Friday, July 30, 2004

Gay Marriage

The Australian Senate deadline for submissions to the enquiry into the governments attempt to ban Australian recognition of overseas gay marraiges closed today.

I made the following submission to the enquiry:-

So we are to have a Senate enquiry into the issue of same-sex marriage, and already we can see the danger of ill-informed prejudice swamping any rational discussion, especially if an election is called in the meantime. I hope the enquiry will pay no heed to this sort of nonsense and instead take a cool calm look at the facts. Here's a short checklist of some of them.

Government claim: Amending the Marriage Act isn't taking away anything as gay marriage isn't currently recognised.

WRONG: It is highly possible that the courts could, under current law, recognise overseas gay marriages. To amend the Marriage Act is taking away that possibility. If this were not so, why bother? All other overseas marriages are automatically recognised at least in part, even when not aligned with Australian culture and law - e.g., polygamous marriages: why not ours? This is disrespectful to other countries and cultures.

Claim: Marriage has an exclusively heterosexual history

WRONG: Marriage has a very diverse history, including same sex marriages in many countries and cultures, including the early Christian church, stretching back 2000 years. For most of that time it was a sexually diverse and polygamous institution. The modern monogamous heterosexual nuclear family is a modern invention less than 200 years old.

Claim: Children need a mother and a father

WRONG: All studies show that children do at least as well with gay couples: in fact, according to a Canadian government study recently published and introduced in evidence at the UN, because gay relationships tend to be more egalitarian and consultative (both good Australian values!), they are BETTER role models than traditional marriages

The same study found gay fathers often have superior fathering skills than heterosexual fathers, because they provide clear boundaries and discipline, but are not afraid to express warmth and love - the ideal mix for child development.

Besides, this contention is an insult to all hardworking and successful single parents, grandparents, aunties, fosterers and other carers who successfully raise children.

Claim: The government has already made a major concession on gay Superannuation.

WRONG: it has made the absolute minimum concession it thinks it can get away with. What about survivor pensions? What about contributing to your partner's super? What about veterans pensions? Etc. etc.

Claim: Equality for same-sex couples and singles can easily be provided by other means

WRONG: The simplest way to equalize rights, benefits and treatment of gay couples in law, work, society, the armed forces and everywhere else is with one simple Act - legalise gay marriage.

Anything else involves an endless series of little changes to a myriad of bills and systems, with each one providing a fresh battleground. Some we'll win, some we'll lose, some we'll compromise, and the end result will not be equality, simply a different kind of inequality. While at the same time opponents will claim that alternative couple formats, such as civil unions,
are only marriage by another name, and will oppose them anyway. Look at what's happening in New Zealand and the UK now..

Take a look at the statue of justice at every law court: she wears a blindfold. Justice demands that the law must be as blind to sexuality, gender, gender identity or gender expression as it is supposed to be to colour, race, belief and wealth. There must be no law applied to gays & lesbians which does not apply equally to anyone else, and vice versa.

Claim: We must proceed by small steps so as not to antagonize the rest of the community, which is not yet ready to accept the idea of same-sex marriage

WRONG: Most successful changes of this nature come about in one bold step. The community then discovers that the sky isn't falling, gets used to the change, and wonders what all the fuss was about. Take a look at Holland, Belgium . . . . .

Claim: We mustn't offend the churches

WRONG: Excuse me, but this is a secular country in which church and state are separated and the public has a wide range of religious beliefs, or none at all. The government's job is to govern for all sections of the population and all beliefs, and must never privilege one above another. Once again, remember that blindfold that justice wears: and remember to check your blinkers at the committee room door.

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