Over the weekend – in Australia – it has been really interesting to see how the SCOTUS decision has been welcomed. Although SCOTUS doesn’t have any impact on Australian legislature and policy decisions, it has been viewed – in conjunction with the recent vote in Ireland – as a kick start to a campaign for Marriage Equality frozen by a succession of policy-scared Governments.
The current Australian Government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott has actively worked to ensure Marriage Equality is viewed as an ‘unimportant’ issue. In 2013 the then opposition leader used the power of the party room to overturn the Liberal Party’s historic use of conscious votes, ensuring a block vote from all members to block the most recent move towards Marriage Equality.
For a Prime Minister who campaigned on honesty and yet is proven time and again to ignore his “promises” for political expediency, it is truly jaw-dropping that the one campaign slogan he is sticking to is “no” to Marriage Equality, despite recent statistics showing upwards of 70% approval in the community for Marriage Equality.
The media and Government regularly refer to it as Same Sex Marriage and while Marriage Equality at its heart is aimed at ensuring marriage for all couples regardless of the gender of the spouses involved, to reduce it to the term Same Sex Marriage is deliberately misleading and designed only to ignore the reality of what marriage equality activists are fighting for.
Over the weekend I witnessed first hand – well via Facebook – the joy of couples all over the United States as they were freed to marry the person they loved. The decision from SCOTUS means that couples in the US are no longer classed as less equal – under Federal law – than their heterosexual colleagues and family members.
I wrote something this morning after I noticed a trend on my timeline of people sharing, liking and posting status’ about “There will only be God’s Traditional Marriage” and “Same Sex Marriage is Wrong.” It got me thinking about how we know so little about the people we invite into our lives via social media.
I make no bones about being a gay man. I haven’t since I finally came out at the age of 24. I spent the majority of the first 24 years of life putting up with abuse and bullying, both physical and psychological, over my sexuality. The first time I was called a pansy was at the age of 5. I had no idea what a pansy was at that age, beyond it being a flower.
The older brother of a class mate called me that in the middle of the playground. Over the years it changed; poof, pillow biter, shirt lifter, cock sucker, faggot, dirty cunt, AIDs carrier. It never stopped. The first time I was told I was going to die of AIDS I was in Year 6. The HIV epidemic was world news, the Gay Cancer that was killing the gays.
Since I came out I’ve gone about my life and ignored the jibes, the comments, hell most of the time I don’t even hear them, but here’s the kicker. Every time I’ve been insulted, abused, harassed or degraded it’s been in the name of “God.”
He needs to toughen up, they’d tell my mother and father as I was bullied, hit and beaten in the school yard before the age of 7, refusing to get on the school bus and vomiting in fear as it approached.
But what has that got to do with what I wrote about on Facebook this morning? Not much beyond I would have thought people who viewed homosexuals as “less equal” or “inferior” would have deleted me and blocked me ages ago. It’s surprising to me that even a handful still remain.
It is also why I won’t be silent on this issue, despite my absolute lack of interest in marrying. There are people out there today, growing up in a different time to be sure, who still need to hear they are equal. It is not enough for some of our children to be taught en masse they are less equal than their classmates. All of us are entitled to live a beautiful life, none of us should be paying the price for inequality in this country in this day and age.
Why I believe the term “Same Sex Marriage” is deliberately misleading is because it ignores the basic premise of marriage, and directly focuses people’s attentions on the gender’s and sexuality of those seeking to marry.
Marriage – for all the romance surrounding the day – is ultimately a contract.
That’s what it boils down to. It is a contract between two consenting adults that joins their lives, their finances and their futures. It provides a level of legal protection to ensure a couple are protected in the event of an emergency.
It is also about companionship, and acknowledging the love you have with family and friends. In Australia the Marriage Act stipulates that a celebrant MUST say “marriage is between a man and a woman.” I have stood at friends weddings watching the happy couple beaming proudly at each other and heard those words come out of the celebrants mouth. I have stood as family and friends are told they are above me simply be a fluke of sexuality.
Marriage Equality is about clearly saying, “You are equal,” not “sorry, you’re less equal under the eyes of the law than someone else.”
And that’s the thing isn’t it; marriage is about the law otherwise there would be no reason to monitor it, legislate it, or make it a political football or pay a fee for a marriage licence.
Marriage Equality has nothing to do with God. I’m sorry but that’s it in a nutshell. Marriage has nothing to do with God. Again, uncomfortable but it’s a fact. Marriage is about the law, a legal step taken by those who want to spend their lives together.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the Australian Marriage ACT was amended by then Prime Minister John Howard to stipulate marriage as between a Man and a Woman.
Marriage is about legal recognition and legal protections.
As I said on Facebook this morning;
“You don’t go to the Chapel and purchase a marriage certificate, you do it at the courthouse. You’re not signing a nice little certificate from the local Reverend, you’re signing – in effect – a binding legal contract between two people, ratified by the State.
Marriage Equality isn’t about forcing churches to marry Same Sex Couples, it is about affording couples, all couples, the same protections and access to government services as everyone else. It’s about rights of inheritance, rights as next of kin to make medical decisions, it’s about not having to draw up dozens of legal documents to ensure your partners parent can’t just turn up in the hospital room and have you thrown out because you have no rights.
The Anti-Marriage Equality people have done a very good job at muddying the water, but the reality is, Marriage – whether traditional or Same Sex – ultimately boils down to ensuring an even playing field.
Marriage, for all the pretty bows, expensive gowns and half-cooked banquet foods has always been about the “joining of two people.” While it is a romantic notion that joining happens because God, in actuality it happens because you sign a contract, ratified by a public official, that joins you together legally under the law.”
To those who actively fight against Marriage Equality, particularly those of you on your second or third God-Given traditional marriage I ask you;
“What would you say to a child of yours who grows up to realise they are gay?”
Would you seriously look them in the eye when they come to you and say:
“Sorry Little Tommy, you don’t deserve the same legal protections or acknowledgements as your siblings do. It’s not that I hate you, it’s just that your not as equal as siblings.”