Thursday, 2 June 2016

Marriage equality

Isn't it about time!? (see what I did there)

As we power through 2016 at an alarming pace, I returned from Perth in May and have done a little reflecting onwhere I am in life and where I might want to head. I’m not exactly the most forward person in the world, ordinarily, but my friend Lauren gave me some advice before heading on holiday in March: I had to go on at least one date before she returned (as I was about to give up) and live in the moment because, as the kids say: YOLO. Well, thanks to following Lauren’s advice I got to experience some of the loveliest moments of the last couple of years. I normally get so caught up by and tangled in nerves, but this time took a leap of faith.

A leap that, I think, had as much to do with the person that makes you want to take a risk and just go for it. When someone who radiates warmth and genuine authenticity enters your life… Well, you want to dance in their music and sing to their melody. You literally take stock and think ‘where did you actually come from?’ and ‘what did I do to deserve such awesomeness?!’

Hold on to that thought, because searching for that someone can be something of a quest. One that should never be embarked upon from a position of loneliness or need, as this will ultimately skew your decision-making; instead, try to remember how an amazing person makes you feel, and aim to find that. We can’t choose who we ‘like’ – granted – but I do think we have implicit control if our motivations are good, honest and without expectation. Remember that - because nobody owes you anything and if your motivations come free of expectations, then you just appreciate the moments and hold on to a little hope that perhaps that awesomeness will continue to grow and that you get to listen to the whole album. (Even if you don’t, you'll at least get to enjoy that one track and hum the tune every now and then.)

Over the past few years (now I’m older), I’ve realised just how much fear (of all sorts of things: what others will think, and of not feeling good enough, among them) has held me back from meeting people and from developing myself. I was so quiet and almost embarrassed by my sexuality for so long that now it feels like I have some making up to do. Over the last couple of years I’ve become more proactive about gay rights and I no longer want to just sit back and allow society to continue ignoring the rights of my community. Last month I listed my gay agenda… This month I want to follow on by tackling the topic of marriage equality.

So, why is marriage equality important? Why do we all - regardless of our sexuality - need to stand up for this fundamental right? To start with, let's ponder the following.

Why are we upholding a law that was made in another country 1674 years ago?

Same-sex marriage was outlawed in the Roman Empire in 342 AD by Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans. The law specifically prohibited marriage between men and took away a right of freedom from humankind – we recognised homosexuality prior to this moment, so what changed?

Constantius II made a concerted effort to promote Christianity throughout the empire and rid it of Roman polytheism (paganism to you and me). Why am I drawing your attention to the Romans in particular? It’s because so many of our political institutions are derived from ancient Roman precedents. It was the influence of the Christian church that encouraged Constantius II to bring in a law prohibiting homosexual marriage. There is much debate about whether gay marriage was legal before this, but certainly before this time gay relations were tolerated.
Unlike homosexuality, marriage is a life choice, which we should all have the right to

Today, marriage is the ultimate romantic concept: together 'until death do us part', which is something that so many of us want to declare to the person they love above all else. Whether to get married (and let's not forget that marriage offers many legal benefits too) or not is a choice, a choice that some of us are currently still denied in Australia - long after the fall of the Roman Empire.

We've managed to get rid of old-school notions of marriage

Let’s also have a look at the history of marriage (rather loosely, as I don’t have time to research this as thoroughly as I would like). Essentially marriage was (and sadly still is in some cultures) a patriarchal means of possession: a woman given away by her father to a man for use as his own personal resource for reproduction, household-labour and anything else he desired. (Not a lot to do with the ‘love’ part.) Another reason to marry was to make the production and ownership of children ‘legal’, so they were ‘possessed’ legitimately. There has been a two-century-long battle for equality amongst the sexes in Western societies. From the mid-nineteenth century legislators have passed a variety of rules that formally moderated the inequalities of marriage. In the twentieth century we made further moves to make marriage a more equal partnership between man and woman – the notion of marriage evolving as we as a society have evolved.
Therefore as a society should we not evolve with that notion that marriage is now truly about love: most importantly equal love? Until modern times why would homosexuals/bisexuals want to buy into this historically unequal, oppressive institution designed for the subordination of women? Now that, finally, the foundation of marriage is love we want in, and why the heck shouldn’t we?

The mistaken idea that legalising gay marriage will cause the breakdown of marriage and the family

This argument (kinda similar) was around in 1887 when, according to come patriarchal luddites, the women’s suffrage movement would ruin the sanctity of marriage. Men like Col. Marshall Murdoch, the founder of The Wichita Eagle, argued that a woman’s ‘natural’ place was in the home and that ‘the designs of the creator’ had sanctioned this.

Well, Col. Murdoch, do you know what happened to marriages and families when women started to vote in municipal elections that same year? Nothing. Nothing happened. Family life continued in the same way. We've come along leaps and bounds in the battle for equality between the sexes, and I can guarantee the people of the world that when gay marriage is eventually legalised in Australia it will do nothing to change the sanctity of marriage. On the contrary, it will enhance it. And, as a further plus point, all the gays will have a bloody big party that everyone will be invited to as we have waited a long time for this moment in history.

Why must we have a plebiscite to decide this fundamental human right?

The first thing I would like to make people aware of is the cost. If the Australian government were to hold a plebiscite to decide if people like me are able to have the ‘choice’ to marry, this would cost the Australian public $525 million (according to PwC modelling). W.H.A.T.? Do we not have better things to be spending Australian money on? Seriously.

Then we look at public polls… Listen to your people… Polls consistently show that 64% of Australians support the legalisation of same-sex marriage. This is a large majority; we don’t need to vote: you just need to pass a bill that other countries have passed. Don’t waste money on this! I would rather it stayed illegal for another couple of years than have that much money wasted on a plebiscite that ends up reflecting what the polls show. Let’s use some common sense.  

Australia’s evolvement

I believe this country has so much to offer the world and has so much growing to do, and that’s why I love it. I am passionate about the future of this country. I urge everyone who lives here to have a voice on the matter – we don’t need a plebiscite we just want a bill to be passed to reflect what the majority of Australian people want. For me, personally, it’s about feeling equal… It’s about one day taking my kids to school and not feeling mocked or deemed any less of a family unit than that of my heterosexual friends… It’s about one day being with the woman I love and being able to be proud about that love and show it off to the world… It’s about having the same legal rights as my heterosexual friends… It’s about equality. We're all equal before the law - so why not extend this to a law that reflects this?

We all feel love, we all love being in love, so why should some of us have more legal rights because their love happens to be with someone of the opposite sex? If the main answer is ‘because God said so’, go back and re-read His book because there are also many passages to the contrary and also many passages that, in all honesty, do you really want them to be reintroduced into common law?

Some background reading:

Why the Romans are Important in the Debate about Gay Marriage Robert Frakes

What Gay Marriage Teaches about the History of Marriage Hendrik Hartog

Gay Marriage? What Next… Women voting? Randy Scholfield

‘Same-sex marriage plebiscite to cost $525m, PwC modelling shows’ Francis Keany

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author, and edited by Sophie McClelland.

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