentous and resounding YES vote in the Australian marriage equality survey. It’s been a very long time in coming – in fact in 2011 Ralph Hogan, who founded Villa Botanica with his wife Janet, wrote this letter to the editor of the Weekend Australian, articulating his strong support for marriage equality.
This seemed like a beautiful occasion to share it again.
My wife and I own Australia’s most exquisite wedding venue in north Queensland. We have been together for 30 years and have three wonderful daughters, so from a gay perspective, we’re pretty much your typical boring middle-class breeders with the benefit of some additional insight as to the ritualistic significance of the marriage act. I was born into a traditional heterosexual mum and dad unit with two siblings and a family experience which delivered me a catastrophic childhood from which I am only now emerging in my 60s.
One of the most significant lessons I’ve learnt from my own life as a child and a father of three is that a child’s life and outcomes have little to do with the sexual orientation of the individuals who sign up to it by getting married. In reality, raising normal children is contained not in the ritual, its sanctity or its significance but in the awareness, maturity, love and commitment of parents. Straight or gay. Married or single. Way before a child needs a traditional family structure, he or she needs absolute love and security and that can come from anywhere. Traumatised, unready mothers and unloving, uncommitted fathers like mine were, make a massive negative impact in a child’s life both in their presence and their absence. Like so many boys, I was left to seek out my values and gender role models from the strangers of my life and in literature.
All the gay parents I’ve known are every bit as capable of providing the gender modelling necessary for boys and girls so the child can assume their natural sexual orientation without bias. Like all good parents, they are only concerned with creating for their children the optimum environment for them to become happy and fulfilled adults. Gay parents only want what straight parents want, successful, balanced children with enough awareness and love to understand that we are all equal and that any form of prejudice is unacceptable. It’s time to call the anti-gay marriage lobby exactly what it is; anti-gay and hiding behind the bullshit of lofty rhetoric. To say they are totally accepting gay rights but we need to protect the institution of marriage by rejecting their fundamental right to have children and be treated as are other parents, is grotesquely hypocritical.
It only makes sense when you remember that these people still believe that being gay is a choice and that to them the prized fossil on your coffee table was put there by the devil to test your faith. The marriage ceremony is a giant act of faith which finds its value in providing an emotional and social gravitas to the occasion of a couple’s greatest ever act of commitment. Buoyed by the good wishes and immense power of intent from loved ones and strangers alike, they find themselves briefly sanctified by society’s greatest accolade of acceptance and stamp of approval. It’s very very powerful stuff and is the most perfect send-off possible for a new couple. It is simply not an institution which can be corrupted by being expanded from its artificial fortress around straight love to incorporate gay relationships, and it’s everyone’s essential right to have their lifelong commitment to another ratified this way. Healthy kids are a product of this commitment, not the ritual. How can we criticise the higher failure rate of gay relationships when it’s this very prejudice which is one of the key reasons for the fragility of many gay relationships. A relationship without hope of acceptance from a society which constantly attacks its legitimacy is like a life without a clear vision of its future, doomed to failure. It is cruel beyond comprehension to treat our fellow human beings this way. To set in cement a prejudice first inflicted on gays as children so that they will never, ever be allowed to achieve our society’s most precious endorsement is unforgivable.
I know that if I had the choice to be raised within a small-minded, homophobic family by parents who felt it their God-given right to indoctrinate their kids with the inanity of religion and all its attendant bigotry or a gay couple who valued above all their child’s right to a loving, open-minded environment, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.
— Ralph Hogan Whitsundays, Qld