Today I like marriage, but not the Bill

Followers will probably know I’m not necessarily the biggest advocate of marriage there is. I’m generally deeply suspicious of the institution, and what it aims to achieve; more often than otherwise I write about same-sex marriage as the opposite of LGB liberation. Followers, however, may also know that I often experience changes of mind, and my opinions on any particular subject can change at the drop of a hat.

As it turns out, today is one of those days. I’m feeling good about marriage, and have it down, with all its drawbacks, as a fairly positive thing. I would say this is the result of having listened to people who are married (in various configurations), as well as people who have less favorable views on marriage.

I also feel that I may sometimes be a downer on people’s individual marriages, and for that I am deeply sorry. For all my mind changes I am consistent in my belief that we shouldn’t judge other people’s relationships or tell them how to live their lives, and to my friends who are married, I do agree with you that you made a genuine choice to enter into your marriages freely; you have not been duped or coerced into a harmful situation. And I also say congratulations.

My friends Adrian and Charlie got married at the weekend (in the UK), and I think it is wonderful. (I also admit that in 2008 I spent many months pursuing Charlie romantically – to no avail, of course – so I did have an “it should have been me” moment.) There’s is a marriage that they have planned for many years, it is based simply on love and commitment, and they wanted to have the nation to which they belong recognize, celebrate and share in that commitment.

Jason and Adam are another couple of friends of mine who are married in the UK. They had a civil partnership, and they chose to convert it into a marriage. No additional rights, no additional duties, but they just wanted to use the word ‘married’, and be correct in every sense. I still cannot get over how completely in love these two guys are. And I know Adam in particular loves being married, and gains a great deal of value in being married.

I have friends who are married primarily for immigration reasons. They are in relationships for love, but although they don’t necessarily believe in marriage, they married for (for want of a better word) convenience. Could they divorce following the grant of a permanent visa? Of course! Will they? I doubt it.

I speak about how marriage excludes polyamorous people, but I have friends who are poly and married. And for no other reason than that they wanted to marry. (And as an aside one particular wedding I was invited to was without a doubt one of the best and most fun days of my life, and it was wonderful to share in the celebration of love, commitment and the formal formation of a family.)

I also recognize that we do live in the society that we actually live in, and marriage is a crucial part of that. One of the major components of our society is the family – and in particular the nuclear family – and that, traditionally is based on marriage. Much though I stand for liberation, and smashing the oppressive nature of society, I’m not so foolish as to think that in a generation, or in my lifetime even, we can tear away one of the traditional building blocks of our society. And marriage is indeed one of those. It is how we form families, join families and recognize families. Of course there are other types of family, but many, many of our families really are based on marriage. And destroying marriage would mean destroying some of the most wonderful families we see in our society.

I should also mention the many protections marriage offers. (And of course, I believe these protections should be offered to all families and relationships without the need for marriage but, again, we live in the world that we live in, so let’s celebrate the protection. For now at least.) Marriage protects us when relationships break down, it protects us from being shut out of our own lives, and it protects us from being completely removed from our own families. Marriage protects us from any oversights we may otherwise make in the total formation of a family – boxes we may otherwise have forgotten to tick giving our spouses permission to make decisions on our behalf when we are incapacitated, or giving our spouses the opportunity to receive the support we wish them to receive when we are gone. Marriage makes that automatic.

So today I am feeling good about marriage, and feeling good about the prospect of people in same-sex (or anything other than man/woman) relationships being able to enter into a marriage which is recognized and celebrated by the state.

What I am not impressed by, however, is what I have seen today and what I will see on June 18th. Political parties, and individual politicians using our relationships for their own political gain. Today Labor introduced a bill into the House of Representatives in the hope of bringing about same-sex marriage in Australia. It sounds like a good thing, but this bill was penned by two or three people maybe, acting alone following Ireland’s referendum on the same subject. It’s a snap response, and the type of response that Labor is using to show that They Are Doing Something. Sadly what they have not done is entered into any detailed consultation with the LGB community, asked us what we want, and responded according to that. Their response has been political gameplay, to try to push the government into a corner. Many of us feel that Labor is doing thisfor us rather than with us, and we are rightly offended.

Same-sex marriage is inevitable, but it needs to come from us, from the LGB community. There needs to be a process of consultation, of discussion and of listening to all ideas before we proceed – to make sure that we get it right. Not just nearly right, but completely right. For instance, are we happy that ministers or religion can exempt themselves from marrying us? Is that a concession that we are willing to make? Labor seems to think it is, but has anyone asked us?

As Tanya Plibersek likes to say, it is time, and really it’s long overdue. But that doesn’t mean we should rush this. It doesn’t mean we should get this done as soon a possible. We should be aiming to get this right. Tony Abbott was close when he said Parliament should own this. But I’d go further than that – we, the LGB community, should own this. We should start it, finish it, and be completely involved along the way, with politicians acting on our advice and instruction, not acting on their beliefs of what our best interests are.

Today I support marriage, but not any form of marriage that is offered. Only the form of marriage that is right.

Names of friends changed, but they probably know who they are. LGB not LGBT or any other acronym because I’m not in a position to speak about how this may affect trans or other LGBTQIA+ people, not because I want to exclude anyone. Labor because they have introduced this bill today, but later this month these thoughts will also apply to the Greens and later this year the Liberal Democrats.)

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On why gay marriage advocates see us as the enemy

An ask.fm correspondent asks:

Why do you think those within the gay community who oppose same-sex marriage aren’t allowed to speak without being shouted down or made to feel like a traitor? I confess to being ‘meh’ on the subject but 2 of my uni lecturers (both gay) are very much against it & make extremely valid points.

It does seem strange that there are people in the LGB+ community who oppose gay marriage, at least at first, but we do exist, and most of us have gay rights very much at the center of everything we stand for. However, we do realize that we are very much in the minority. Many of oppose gay marriage because they see it as assimilation into a heteronormative society, which is seen as negative. Others see gay marriage as an an erosion of our rights rather than an advancement, and some simply view the attention the issue gets as erasing other far more important issues, which is harmful.

Still, mainstream proponents of gay marriage perhaps do see us as ‘traitors’, or at least as the enemy. Again it seems strange, given that both sides ultimately are fighting for LGB rights, but I think that there are a few reasons that this would be the case.

Perhaps, most importantly, it is because mainstream society, as well as gay marriage proponents, view marriage as a right – a civil right, a human right, whatever – but either way they see marriage as something that people (should) have a right to access, so in turn, allowing same-sex couples to marry within the law would be an advancement of LGB rights. Naturally this leads to the assumption that opposing gay marriage means opposing LGB rights. Of course many of us do not view marriage as a right – rather as a social responsibility or duty, and we demand our rights without the requirement to marry in order to access them.

Similarly many argue that opposing society’s accepted ways of accessing our rights means that we will never get those rights – and in that way it’s easy to see why opposing gay marriage is seen as an attempt to block LGB rights.

The homophobes of this world have also managed to turn the issue of gay marriage into what is now very much a two-sided issue: gay marriage versus homophobia. And it should be said that the majority of people who oppose gay marriage do so from a position of homophobia – they don’t just oppose legal recognition and protection of our relationships, they oppose our relationships altogether. So when those of us who are part of the LGB+ community oppose gay marriage (for our own positive reasons), we are seen as siding with the enemy. It’s not the case, however. Homophobes are our common enemy, but because we want the same initial outcome (followed then, of course, by very different changes to society), we’re also viewed as the enemy. And of course, given that this has been turned into a two-sided issue, we are put on the same side as homophobes.

Maybe most significantly, we should recognize that the fight for gay marriage to be recognized by the law has been a long, hard fight, and in Australia, that fight is so close to being won. So many people have been fighting, and they have every right to do so. They’ve been fighting for what they truly believe is the best outcome in terms of LGB+ rights. So it’s understandable that when, so close to the end of this long, hard fight, some of the people who they think they’ve been fighting for suddenly stand in opposition, they get a little upset. We know they think we’d benefit – we know that this is a belief that they hold so firmly. But we disagree.

Ultimately gay marriage advocates and LGB opponents of gay marriage want the same thing – the advancement of LGB+ rights, but we propose different ways of achieving that. One side through marriage, the other side without. However when LGB rights and gay marriage are viewed as synonymous, anti-marriage becomes the same enemy as homophobia.

Well Done Ireland BUT…

originally posted on tumblr

It looks like we’re going to see a “Yes” vote in Ireland’s referendum on same sex marriage. So a few thoughts.

  • I’m not going to make this about same-sex marriage. My thougts on that are available elsewhere.
  • The question was very nice actually, and doesn’t restrict marriage to same-sex or opposite-sex only couples (like Canberra’s attempt did, for instance).
  • It still restricts marriage to couples.
  • It still restricts marriage.
  • I worry a little that the gay rights movement may see this as a “final victory” in Ireland, when in reality it is a very small step in the general direction of the right direction. My hope is that this will signal that the Irish people are open to progressive policies in ALL areas, paving the way for advances in terms of the rights of unmarried LGB+ people, the rights of women (abortion, people?), and the rights of other people.
  • I worry that this will mean LGB+ people in Ireland will now have to marry to access rights they should bloody well have anyway.
  • I worry that other countries may use this result to support holding referenda on the same subject. Most people view marriage as a right (I don’t, but thoughts on that elsewhere), and holding referenda on the rights of minorities are disgusting. Ireland, by some miracle, got this one right, but the cost was our very identities being dragged through the dirt by the No campaign. I have at least one friend who was immensely distressed by the whole campaign, and I don’t ever want to see that again.
  • I hope that other countries see this as a reason not to hold referenda on any subject concerning people’s rights and liberties. If a nation which is viewed as conservative and religious as Ireland is overwhelmingly supports gay rights, then the rest of us should just embrace gay rights without the need for a vote.

We have a long way to go before we see equality. Not just LGB+ people enjoying the same liberties as straight people, but all people enjoying the freedom to go about their lives as they please. The result of this vote has shown that people generally are open to that, but we should view this as a minor victory. We live in a world where we still face oppression everywhere, and well-off gay people having their conformist relationships being recognized by the government in one of the world’s smallest nations does not change that very much. A little, but not much.

Update: another Irish friend points out that I don’t and can’t understand the cultural context, which is true. Whilst I say this is a minor victory, this is a very big deal in Ireland (and remains something I still can’t really understand properly, thanks to my upbringing in the UK). I certainly don’t intend to suggest this isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a huge cause for celebration in Ireland, but globally (and certainly with Australia looking on), it’s a cause for smiles rather than celebration. I hope I can still stand in solidarity with my Irish friends, and I hope they welcome me.

a thing what i wrote about marriage equality

note: this was originally posted on my tumblr in 2013

Here’s the thing. It isn’t “marriage equality” unless all consenting adults can enter into a marriage of their own choosing. Same-sex marriage is, indeed, a step forward, but we have to be aware of who we are stepping over and stepping on to get there. Leaving behind trans people and poly people and saying “we’ll come back for you later” is not equality.

We seem to be treating equality like it’s a pedestal and once we get ourselves on the pedestal, we’re “equal” and from there we’re in a position to pull other people up, when really what we should be doing is destroying the pedestal.

Equality is simple. We’re either all equal or we’re not equal at all. If some groups “have equality” or “are equal” and others don’t then we don’t have equality.

So call it “marriage rights” or just “marriage”, but don’t pretend that (rightly) allowing same-sex couples to marry there will suddenly be “equality”.