Every now and then

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.

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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.