It strikes me as odd that at a time when Australians are debating whether allowing gay people to marry might destroy the "sanctity" of the tradition, hundreds of thousands of us are tuning in to prime time TV to watch complete strangers get hitched for kicks.

If you haven't seen Channel Nine's Married at First Sight, here's the run-down: single woman approaching 30, desperate to put a ring on it. Single bloke, reckons he might get a gig on radio if he becomes a reality TV star. Panel of "experts" checks out their vitals, matches them based on their interests, life philosophies, whether they both like Weetbix etc. Woman and bloke slap on a gown/tux, walk down the aisle, say an awkward "g'day" for the first time and get married. Reality TV mayhem ensues.

It's all a bit despicable, although it makes for fun viewing, particularly the bit this week where Jonno took one look at his bride Clare and blurted "she's not what I ordered".

But if there's anything admirable about Married at First Sight, it's that it demonstrates how much marriage has evolved into a simple legal contract, albeit one dressed up with white lace and bonboniere.

Actually, marriage hasn't so much evolved as come full circle; until it was formalised as a sacrament until the 16th century, it was primarily a contract to establish diplomatic, financial or trade ties, a way of joining forces between families to gain economic or political advantage.

Sure, modern marriage is less about medieval trade routes and more about everlasting love and releasing 100 white doves to Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, but it's still basically just legal paperwork binding two people together. Religion barely even features any more, with more than 74 per cent of marriages now performed by a civil celebrant, according to ABS figures.

So when groups like the Australian Christian Lobby and Marriage Alliance start jumping up and down about how legalising same sex marriage will take a jackhammer to the foundations of society, I wonder where they are on Mondays and Tuesdays at 7.30pm. Clearly not watching Channel Nine.

It seems strange to me that people who claim to want to preserve the "sacred tradition" of marriage don't seem to be bothered by the fact that it's been turned into reality TV entertainment.

But then, most of the arguments against same sex marriage don't make much sense.

"Won't someone think of the children" is one of the main ones, with opponents saying gay and lesbian parents deny kids the chance to grow up with both a mother and a father, something they claim is psychologically harmful.

Aside from the fact that the science on this is dodgy at best, the argument is pointless.

Because unless they are also going to campaign to repeal the divorce act and somehow outlaw single parents, it's a moot point. Children are already growing up in families without their biological mothers, or fathers, and sometimes without either. If the right to marry was based on one's commitment to never desert one's children, there'd be a hell of a lot more de facto parent families.

There's also the inconvenient fact that people don't actually need to be married to have children. Shocking, I know, but true. There are plenty of gay and lesbian couples who already have kids.

One presumes that, if same sex parenting is as damaging as anti marriage-equality groups say it is, they will also advocate for the forced removal of children already in such families? Or is it OK for kids to grow up in a "harmful" situation, as long as their parents aren't married?

The latest Marriage Alliance propaganda depicts the Titanic heading towards an iceberg along with the words "marriage equality: there's more to it than appears on the surface".

Whatever is under the surface in this debate, it's not logic.


First published in The Advertiser April 9, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article.