There’s been a huge hoohah on the net over the last few days about gay marriage being back on the agenda here in Australia thanks to New York passing their marriage laws. State Labor parties are also pushing Federal Labor to amend the Marriage Act to include gay marriage, or at least to change their policy regarding it at the next Federal Labor conference. A lot of articles have been written for and against gay marriage, and I’ve read a lot of them over the past few days, as well as the huge number of comments that these articles tend to attract.
I have been equally saddened, angered, frustrated and dumb-founded at some of the blatant bigotry, naive indifference, and sheer ignorance at some of those comments. I have been heartened, though, at some of the comments made by people (not just gays) arguing for gay marriage. Basically, as I see it, these are the main arguments or concerns people against gay marriage have and make, along with my (hopefully brief) thoughts on each:
That’s the way it’s always been
(Also known as “That’s what the Marriage Act says, so ner” and “It’s our word, get your own”)
I really don’t care if it’s called “marriage” or “civil union”, as long as it confers the same rights to my wife (yes, wife) and I as my sister and her husband. But let’s be totally honest here. When a couple decides to take that extra step in their relationship and make that commitment in front of their family and friends, it’s called a “marriage” – a coming together of two people. No different to what my wife and I want to do, legally. Our friends and family call my wife exactly that, and when asked of our relationship status, they all refer to us as being married. It’s the socially accepted term for that relationship, so why change the term? Definitions change, especially when they’re legal or social, which is what we’re arguing about here. Besides, would you like to tell people you’re “civilly unioned”?
Homosexuals are a minority – why change the law for a minority?
(Also known as “There are more important issues to deal with” and “Let’s have a referendum and let the majority decide once and for all.” Sometimes disguises itself as “I know gay people and they don’t even want to get married”)
There is no doubt that the GLBTI community is a small one compared, say, to Christians, Muslims, and AFL supporters. In fact, there’s probably more people who watch synchronised swimming than are (openly) in the GLBTI community. Depending on which study you read, we range from .000001% of the population to around 10-15%. Let’s just split the difference and say we number around the 7% mark. It really is irrelevant. Laws are made for everyone, not just the majority. There are plenty of minority groups in society who have been discriminated against in the past, and who are no longer because laws were changed to stop this. When you restrict a group of people from accessing certain rights and responsibilities because of sex, age, race, religion or sexuality – or simply because they’re a minority – that’s discrimination. And it’s certainly no reason to NOT change the law.
As for the “I know gay people” line, I’d like to thank all those people for speaking on my behalf. I could also say I know lots of unemployed people and they all rort the system, but is that really true of all unemployed people? (On second thoughts, maybe a bad example…)
Just because I “know people” doesn’t make it true across the board, and it also doesn’t give me permission to speak on their behalf. I know heterosexual people who don’t want to get married – but guess what? They have that choice. I don’t. Don’t assume something just because you “know people”.
Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice
(Also known as “Homos are promiscuous and can’t maintain long-term relationships”)
I’m not really sure where this myth comes from – maybe people equate Mardi Gras with lots of sex and drugs, and therefore all gays must be like this all the time. I actually laugh when I see this one in a comment thread. My response? Glass houses and stones anyone? Promiscuity is not restricted to gays, and we’re not having any more one-night stands and non-relationship sex than your average heterosexual. Don’t believe me? Go out to a night club on a Friday or Saturday night and check out the number of straight people going home with someone different each night. This really is a mute point as far as I’m concerned, because someone (regardless of sexuality) who has a different sexual partner each night is hardly the type of person who would think marriage would be a great idea anyway.
There are plenty of people who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to find the “right one” and have trouble maintaining a long-term, healthy relationship, but this is not dependant on your sexuality.
A lifestyle choice is deciding to live on the coast, or to work from home, or to stop work completely and live a self-sustainable life on a hobby farm in a country town. Being gay is not a lifestyle choice. The only “choice”, if there is one, is whether to stay in the closet and live a lie, or be happy and confident in who you are, and live your truth. I could have married a man (I was engaged when I was much younger) but this would have been a huge mistake. I was never really happy until I met my current partner seven years ago. We are a normal couple, doing normal couple-y things. I really am no different to anyone else when it comes to my relationship, except my partner is a woman.
(Also disguised as “The gay agenda is to convert innocent children and vulnerable adults to their cause”)
I understand where people of and with faith are coming from here. Honestly, I do. But the point is, I don’t go around expecting you to change your life to fit in with my ideals, so why should you expect me to do the same? And before anyone howls me down and says this is exactly what allowing gay marriage would do, think about it this way. Have you ever seen a gay group going from door-to-door, handing out rainbow-coloured pamphlets asking you to come to their gay club, Mardi Gras or Pride event? No? What about gay groups “teaching” in schools? No? Look, I have nothing against religious groups knocking on doors or teaching RE/RI in schools. In fact, more power to them – it takes a lot of guts. But please don’t confuse the “gay agenda” with “conversion”. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one particular group of people doing the converting and it certainly ain’t me and my rainbow friends.
The other myth being circulated is that churches will have to perform gay marriage ceremonies. This is a total nonsense. Churches and religions already have leeway set within the law to actively discriminate against things that go against their teachings. And that’s ok. I don’t expect them to change. What I would like, though, is instead of those of faith thinking that this is going to affect them, realise that most of us have nothing against you – we just don’t have the same beliefs as you, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t want recognition of my relationship from God, just the government who is happy to take my taxes, but not give me the same rights as my hetero friends and family.
What happens in the event of a relationship breakdown?
(Also known as “Won’t somebody think of the children” and “Children have no choice to be born/brought up in these relationships”)
Firstly, thanks to the change in de facto laws, we now have access to the family court. So there’s nothing different between the breakdown of a hetero relationship and a gay relationship – except there may be more arguments over who gets the soft furnishings.
As for children and their choices – tell me what child gets the choice (ever!) to be born into ANY relationship or family – whether that be heterosexual or homosexual? Do children get the choice to be born to wealthy parents as opposed to those on skid row? What about those kids who much prefer parents who are more interested in sport rather than academia? See how silly this one is?
I understand concerns about children growing up with two mums or two dads, and perhaps there not being enough influence of the other sex, but this one depends entirely on your view of family. My wife and I are not having children, but if we did, those kids would have plenty of male role models. They’d have two grandfathers, 4 uncles and plenty of extended family and friends to boot. As for teasing and bullying, well that’s going to happen anyway, and often is borne of kids not understanding that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It’s up to us, as the adults, to teach our kids this point. Bullying is always going to be around, and that’s a sad fact. The only thing we can do is equip our kids with enough confidence in who they are to overcome it.
It will invalidate or de-value heterosexual marriage
Does the guy up the street who beats his wife invalidate your marriage? What about the woman at work who’s getting married for the third time? The only ones who can add value to your marriage are you and your wife/husband. And the only ones who can de-value it are you and your wife/husband. Someone completely unknown to you cheating on their wife/husband in no way affects your marriage – unless of course you’re the one doing the cheating or being cheated on. That’s a whole different story. My point is, when you walk down the street and see a couple holding hands, you have no idea whether they’re married or not, whether they have children or not, or whether they’re friends with benefits. And it has nothing to do with you either. None of those scenarios have any impact on how you see your marriage.
The real truth of the matter is, “we” gays want marriage because of the stability it represents, both to us as couples and to our friends and families. My wife and I had our “Big C” (commitment ceremony or non-legal marriage) two years ago. My wife didn’t think she’d feel any different, as she knew it wouldn’t overly change the strong relationship we already have. However, even though it wasn’t legal, we did feel different – stronger, two parts of something bigger than ourselves individually. Now if only the government would recognise that too.
Overall, I can understand some of the points against gay marriage – though truthfully, really only the religious arguments. And while I do think it will be inevitable that the laws will get changed to allow us the priviledge of legally walking down the aisle, I think there is still a long way to go.
We are all human, and we all have the same wants and needs. Some of us are just that little bit different. That doesn’t make us bad – it just makes us different, that’s all. I love my wife, and she loves me. As far as we’re concerned, we’re married, whether it’s legal or not. And we will do it all again when it does become legal, even if that means we’re both old and decrepit and can only manage to rustle up our witnesses from off the street because all our friends and family are gone. Until then, I will continue to love my wife, and honour her as I promised in my “Big C” vows in front of our friends and family (even if that is out of threat of harm from her friends – just kidding guys – really!)
My big hope is that one day, people will no longer look at my wife and I holding hands when we walk down the street and see us as a curiosity, but as the sweet, loving, committed couple we are.
As always, I would love to know your thoughts. This is a big issue for so many people. “Yes” or “no”? “Marriage” or “civil union”? Share your thoughts below.
Hey, it’s tamara and I definitely agree that gay marriage should be legalized 🙂
Selina, words well put …
Perhaps the accepted institution of marriage requires another evolution.
Social challenge may well be for wider acceptance of different words to describe the different ways people have made or intend to make a permanent commitment to a partner.
My wife and I were married in a church as that was what we accepted and understood was the done thing from our own family histories … now later in life, and not having a strong bond to any particular church or religious institution, I’d expect a ceremony which met the required government provisions in a place of more relevance to us personally may be chosen instead of a ceremony in a church.
I don’t know enough about current legislation to understand any rights you may not have from a demonstratable de-facto relationship than a legal “Gay Marriage” … are there many? Does the Big C add any additional weight to demonstrating a legitimate defacto relationship is in existence, if such evidence is required?
Dan, I agree with the institution of marriage needing to evolve. Quite simply, in my opinion, there are two types of marriage – holy (as in, sanctified by God) and civil (legal in the eyes of the law and recognised by government). I have no beef with church-based marriage. It’s not something I would have chosen for myself even if I were straight. I think we need to look at the civil side of marriage, as there are rights and responsibilities that are afforded by the government when a marriage is legally recognised. Most of those laws have been amended now to encompass de facto relationships, which is a great step forward. There are a few remaining though, such as immigration laws, which depend on a legally recognised marriage.
As for our Big C, we signed a commitment certificate in front of about 60 friends and family, and wifey has threatened on more than one occasion to wield it if necessary to prove breach of contract 🙂 As for proving anything legally, perhaps intent with regards to our relationship, but we’ve never needed it. Our wills and powers of attorney would probably be more sufficient, as the times when we’d need them (ie life and death situations) would probably be those times we would need to prove a relationship. Besides, we have 60-ish or more people who’d vouch for us if we needed 🙂
I love what you have written. I was wondering if I could steer my Year 11 Legal class to your blog for our upcoming Family Law Unit? Personalising stakeholders makes the issue so much more ‘real’ to the students. I always share with the students how I feel about the subject but there is nothing like hearing it from someone other than your own teacher.
I’d be delighted for you to steer your class my way Nat. I’m happy to answer any of their questions as well if you like. I can be emailed directly at srsblog at hotmail dot com