Marriage is something that has been around for thousands of years. It was used for business purposes, where land was kept in the family. It was also used as a union between people for love and honor. Marriage has changed in many countries over the years, where it is no longer between the conventional ‘man and woman’. Gay and Lesbian people are now getting married in such countries as New Zealand, England, and of course, The Netherlands. But some, like Australia, are still behind the times in letting their gay and lesbian citizens have the equality that they deserve.
Back in the day, in ancient times, marriage was never about religion or a religious service. You weren’t married before ‘God’, and it was something that many cultures did for many reasons. In Ancient Greece and Rome, and in some regions of China, such as the Fujian province, same-sex unions of marriage were common. They never were looked at as something that was feared. However, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in around 342 AD by Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans, all bets were off.
So for 1,673 years in the waiting, is marriage equality the answer?
In Australia, heterosexual de facto relationships have the same laws as heterosexual marriage, except married partners have immediate access to all relationship entitlements, protections and responsibilities. The de factos have to be together for two years to get the same benefits, as the law sees it as ‘more than friends’. This is now the same for same-sex couples since around 2010. So if a gay and lesbian couple are together for more than two years, why do they need to get married, when there are the same protections? A marriage certificate allows easy proof if challenged. This is important for same-sex couples just in case there is prejudice, and legal rights are denied.
However, Australia currently allows same-sex couples to enter civil unions in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The Federal Government recognises these state and territory civil unions for the purposes of federal entitlements. These civil union schemes are only open to residents of the particular state or territory which provides them. Some other countries, however, do recognise Australian civil unions, for example, the United Kingdom. The City of Melbourne and Yarra City Council in Victoria and the City of Sydney in New South Wales provide relationship declaration programs. So with all this declaration, why do we need to have ‘marriage’, when we can easily have a civil union that represents the love for one another?
I asked this question to many of my gay and lesbian friends. They said they wanted to be treated like the heterosexuals, where they can get married freely, and show their love to the world. I wondered why one would want to be like the heterosexuals (no offence), especially when divorce rates are still high, where the average marriage is between 5 to 7 years. But they still want marriage equality, as that is the only thing that creates some evenness with both groups. But does it?
When I came out in 1997, I was happy to be gay. I didn’t have to worry about having children or getting married. In my family, marriage was shotgun, due to silly religious rules of the 1970s. I saw marriage as something that is under law, and not ‘God’s Law’. But now the gays and lesbians the world over are having children and getting married wearing kaftans and reciting some special vows in Hawaii. I wonder why I am so confused at why they want to. I do love Hawaii though.
But saying that, I do want gay and lesbians to be given the choice to marry if they so choose. I honestly don’t think it changes their relationship, but it gives them hope that they can be happy when they divide everything 50/50 when they divorce. But that can be done already if they have been together for 2 or more years in a gay de facto relationship. I know, cynical me, but marriage equality isn’t really about marriage at all. It’s about the concept of what we do behind closed doors is normal and nothing special.
But who wants to be normal?