Activism: Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

Currently there is a senate inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

From Australian Marriage Equality:

The Bill seeks to amend the federal Marriage Act so that same-sex partners are able to marry in Australia, and to recognise same-sex marriages legally entered into overseas.

The inquiry will be conducted by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. No date has yet been set for a close of submissions, so we suggest you make your submission as soon as possible. The inquiry is due to report by 26 November 2009.

In 2004, an inquiry into the Howard Government’s ban on same-sex marriage received more submissions than any other Senate inquiry in history; 13,000 against same-sex marriage and 3000 in favour. Please join us in ensuring that the balance of submissions to the 2009 inquiry more accurately reflects majority community support for equality.

Anyone can make a submission, not just those in a same-sex relationship. It is also very important for our politicians to hear from family, friends, work colleagues and other supporters of our community.

Australian Marriage Equality have a niffy form set up so that you can send in a submission, and it is found here. I urge you to get political and support this important bill.  I wrote and sent in my submission before I had a poke around the the site which offers some great suggestions for what to submit. I had the following to say (my own words not bolded):

Dear Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee,

This is my submission to your inquiry into marriage equality. I fully endorse the submission made by Australian Marriage Equality in favour of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009.

As our parliamentary representatives you are entrusted by us to act on the will of the people.  In light of polling which shows that a majority of Australians are pro marriage for same-sex couples I feel that it is wrong to withhold the privilege of marriage from any section of the community.  Particularly as the government now recognises and taxes as a couple same-sex partnerships, it seems to me to be churlish and bigoted to deny same-sex couples the status that is accorded wedded heterosexual unions.

Historically marriage was extremely patriarchal and based on an economic agreement between a groom and the bride’s father, the bride being exchanged between them like chattel.  Long gone are the days when women were considered to be the property of men.  Marriage used to have little to do with love and was undertaken for pragmatic reasons such as economic survival.  Marriage in (post)modernity is considered to be a union based on love, and the ideology supporting marriage has evolved from those unenlightened times when women were only valued for their reproductive capacities.  With the development of contraceptives, and changes in our socio-economic system, the production of progeny is no longer a defining characteristic of marriage.

Previously only men were given legal rights within marriage  – he represented the family, her rights were subsumed by his under the process of coverture.  Feminist agitation has removed most traces of coverture from marriage and men and women are now equal within marriage.  Both parties to the marriage have the right to vote and to represent the family economically.  Thus, the patriarchal family model, with the male who headed the household and represented it economically and legally, no longer exists.  There is now no longer any reason why the parties to marriage now have to be of a different gender.

As a married heterosexual women I do not believe that my relationship should be accorded status and privilege that is denied to other loving relationships on the basis of long gone past held beliefs and rejected ideology.

Gender (I)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gender. (And if I’ve managed to get my blogging mojo back, this post will be the first in a series.  If the doldrums remain with me, this will just have to stand alone).

I saw this clip earlier in the week.  It’s a very short clip of Judith Butler discussing the meaning of gender.  She gives one simple example and it has stayed with me.  What is about gender that is so powerful that people get killed for transgressing gender boundaries?

Gender is the base binary distinction upon which many others so many lie.  Male/Female, Light/Dark, Reason/Emotion, Culture/Nature, Hard/Soft, Order/Chaos Normal/Abnormal, Self/Other.  The whole western way of thinking is based on valuing the first of these binaries, over and above the second and treating each couplet as though were opposite, distinct and mutually exclusive.  Which of course they are not, and the existence of intersexed* persons demonstrates the flaw underpinning the whole epistemological house of cards.

*For a very good post on intersexed bodies and the medical system, see here.

“Excuse me Miss, but are you a ‘real’ woman?”…

…”Can you please step this way so that we can test your sex?”

Quick History Lesson

In the 1936 Olympic Games Dora Ratjen, a german athlete, came a respectable fourth place in the women’s high jump. In 1956 Dora revealed that she was really Hermann Ratjen- a man forced to complete as a women by the Nazis.

From the 1960’s women athletes at Olympic Games have been subjected to tests to prove that they are in fact women as it was believed that the Soviets would attempt to pass male athletes off as women in order to win extra medals. Initially women athletes had to parade naked before a panel in order to prove their sex, but from 1968 this procedure was replaced with chromosomal testing. Using this method no males purporting to be females were uncovered but rather some women’s previously undetected chromosomal abnormalities were found.

Beijing Olympics

Anyway the NYT has run the story today as a lab is being set up in Beijing to in order to do the more modern version of the sex verification test — athletes are now evaluated by an endocrinologist, gynecologist, a geneticist and a psychologist.

Here are some quick thoughts on the matter. It just goes to show that sex and gender are a) not a simple matter, b) still being policed with the most sophisticated and up to date science and rhetoric of the day, c) Once again, women, and their bodies, are at the centre of the dispute as both the battle ground and the testing ground.