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No more excuses! Equal marriage rights now

sharinementzik's picture

Comparing gay marriage to child abuse: a new low in Australian politics.

During the Federal election campaign, Family First Senate Candidate Wendy Francis tweeted, “Legitimising gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse.” Although her view is an extreme one, the Federal government’s current stance on gay marriage complacently supports it.

As a child of a lesbian mother, their ignorant excuses for the same-sex marriage ban enrage me. 

Francis claims that children brought up by gay couples suffer “uncontrollable depression and suicide.” However, a study at the University of Southern California reveals that the emotional development of children with gay and lesbian parents does not differ from children with heterosexual ones.

Children don’t need parents of each gender to adjust. The real danger to them is uninformed comments, such as Francis’, which promote attitudes of homophobia that will marginalise and ostracise children living in same-sex families.

According to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, more than 4,300 Australian children live with same-sex couples. Gay father, Malcolm McPherson says, “It is not good for my children to see their father treated as a second class citizen”. By excluding the gay community from the central institution of marriage, the government is sending the message that homosexual relationships are inferior.

From a human rights perspective, surely it is in the child’s best interests to give their parents the same protections and benefits as those raised by straight couples.

Gay marriage popped up as the surprise question in the recent election, with both Gillard and Abbott repeatedly challenged on the issue. Both say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. I expect this from Abbott who openly admitted to being “threatened” by homosexuals earlier this year, but I expect more from an unmarried, atheist woman who has had to overcome adversity herself in order to hold the position she does today. 

It seems many people are concerned about the threat to the sanctity of marriage. But what are we really protecting?

If there is any threat to the sanctity of marriage, it comes from those of us who have the right and have abused it. Look at the staggering divorce rate within our society, turn on the television and we are practically giving away husbands on reality shows and competing for the most elaborate wedding.

We have nothing to fear from people who are committed to each other and want to share their lives. My mother and her partner are two of the most committed people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It is a relationship that I envy, and perhaps one we all should. All they are asking for is to be treated fairly and equally.

Fortunately, my mother does not reside in such a backwards society as Australia. She lives in South Africa, a country that legalised same-sex marriage back in 2006. But in Australia, civil unions (which basically provide the same legal rights as marriage) are only available in some parts of the country.

Personally, I think it’s incredibly discriminatory to invent a new union specifically for gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples wish to marry. They want to do so for the exact same reasons as heterosexual couples: to publicly proclaim and celebrate their love, to protect their children, and to ensure legal and social recognition.

As for Penny Wong, she could not have been more wrong. The only openly gay female cabinet minister supported the Labor Party’s stance, citing “cultural, religious and historical views” as the reason for not legalising gay marriage. If this were true, women would not have the right to vote, the Aboriginal people would not be recognised as citizens, and Australia would not have women in the ministry - never mind a female PM!

As for the religious sanctimony of marriage, if we truly believed this we wouldn’t have non-religious marriage celebrants or even let atheists marry. Legalising gay marriage poses no threat to the religious institutions in our (apparently) secular society. Nobody’s asking two Priests to get married, or even force them to perform marriages for same-sex couples. 

Perhaps if Gillard supported gay marriage, her position as Prime Minister would not be so tenuous? 

The recent overall swing away from the Labor Party towards the Greens may be partly due to the fact they haven’t been listening to the voters. According to a Galaxy poll taken in 2009, 60% of Australians believed same sex couples should be able to marry. The historic win for the Greens in the seat of Melbourne has certainly given hope to those fighting for marriage equality.

Same-sex marriage is a reality in a growing list of countries, including South Africa, Spain, Norway and Argentina. It is inevitable that some day, same-sex couples in Australia will have the legal right to marry. As with every major human rights advance, from the abolition of slavery, to allowing women to vote, future generations will look back and wonder how anyone could have opposed such a basic human right.

 

Shari Nementzik is the child of a lesbian mother and an activist for gay rights. She has a BA (Hons) in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Leeds in the U.K and is currently completing a Masters of Media Practice at the University of Sydney.

 

 

Comments

Absoloutely

I completely agree with your article. I cannot understand why it has not been legalised already or why it is even a LAW. I find it typically amusing that the Government recognises same-sex relationships when working out Centrelink payments, but they will not let same-sex couples legally marry. I find it very sad that two people who love one-another cannot marry simply because of their sexual preferences. Why, if homosexuality is so taboo to the out-of-date Australian government, are there allowed to be gay madi-gras, nightclubs, etc but there cannot be Marriage?

As for the way same-sex marriages affect children, I don't understand how it can be any less healthy than a gay child in a hetersexual family situation. A large majority (if not most) gay people are raised in a very 'straight' environment, so why do people think it will make straight kids gay by living with two mothers or two fathers? Better than living with just one mother or one father.

As long as the children are happy, healthy and aware, they will probably grow up being a lot more open-minded than their peers. This is the 21st century and the term 'marriage' is certainly not as black and white as it used to be. The government don't try to stop people livng together before marriage, or concieving before marriage. Marriage does not mean the same thing to everyone and in this day and age, where marriage is lasting less, and occouring less because it is not mandatory, anyone who wants to profess their love should be treated with the same celebtration.

Good luck to everyone out there with a same-sex partner and I hope it happens for you all very soon.

 

We need marriage equality

We now live in the 21st Century, anything is possible, and anything goes. Society accepts that there are people who live differently and love differently. It is accepted. Oh, wait, sorry, I was daydreaming for a moment, imagining a perfect society where everybody has equal rights and opportunities, personal choice is embraced. For surely it is simple. Two people love each other, they express this love freely and if they choose, shall marry. 30 years ago I had this choice when I married my husband and would have been shocked to be told I had no choice in this matter. So why in this modern world can a same-sex couples be denied this obvious right? Let’s look at some facts. Australia became a signatory to the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights in 1972, which was then ratified in 1980. According to the Australian Constitution Section 51 xxi, Parliament has the powers to make laws regarding marriage. This treaty states clearly that as humans we have equality before the law with the right to privacy and family without interference either unlawful or arbitrary to the whims of Government. The High Court of Australia recognised during the Mabo court case that ‘the use of human rights law as an influence upon the development of the common law’ should also be recognised. This tells me that there is neither an international or national ruling against same sex marriage and is the choice of the particular Government, in this case the Australian Government, to endorse. The Government sees Marriage as a civic responsibility, an Institution to stabilise the community. Does this then mean that if same sex couples marry, the institution of marriage will crumble and life as we know it will fall apart? Some argue that marriage is a union between man, woman and God. Further that God does not like Homosexuals and therefore would not allow same-sex marriage. Why do people put marriage into the context of religion? I don’t see any evidence that the Marriage act is anything other than a civil union which could be held within a church but more often than not held as a non-religious ceremony. To me it seems that the rights of those who choose to believe in God are upheld and those who presume not to are denied. Is this reasonable? We do not live in a theocracy, and as shown in the Australian Constitution there is to be a definite separation of church and state. As I see it, same-sex marriage should not affect anyone but the couples directly involved. It is ludicrous that the choice is taken away from the individuals concerned and given to individuals not affected by the decision. Would you ask a vegetarian to make a decision about meat? Why then would you allow this personal decision to be made by those who are not involved? According, to the Bureau of Statistics, there are approximately 27,000 same-sex couples. Not all choose to be married, in fact when I was researching this issue I spoke to a few people that this decision could affect and came up with the surprising result that not all in the Gay community believe in marriage, same-sex or otherwise. What they do believe in, however, is that all people should have right to choose if they will or will not get married. Gay or straight.