Questions on religious freedoms and gender education answered

BY NOW most Australians should have received their postal surveys asking them whether same-sex marriage should be legalised.

Recent surveys suggest 65 per cent of Australians intend to take part in the survey, which is not compulsory. Of these 70 per cent said they would support gay marriage.

While many have already made their decision, questions are still being asked by some about the implications.

If you’re confused about some of the claims being made, we’ve got some answers for you:

Is marriage religious?

Although many see marriage as linked to religious rituals, it was a practice that dates back to early tribal groups in Britain, who used it to establish diplomatic and trade ties.

“It was originally a way of getting in-laws, and thereby turning strangers (or potential enemies) into allies or trading partners,” Professor Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College told news.com.au.

“That’s why the word for wife in several ancient languages meant ‘peaceweaver’.”

It was also not exclusively limited to two people, consisting of a man and woman. In fact, Roman Emperor Nero was married to not one man, but two.

Prof Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, said as time went on, marriage became a way to manoeuvre for a better position within society, allowed people to raise money for business ventures and consolidated claims to aristocratic power and inheritance rights.

“In ancient class societies, without a state, your kin connections were your own little mini state — it was their job to defend you and avenge you.”

At this point control over marriage became such a powerful resource that parents, kin groups, emergent states and religious institutions (especially Christianity) began to fight over who had control over who could marry and who could not, and what kids were “legitimate.”

“Marriage then became highly politicised, and rival religious groups, or religious institutions that had become closely aligned with…

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