dormant_dragon: (Default)
[personal profile] dormant_dragon
So, it looks like Australia will have to wait at least another few years before catching up to more progressive parts of the world which have recognised the right of homosexual couples to officially marry. I see little chance of it happening under a conservative government headed by a Catholic prime minister, who at his election victory speech rather disturbingly displayed his daughters clad in virginal white.

I've written about the subject of marriage and marriage equality elsewhere before but this seems like a good time to air some more thoughts about it. I have to say right up front that I am in two minds about the issue as a whole.

Those who wish to 'protect' marriage by denying homosexual couples the right to legally and socially sanctioned recognition of their commitment are holding up one of the last bastions of segregation in the more enlightened parts of Western society. Superficially rational statements like, "Children need a mother and a father" are just the oil-slick on top of the much deeper waters of prejudice and exclusion.

What, exactly, do the conservatives think they are protecting?

Some of them, of course, adhere to blatantly religious views such as the notion that marriage was "defined by God" as the union of a man and a woman. The Catholic view is particularly sinister in that the sacrament of marriage is what legitimises the sexual union between the man and the woman; and furthermore, every act of intercourse must be "open to procreation" in order not to be a sinful expression of selfish desire. As long as it's balanced by the effort and pains inherent in bearing and raising children, then it's okay to enjoy sex; but it's not okay otherwise. Hatred and fear of pleasure permeates the morality bequeathed to the West by Christianity and given his declared religious allegiance, we must suppose this to be the view held by our new prime minister.

Whilst it is a biological fact that a homosexual couple, left to their own devices, are unable to procreate, this cannot be the real reason for excluding them from marriage. Heterosexual couples who are unable or unwilling to have children are permitted to marry; and on the other side, there is no longer a social stigma attached to the fact of children being born "out of wedlock" - even the phrase now sounds archaic - so it's simply not true anymore that marriage is considered to be primarily about bearing and raising children.

Yet it seems there is still something special and meaningful about the concept of marriage that conservatives think would be undermined by the act of attaching the name and all it implies to a union between two people of the same sex - though not, apparently, by the prevalence of divorce, the legal standing of de facto relationships, not even by the gaudiness of the wedding industry.

So what's the something? This is where my views drift into murky waters.

For one thing, opponents of marriage equality will frequently say things like, "But gay couples can have civil unions - what are they complaining about?" as if a civil union carries the same legal and social weight as a marriage. It doesn't, as a matter of fact, have the same legal definition, nor the breadth of rights and recognition attached to marriage. It also seems to lack gravitas and certainly it lacks a sense of romance - "I'm entering a civil union!" really doesn't evince the same kind of excitement as, "I'm getting married!"

What I wonder is why this is the case.

I am married, as most people reading this know; and the day [personal profile] japester proposed to me was indeed one of the happiest of my life. But why this particular expression of commitment and the desire to be part of my life should seem more significant than something like moving in together, buying a house together (both of which we'd done before the wedding) or even, for that matter, entering a civil union together is something I really can't explain. Yes, marriage has the weight of history behind it; but that history is far from edifying. I do at times feel a bit strange referring to myself as a wife, precisely because of its uncomfortably antiquated connotations, the hint of staid conformity and repression of individuality that hovers about it like a bad smell. At the same time I can't help feeling that the phrase, "My husband" somehow has more clout in society than "My partner", as if I, as a woman, am more accomplished, more well-defined as a person for having married a man than for merely having a relationship. Why this should be so is in itself an issue that might well become the subject for another post.

So on the one hand, I certainly appreciate in an emotional sense why same-sex couples want to be able to get married; rationally I can see no good reason to exclude them from the legal rights and social privileges that accompany marriage. On the other hand, there is that part of me that questions the status and value of marriage as an institution; and wonders whether we shouldn't all be holding out for something better.

Date: 2013-09-10 05:06 am (UTC)
japester: (flirtskirt)
From: [personal profile] japester
Adding in to the weight behind words, what do you think with the phrase, "my wife." ?

I think it's high time we either swapped titles, or switch to something completely new. I'd propose Patron/Muse and Artiste if they didn't have an inherent power/relationship imbalance.
Edited Date: 2013-09-10 05:07 am (UTC)

It's a strange thing marriage

Date: 2013-09-11 12:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] durnick
Dormant,

Long time reader, first time caller. It's interesting isn't it my partner and I does seem a little strange when you say it out loud. But for all the time I have lived in Canberra its almost normative to use that term rather than husband or wife. Indeed once my last relationship ended and I ceased to be married I realised I never wanted to go there again. I don't say this as a comment against other's choices in this regard but rather as a personal reflection.

When I met the most lovely J, we discussed this early in our relationship and realised both of us were against marriage for the reasons you outlined in your post. Misogyny and the religiosity of Marriage just was not for us, so we left it behind. Once again blessed with living in the furthest left city in Australia we were able to choose a civil partnership instead of a marriage. We have settled on T and J when we introduce ourselves to others as it's easy and also actually introducing the other person.

Having said all of the above I think this in no way should stop the legalisation of Equal Marriage Rights. After all I had a choice which others who I care deeply about do not, and it's ultimately the question of that choice that is at the heart of the issue. When their practices cause no harm, an individual should have the right to exercise their free will, even if that is to get married!

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