I am reminded of how deeply conservative Australian culture is.
And I am disappointed. Not disappointed for myself, I am not directly affected. My life is both comfortable and safe. My relationship has long been deemed worthy by the state and is privileged by virtue of marriage and heteronormality. But what about the relationships of my youngest sibling, the one who had to flee our small town for the bright lights of the big city in order to survive? Why can’t the future partnership in that life be deemed worthy of recognition, privilege, protection?
I know that not all of those in homosexual relationships want marriage. I know in some circles its seen as irredeemably conservative, patriarchal and exploitative. But I also know that there are many couples who desire to have the love of their lives recognised as such. Who wish to celebrate their partnerships with a publicly recognised ceremony. Who wish to have their relationships validated as marriage. Who by virtue of the fact that the person that they share their life with is the same sex as them, their commitment to one another is not seen as being worthy of being ‘marriage’.
I believe that by recognising same-sex relationships in marriage, the relationship of same sex couples who choose not to marry are also validated, as the option would be there even if they chose not to take it up. They would be free to reject marriage, rather than be rejected by it. The privilege accorded to heterosexuality would be challenged.
Right now, the Rudd government is attempting to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to the vexed issue of same-sex marriage. On the one hand, the conservatives are being appeased. Marriage is deemed to be ‘sacred’ and ‘natural’ and is defined in law as being between a man and a woman (doubtless in that order). On the other hand, laws have been changed so that same sex relationships are recognised and a accorded a sort-of pseudo equality (with hetero relationships) before the law, that falls well short of being understood as marriage. (This situation is not without its critics). It seems pretty cowardly to me. For tax purposes, same-sex relationships count, so the State benefits. In addition, to some extent, our human rights obligations are fulfilled as many forms of legal discrimination and inequality have been dismantled. But in regards to marriage, and the attendant status and privilege, the state will not extend these benefits to same-sex relationship. You know what, almost equality is not equality.
Here’s a list of how the Senators voted, so you know who to excoriate write to to express anger and disappointment.