Everyone’s talking about a Christian couple in Canberra who threatened to divorce if same sex couples were allowed to marry.
Nick and Sarah Jensen appeared on the cover of the Canberra CityNews on Thursday, with Nick, the director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, penning a column in which he says that after 10 years of marriage, he will divorce his childhood sweetheart and “the only woman I have ever loved” if gay marriage becomes law.
But he goes on to say they will still live together, call each other as husband and wife, and have children out of wedlock.
“The marriage of any couple is important to God regardless of whether that couple recognises God’s involvement or authority in it,” he says.
“If our federal parliament votes to change the timeless and organic definition of marriage later on this year, it will have moved against the fundamental and foundational building block of Australian society and, indeed, human culture everywhere…
“This is why we are willing to divorce. By changing the definition of marriage, ‘marriage’ will, in years to come, have an altogether different sense and purpose.”
The debate the column has generated has been huge.
A Canberra law firm weighed in to point out that the Family Court is unlikely to grant a divorce if they’re still planning to cohabit, pointing out that marriages are dissolved by law due to “irretrievable breakdown”.
“We cringe to know that this is what puts Canberra on the map,” lawyer Kirsty McCleod writes.
Then Soren Jensen jumped on Facebook to both defend and disagree with his brother, saying:
My brother is a loving father and husband, in a beautiful supportive marriage, a man of deep religious beliefs and he lives by those truths. He is intelligent, educated, compassionate and reasoned. In our debates over this issue, and you can imagine our Christmas conversations, he has always been open to listening, to countering and to engaging in a frank and open debate on the topic.
Nick has used his democratic right of free speech to state his point, and to publicly say that if there is a change in the legislation from the government on marriage he considers this a breach of contract and his marriage agreement with the state should be annulled. He is not a loony, a religious nut or any of the many other descriptions being thrown around. Nor is he a hateful person. He is an intelligent, reasoned man making an argument and a stand on his principles and his religious truth on this issue.
But his statement has hurt people.
He points out his brother’s involvement in the Australian Christian Lobby, but pleads for moderation, saying “if both sides resort to name calling and nasty attacks, what can possibly be achieved? Both are guilty of this and it serves nothing and no one.”
Soren Jensen pleads to the better angels in everyone, saying:
So I invite you if you have seen this article and are affected by it, not to sling insults on social media, but to get proactive. Write to your MP’s and representatives. Tell them that the church should not be allowed to dictate and has no claim on the definition of marriage in the modern age. That our marriage act is currently discriminatory to those citizens who love each other and want this recognized as equals to all others.
If you are Christian and you do not share the beliefs of my brother then write to the ACL and tell them they do not speak for you.
What’s clear is that Nick Jensen’s column has lit a match under the issue of marriage equality and all sides are fighting to hold their ground.
But it’s also apparent in the era of social media that plenty of people are prepared to back Nick Jensen, just not in the way he intended.
A Facebook event, titled “Celebrating Nick & Sarah Jensen’s divorce” already has nearly 40,000 people saying they’ll “attend” less than 48 hours after it was set up.
The debate is now so heated a woman who went to the Jensen wedding a decade earlier has disinvited the couple from her own wedding.
“I don’t want you anywhere near my wedding. You and your views are not welcome, because you’re right — the institution we’re marrying into isn’t the same one you think you’re in,” Annie Haggar wrote in an opinion piece for News.com.au.
Coalition backbenchers such as George Christensen, who raised the spectre of a revolt against prime minister Tony Abbott‘s leadership earlier this week, might want to start checking the polling in their electorate a little more carefully, especially with 72% of Australians don’t think gay marriage is an issue.
But it’s clear Australia could do with a little more love right now.
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