Tag Archives: Heterosexuality

Rainy day woman on marriage

27 Aug

It’s raining cats and dogs and all my plans for Saturday centred around the outdoors. Thwarted, I turned to my computer and read this piece on the Watermelon Blog in which David reckons it’s time to make the billionaires pay the rent; and this piece on the Political Sword, in which Ad astra alleges that Tony Abbott is the worst opposition leader in our political history, and gives resoundingly convincing arguments to support the allegation.

Rainy days are good for musing and as I ventured out to give the dog an airing, I thought about marriage, and gay marriage in particular. I fully understand why people want to get married. Heck, I did it myself twice. I did it once in a church and once with a celebrant. It was nothing to do with the state, or religion, or societal expectations. It was everything to do with my heart. In retrospect the heart alone isn’t  the smartest organ from which to make such major decisions, but I didn’t know that until I’d done it twice.

In another of the triumphs of hope over experience with which my life is littered, I’d probably do it again if the circumstances ever arose.

People usually enter into a formal commitment to one another full of good will, desire and hope. It doesn’t always work out, and we pick ourselves up from the wreckage and start our lives over, often to do it all again. It’s a public expression of mutual love, and it’s valued by many as the ultimate such expression.

It seems to me there’s two arguments going on in the gay marriage debate. The first is that gays and lesbians ought to be entitled to the same public expressions of their love and commitment as are heterosexuals. This is a no brainer, IMO. Love is no respecter of genital arrangements. In a world that needs love as much as this one does, we should be celebrating it everywhere we find it. It seems extraordinarily mealy-mouthed and mean-spirited, not to mention ignorant, for any heterosexual to insist that it can’t count as marriageable love when it blossoms between same-sex couples.

The second is the interrogation of marriage itself. Like, marriage? What is it good for? Well, I could get cynical here and say not much. But in my experience that’s a conclusion everyone has to come to, or not, in their own good time and their own good way. The idea of marriage continues to exert a powerful emotional hold. No amount of rationalizing is going to change that in the near future. I know many couples who after years of living together decide to do the marriage thing, even though de facto arrangements are as legitimate. We are encultured to view marriage as the strongest commitment couples can make. This may change, but currently, it’s what we’ve got.

It seems unfair to expect that same-sex couples, rather than demanding inclusion in the culture ought to contest it, although there are voices in the gay and lesbian community raised against the institution, as there are in the heterosexual community. Nevertheless, I doubt that marriage is going to go away anytime soon. So it matters a great deal that same-sex couples have the right to celebrate their commitment just as heterosexuals do, if they so choose.

And that’s the real argument. It’s an argument about equal rights. Whether you think marriage is a necessary institution or not is largely irrelevant at this point. Currently there are couples who are denied access to marriage solely because of their sexual orientation This is discriminatory and breaches their human rights.

None of the arguments put forward by opponents of same-sex marriage stand up to scrutiny, and most are mired in superstition and religion. We have a Prime Minister who is beholden to neither superstition nor religion. So let’s move forward, Ms Gillard, unless of course the Australian Christian Lobby, those vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, have got you under their thumb.

Finally, my apologies for spelling Craig Thomson’s name wrongly in a previous post – I gave him a p when he shouldn’t have a p. He does not have a p! There is no p!! How can anyone believe anything I say if I stick p’s in where they don’t belong! Respect the p, Jennifer! Respect the goddamn p!!

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The perfection of heterosexual marriage?

8 Feb
Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

This article  written by me was first published at On Line Opinion December 2010.

Editor Graham Young published it in response to the earlier anti gay marriage piece by Bill Muehlenberg.

I have just read the article by Bill Muelhlenberg, Dismantling a homosexual marriage myth, published in Online Opinion Thursday November 25 2010, for the second time.

The sentiments expressed are the polar opposite to my own views on the subject of same sex marriage, views I’ve expressed in articles on this site. However, there is one point on which we agree.

The struggle for the right to same sex marriage does have several dimensions, as the article suggests, not all of them immediately apparent. The struggle is indeed about far more than a simplistic change to the wording of the Marriage Act. (Though it must be noted here that the wording of Marriage Act was in fact changed by the Howard government in 2004 to define marriage as only permissible between a man and woman. So perhaps the wording of the original Act was not quite so simple, if Howard felt compelled to change it).

I do not agree, however, that these deeper dimensions of the debate are gay conspiracies designed to subversively change the nature of marriage altogether. Indeed, I find the arguments for this theory rather bizarre.

For example. There is nothing currently in the Marriage Act that speaks to a legal prohibition against infidelity. Monogamy is nothing more than individual hope and intention. That is, there is no legal requirement for monogamy in the Marriage Act that faces revision or extinction should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry.

I am completely at a loss as to understand how permitting marriage between gays and lesbians will encourage infidelity and promiscuity in heterosexual married couples.

The author claims that, “The wonderful interaction of a man and a woman in the complementarity of heterosexual marriage is what makes it so special and beneficial.” De facto relationships aren’t blessed with this special beneficence, according to his paradigm. The author doesn’t mention whether this “complementarity” is only available in Christian marriage, and denied to those who marry in the Registry office or in mosques and synagogues.

I’d like to suggest that what makes a marriage “special and beneficial” is the commitment of the couple, to one another and to the love they live and create, regardless of their gender, religion or lack of it. I’d like to remind the author that very similar arguments were made, not so very long ago, against marriage between blacks and whites.

There are heterosexual marriages that work really well. There are heterosexual marriages that are sites of nuclear devastation and certainly do not work at all. And there are heterosexual marriages that occupy a place between these two extremes, and muddle lovingly along without much drama, one way or the other. But how, I ask in all good faith, will permitting gays and lesbians to marry affect the nature, progress and outcome of any of those marriages?

“The truth is,” the author instructs us, because he clearly believes he is someone who knows a) what the truth is, and b) what most of us think the truth is,  “homosexuals do not at all have in mind what most of us understand marriage to be.” I have to take Meulhlenberg up on this, because I was taught from an early age to always question terms such as “most of us.” To someone from my background (and there are many of us), the use of the term “most of us” to support an argument implies an unsubstantiated but hegemonic perspective that may well be highly inaccurate, if not delusional, and we must treat it with caution.

It is always inadvisable to assume that everybody else thinks like you, or that a “most of us” even exists.

Just what demographic is this “most of us” supposedly comprised of, anyway?

Whether or not all homosexuals have a different concept of marriage from “most of us” has not been determined. But whether they do or not is actually quite irrelevant in terms of the effects of their concepts on heterosexual marriage.

Heterosexuals can already do exactly whatever they choose within their marriages. There is nothing to stop them pursuing any and all kinds of perversions, unless one party in the marriage complains to the police. Gay and lesbian marriage is not going to change the status quo for heterosexuals, even if their ideas are as different as the author claims.

Back to the point on which we do have agreement. The struggle for same sex marriage is indeed about much more than allowing gays and lesbians the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. It is a struggle for equality. It is a struggle for the legal recognition of the all-embracing power of that force we call “love.” All embracing, that is, not exclusive. I do not believe that love excludes. I believe inclusion is one of its prime characteristics. I won’t presume to add that I believe “most of us” agree with my perspective, but I know some people do.

The struggle for same sex marriage is about our nation having the generosity of heart to acknowledge, in its laws, that love comes in many and varied ways, and there is not one amongst us who has the right to judge which loving way is right, and which loving way is wrong.

There are many arguments to be made against marriage, heterosexual and gay. There are many arguments to be made for it. There is no reasonable argument to be made for same sex couples being excluded from this institution, with all its wonders and all its failings. If some gays and lesbians wish to marry, for better or for worse, then it is their business and there is no good reason to exclude them from the joys and the catastrophes of the married state.

If there is fear abroad for the future of marriage, then address that fear at its real causes. For example.  Family violence in heterosexual marriage. The abuse and sexual abuse of children within heterosexual partnerships. Infidelity, overt and covert.  Inequality in heterosexual marriages.

To quote the magnificent Leonard Cohen on this last point, there’s “the homicidal bitching that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.” As far as I am aware, much of this ‘homicidal bitching” goes down between heterosexual couples, and frequently concerns how much more housework women do than their male partners.

As well, there are heterosexuals who could well write an article titled “How to be married and still be a slut.” (I have strong reservations about the use of the term ‘slut’ in this pejorative manner, but that discussion is for another time and place).

The impression Meulhenberg has worked hard to create in his article is that heterosexual marriage is some kind of perfect state that no one other than heterosexuals may aspire to, and whose perfection will somehow be threatened by including gays and lesbians in the Marriage Act. This is simply not true. Anything bad that can happen in marriage is already happening, and nobody seems to be able to do very much about preventing it, if the child abuse and domestic violence statistics are anything to go by.

The questions that immediately arise in this reader’s mind are, how fragile is this institution, that its proponents must circle their wagons against any and every perceived threat?  How fragile is this institution that some people must fight with all their might to keep it exclusive?

Will focusing on the perceived evils of gay marriage distract heterosexuals from their collective responsibility for the parlous state of the institution of which they are currently in sole charge? Because whatever is going wrong in marriages, and there’s plenty going wrong, responsibility for it certainly can’t be laid at the doors of gays and lesbians.

In our culture, marriage is still an extremely powerful public and legal acknowledgment of love and commitment. This acknowledgement ought to be available to anyone who wants it.

As I have written here before, “Same sex marriage and same sex adoption are not dangers from which governments need to protect us. But the tyranny of religions destroying anybody’s democratic rights to these things, most certainly is.”

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