More about marriage equality

Kris posted a link a while back to an article about an anti gay marriage activist who has changed his tune, and now supports relationship equality. Here is a link to a letter that was sent to him, that he quotes as being a turning point in his attitude.

Next Thursday, I am going to meet with my local federal MP about relationship equality. I am going to ask her to speak in favour of reform at the next ALP national conference. There are a few points I’d like to discuss with her, and perhaps you can help me to clarify my thoughts, and add some new ones?

° Marriage is the basic fundamental unit of our society. Marriage is the first step in building a family, and a family helps us to have the support and love that we need to be our best. Marriage provides stability, a framework for growth, an economic platform, and a framework for moral behaviour. Why should your choice of partner exclude you from the best that being a grown up has to offer? Why should any group of society be denied this basic human right?

° Not allowing people to marry is discrimination. The ALP recently removed all forms of discrimination, so that gays and lesbians now have no fear of discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Really? I don’t think so. If you can discriminate and say that a person can’t marry, and yet still call them equal, it’s hypocrisy. Equal means EQUAL, not “almost equal”.

° There is a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage in the minds of many. To my mind, the distinction is irrelevant to most people who want a civil ceremony, but quite important to those who want to marry within the church. Since most opposition to relationship equality comes from a religious perspective, why not legalise civil marriages and let the religious debate take place where it belongs, in the church.

° It has been said that gay marriage de-values heterosexual marriage. It is my belief that the opposite is true, that gay marriage adds to the value of relationship recognition. When Britney Spears marries in Las Vegas and the marriage is annulled the next day, marriage is made a mockery. But standing beside my husband on my wedding day, it occurred to me that my marriage was meaningless until my best man (who just happens to be gay) won’t be able to marry the love of his life (when he finds him!) just because he is gay. What does my marriage mean in the light of the fact that my dear friends who are in every way just as committed, just as in love, just as responsible, just as wonderful parents, etc, what does it say about marriage, that my relationship is “worthy”, and theirs is not?

° It may not make sense to a lot of people why a happily married woman cares so much about this issue. But the truth is, it was my own marriage that sealed the deal for me. I met someone I adored, and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We decided to make it official, and our silly, joyful ceremony amongst our nearest and dearest, and our fabulous party afterwards meant so much to me. It seems like such a callous injustice to deny this joy, this stability, this support, to anyone who sincerely seeks it.

22 thoughts on “More about marriage equality”

  1. Maybe an additional point?

    Marriage is also about a public commitment to treat one’s spouse well, to look out for them and care for them. The public (family, friends etc) witness that commitment and can exert a degree of moral pressure to ensure spouses treat each other well, even through the tough times in the relationship. Marriage gives an added degree of confidence/psychological security, that both people really intend this relationship to last … and that is being denied to homesexual people.

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    1. Good point Ginevra. Though some people don’t take that seriously. We took it so seriously we asked everybody at the ceremony for their support 🙂

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  2. I know you’ll acquit yourself very well at this meeting! We’re not sure when we’re going, but we are going.

    For me, the removal of all the other layers of federal discrimination makes the marriage inequality even worse. Before, I could tell myself it was about denying various welfare payments to many gay people, or scooping up wads of death taxes because we couldn’t hand over our possessions to our partners like straight people could.

    But those factors were removed and opposition to same sex marriage remained, and that could only mean that, yep, this country really and truly did want gay people to be treated as second class citizens.

    I’m not sure how clearly I’ll articulate that when we meet with Julie Owens – I’ll be too busy keeping my kids in line so we don’t look like frauds when we claim to be good parents and good contributors to society.

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  3. I sent a letter to my local MP last week about this. I think youve covered everything beautifully. You certainly covered everything that I included in my letter. I really like the way that you talk about how much your marriage means to you and your realisation that your gay friends cant enjoy the same. I personally think that the most important point to drive home is the fact that it is blatant discrimination. There are many moral and personal arguments that are valid but the legal/human rights aspect of the discrimination (I think) is most likely to begin to sway pollies. Ive been so disappointed (naively) by Labours public statements about marriage equality. I really hope they get their act together soon. Its makes me ashamed to live in a country that denies a whole section of the community this basic right.

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  4. I am a child of lesbian parents (well my Mum was married to my Dad, then discovered herself later, but thats a whole different story).

    Fast forward a number of years… Mum – Sandy – met Elin when I was in late high school and we formed our family. I received fantastic parenting from both Moth and Oth (as I chose to call them; Mother and Other with thanks to Lara for inspiration for the names) discipline was positive and negotiated from both parents, free thought was encouraged and respect for all people regardless of their roots was sacrosanct. I believe that the ethical education I received in my family prepared me incredibly well for the diversity of the world in which I now live. I also witnessed first hand the pain that marital discrimination can cause – in the last four years of her life, Elin (Oth) was incapaciated by strokes and spent her last years in care… our glorious country (to which both Moth and Oth contributed their share of tax all their working lives) told my parents that the family home wasnt in fact a family home, it was just an asset and would need to be sold to pay for Elins care. I will never forget the day we discussed this with Elin, all three of our hearts broke in 10 different ways for even more reasons. Long story short, Moth and Oth were lucky – they failed the means test and got to keep their home. The most offensive part of the whole experience was that if Moth and Oth were a heterosexual couple, we would never have had to put a frail sick bedridden old lady through the experience of being told her able bodied partner had to sell their home to keep her in care.

    This is just one (very personal) example of some of the sickening stories I have heard that display what having no equal legal recognition of relationships can cause – people lose their homes, they are financially destroyed, or they end up spending time pointlessly negotiating an antiquated irrelevant set of rules because of a simple quirk of the lottery of life that makes you fall in love with some one, when they should be putting htier energy into loving and supporting each other.

    My point (and I do have one) is simple – if you love some one and they love you and all you want to do is care for and protect that person, the law should not only let you, it should actively seek ways to support you in that endeavour. There should not be sliding scales of abstract moral codes applied to you because one sentence written in an ancient document nearly five thousand years ago and misinterpretted countless times in the intervening millenia suports a vague idea that being gay is some how not right. To conclude my ranty rave, I would like to say this – the biblical verse used to prevent equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians can be directly translated as this:
    A man should not sleep the sleep of a woman with another man… If anyone can explain what the bleep that means and how it applies to our society in 2011, please do… we could all use the laugh

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story Andrew. Having grown up with you, and knowing Sandy and Elin, your family informs everything I do in this fight. xoxoxo

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  5. Strong relationships make for strong communities, which everyone depends on.
    Gay/ straight/ bisexual/bipolar.muslim.catholic/athiest are all just labels to keep us apart.
    John Howard understood !

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  6. I’ve been thinking more on this, and the one other point I want to make to our MP is that being a good MP is not just about representing the current views of your own constituency. It would be very easy to conduct this exercise and say “well, 77 per cent of people in my electorate are opposed so I am voting against changing the policy” – but sometimes you have to do what’s right just because it’s right.

    It makes me pretty mad that politicians even think they need to canvass opinion before choosing to do the right thing. In this area there is plenty of disciminatory sentiment to go around. I don’t see her conducting any polls on whether people who don’t speak english should be sent packing – because that would be abhorrent – but plenty of voters in this area would support that action.

    There’s just no truly defensible reason to deny a basic right to one small part of the community so it really irks me that we need to have all this consultation on marriage equality.

    So, I’ll be encouraging Julie Owens to think about her broader responsibility and to consider whether she’d rather look back in 20 years and feel pride or shame – because this change is coming either way.

    FWIW I have heard only good things about her and I expect her personal position is supportive. I just hope she has the courage of her convictions.

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    1. Too right Red. If popularity was the only criteria, we’d all be back in high school, what a nightmare.

      Personally, I think that this might be an exercise in looking like she is being consultative before she actually does whatever the hell she wants to do anyway. But if there is a chance we can have an impact, it’s worth taking. And I’ve heard good things about her too – I think it is very unlikely that she is against relationship equality, but she is a member of the Labor party, which is (so far) against it. I wonder if the recent polls might be stirring things up a bit for them?

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  7. Alas, the recent polls show that while the tide is turning in terms of the bigger picture, western Sydney remains a stronghold of ignorance and bigotry.

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    1. Except for us. We shall be islands of sanity amongst the bogans. And we aren’t alone – there are more of us! And I think as the inner city becomes more and more expensive, we’ll see more free thinkers move out to the wonderful west.

      And keep an eye out for an upcoming post – brains on politics.

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  8. “The ALP recently removed all forms of discrimination” isn’t quite correct, unfortunately. The NSW Antidiscrimination Act outlaws discrimination on the basis of “actual or perceived homosexuality” only, which means that I can legally be discriminated against on the basis of my bisexuality. Unfortunately gay rights lobby groups don’t seem to be interested in this.

    My view on gay marriage is “why should I be allowed to marry one person I dated but not another, purely on the basis of the shape of one of their chromosomes?”

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  9. I don’t have anything useful to offer beyond general Kudos. I do think sometimes ignorance can be cured. Your preparation and consideration of this topic will have an effect. Perhaps this time or perhaps next time – or even the time after that. But it will have an effect as people are exposed to a broader perspective on acceptance. You’re helping them overcome their fears and ignorant teachings. Keep up the good work and thank you for setting such a great example!

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  10. An interesting discussion. As a church going Christian I have no objection to gay folk sealing their relationship, just find a different word please. Someone somewhere should be able to come up with something that sounds a little bit more 2011. Leave the marriage word, which is old, as it is for man and woman and get a new funkier word. Then when a woman or man says to you they are (insert word here) you know immediately that she or he has a same sex partner, which I think would be good!!

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    1. That’s the thing about equality though Linda, it has to be actually equal to be equal. I can stand on one leg and hold Mark’s hand and call him Mary, but unless we were legally married, we’re not married. (we are married, but not in a church).

      And while I have deep respect for all religion that is about caring for people and supporting each other as a community, we have to be a community. As my dad said, no artificial divides, no us and them, just us. So perhaps if the church wants to exclude homosexuals, and keep marriage for the heteros, maybe it’s time for there to be a bigger delineation between civil marriage and religious marriage?

      And as for a separate word – I’d worry that it would be like stitching a yellow star to a jacket. Here, look at me, I’m different. Throw a stone if you have a spare minute….

      One thing that is starting to worry me about or society is the preponderance of “if you don’t like it, leave”, and “F off, we’re full” type of stickers on cars, and the inherent xenophobia. It’s scary, and it seems to be getting worse. I think the last thing we need is to alienate people, to force more people out of the “us” and into the cold dark world of “themness”.

      Marriage is love. Marriage is family. Marriage is support of community.

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  11. Hmmm…so now I understand me. I have a problem with the word marriage, so there you go.
    Didn’t the word marry originally have something to do with the Virgin Mary?? (PS readers, I’m not Catholic, okay?) lol. (0:

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    1. I understand that your opposition revolves around the word, and I do respect your opinion, I just disagree with it.

      Fortunately, or unfortunately, as your mileage may vary, the church no longer controls who can marry. It used to be that if you wanted to marry, you had to convince your local priest that you can make a go of it. Now, the state has control of who can marry, and the church only controls who can marry through the church.

      I am not saying this system is infallible, or perfect, but it is the way it is.

      So, since it is the state and not the church who has control over marriage, and since we have a legal separation of church and state, it seems like we have a conundrum. The state doesn’t allow gay marriage because the church didn’t, but the church doesn’t have a say in anybody elses marriage. Does that seem fair?

      If marriage exists only between a man and a woman for the express purpose of procreation, within the bounds of a relationship with god, then my marriage is also antithetical. Mark and I are both atheists, and neither of us planned to have children when we married. Whereas I have gay friends who are deeply committed, deeply religious (yes, catholic), and desperately want to start a family. I don’t know if marriage is high on their agenda, but for most heterosexual couples in their position, it would be.

      So we can agree to disagree, but I feel compelled to explain my reasoning. I don’t expect to change your mind – I just hope to change the laws 🙂

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      1. One more point I want to raise. As celebrant, I am frequently asked “all that stuff about marriage being between a man and a woman, can we skip that? My bother/cousin/best friend is in a same sex relationship, and it kills me that we have to say such offensive things just to get married legally”.

        Mark and I didn’t have the monitum read at our wedding – it was just before john howard “sttrengthened” the marriage act. If we had to say those words, would we have still gone through with it? I honestly don’t know.

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  12. Andrew’s painful experience throws up another point—
    when we discriminate/abuse the parent(s), aren’t we abusing the children?

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