Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.

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I Do

I got married yesterday. As with most things in my life, the act was non-conventional and probably quite impulsive. I proposed to my girlfriend a couple of months ago whilst visiting my family in New Zealand with the idea in mind that we’d travel to New Zealand to marry for legals while the Australian government continued to waffle and be embarrassingly reticent to allow the same civil rights for all their citizens. It was our government’s failure to recognise the rights of homosexuals that precipitated our decision to participate in a marriage equality rally yesterday. The date marked ten years since the Howard government amended the Marriage Act to state explicitly that legal marriage is ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others’. Ten years. Why the hell are we still having to protest this discriminatory and archaic ruling?

In reality, I believe that marriage equality is essentially a non-issue. It’s a no-brainer. Why are we wasting energy, time and money on something that is a given – human rights, hello! – when there are children dying in Gaza, passenger jets being blown out of the sky, and Yazidis reportedly being killed in Iraq for refusing to convert to Islam? It’s ridiculous, frankly, and insulting.

Yet, this is where we are. Speakers at the rally yesterday told stories of getting married overseas and the sinking feeling of knowing that as soon as they disembarked from the plane on Australian soil they were longer married. A woman, our marriage celebrant, told of dedicating her life to bringing people together in love since her gay son passed away before fulfilling his dream of marrying the man he loved. An intersex person told of their experience of having to lie on official marriage documents in the past about their gender so that they could marry the person they loved, the only options being ‘male’ or ‘female’, not ‘both’.

I am fortunate enough to have a relatively simple gender identity and sexuality, my sexual preferences being quite fluid. It has always been about love for me – it’s the person, not the gender that I have been attracted to. Growing up with a gay dad and being exposed to ‘alternative’ sexualities in the sex industry has afforded me a healthy, well-rounded acceptance of who I am sexually. My coming out was non eventful, I have experienced little discrimination due to my preferences, and my family has always been accepting of my choice of partner, their only concern being my happiness. Even so, I feel marginalised and restricted (not just for being a little bit gay but also for being a woman, but that’s another post at another time).

Our decision yesterday to get ‘illegally married’ – as the celebrant put it – was mainly prompted by circumstance. At the rally, it was announced that any couple who wanted to make a commitment to each other would be given the opportunity to do so. As we were marching towards parliament in Melbourne, my partner turned to me and asked “do you want to marry me?” The decision was easy, given that I had already declared my intention to her in New Zealand, and quite simply, because I love her. I adore this woman, and can’t imagine my life without her. The act of getting married itself, grounded in complete acceptance of and adoration for each other, was a kind of protest. Our own protest against the friends we have both lost due to the circumstances of our relationship, against those who think we have moved too quickly, and against our stupid, myopic government who doesn’t think we have a right to share our lives as a married couple. Who knew a commitment to the person one loves could be so politically charged and powerful?

It has been a stupidly hard, yet wonderfully magical few months. My life during that time has been perfect in its imperfection. Every loss, every gain, every tear shed, every note of laughter has enriched my soul and made me love my life, myself, and my wife. We will wed legally, whether it be in the country of my birth or here if and when the law finally changes. Until then, love well, dear readers. Be as you are, be with whomever you choose, and trust that the Universe will always provide as it has done for me.

Be blessed.

Same Love

I’ve blogged about marriage equality before. Yep, I’m gonna do it again ‘cause there’s nothing I love more than whipping that proverbial horse until it’s broken and bleeding on the ground, staring up at me with those pleading eyes that are asking me, ‘why? Why??’

Anyway, I digress.

I went to a lesbian wedding yesterday. A Jewish lesbian wedding in fact, that was quite religious, albeit progressively so. It was held in a synagogue with the smashing of the glass and the walking around in circles and everything. You could have knocked me down with a feather when God didn’t come stomping down out of the sky to smite us all for celebrating this sacrilegious besmirching of the sanctity of marriage. No thunderbolts of lightning or evil laughter emanating from the pits of Hades. Nothing. I was a little disappointed.

I lie, I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was one of the most beautiful, moving, divine weddings I have ever been to. Both brides were beaming and exquisite, both sets of parents were bursting with pride, the love and commitment was evident and obvious in both the couple and the congregation. Many tears were shed, including my own. It was, quite simply, a celebration of the love and bond between two people who chose to be together, and were making a commitment to choosing each other for many years to come.

Isn’t that what marriage is about?

You know, it’s interesting, I’ve been to three gay weddings in the last five years, my father’s included, and one thing that is common with all three of them, besides the homosexual thing, is the very solid choice that these people have made to be together. They weren’t doing it to please their parents, or because it was expected by their communities, or because they wanted to prove something. They did it because they loved the person they were marrying and they wanted to celebrate that. That’s my definition of marriage, and why the little romantic that’s buried deep, deeeep inside me still wants to have a partnership that fits that paradigm, ‘cause yeah, I wanna get married one day. It really doesn’t matter to me whether I marry a man or a woman, so long as that person and I love each other like my just-married friends showed me they loved each other yesterday.

So, get up marriage equality horse. Have a drink, take a painkiller and saddle up. ‘Cause I’ll be riding you until Australia catches up with the rest of the cool countries in the world (like New Zealand, ahem) who realise we’re not free until we’re equal.