Marriage is indeed one of the ancient ceremonies that marks our passage through life. It’s up there with birth and death. It’s so important that a whole department of government is devoted to it. Birth Deaths and Marriages.1 (What we like to refer to as hatches matches and dispatches)
Today was a marriage day for our family. Michael’s cousin. It was a good day of celebration as two people commit to each other.
Weddings always bring into stark reality the standing of my citizenship in Australia. I’ve been married, recently divorced. For most of my marriage I was happy, and Jennie and I enjoy the good times, struggled with the bad times but got through it, still the best of friends. I find myself, now, in a very natural relationship that actually makes me happy. Happier than I have ever been. I feel I’m personally thriving in a loving relationship with a man who’s company I crave and enjoy.
I’ve seen both sides of this love thing. I recognise the feelings and sensations of being in love. I’m not sure what it actually means and I probably can’t articulate this myself. At times I think it’s more about how I feel when my partner is not about, how much I would miss the contact if he wasn’t in my life. It really was the same when I was madly in love with Jennie. It hurt for a long time when that finally came to an end. I admit however, that I chose to be heterosexual, and that somewhat tainted the feelings I had. Nonetheless, I was in love.
Having been on both sides of this, I can see a big difference between my now relationship and my then relationship. Whereas is was quite common to ask about my wife and how she was doing by friends and colleagues, I rarely get that about Michael. (He’s fine – thanks for asking)
Once the talk about weekends and holidays was about what you did with your family, it’s now often a question of “Did Michael go with you” – well of course he did, that’s why we’re in a relationship. (Although I won’t go to a dance party!).
The waffle is about perception. I feel, right within me, deep down, where it matters, at the grass roots, and so on, that this relationship is every bit as important, if not more so, than my heterosexual relationship to me.
I don’t need a government to tell me that I’m a second class citizen. I don’t need John Howard’s words of marriage being between one man and one woman. That is just bollocks. The withholding of marriage from same sex couples isn’t needed.
As I stood in the registry office yesterday, and heard the celebrant chant the John Howard mantra – Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life – it became apparent to me how much those words create a divide between us. It reaffirms my status as second class citizen. A status that I don’t deserve.
But, to be clear, I don’t want to be married again. I don’t need that formal process to give my relationship any extra value. What I do want is to be treated equally. I want my relationship to be acknowledged by the society in which I live. I am as much a part of my community as any married person. Why should my relationship be considered as anything other than equal?
Allowing ‘gay marriage’ won’t change the world. Same-sex relationships will continue to exist regardless of the law. Actually recognising those relationships as marriage won’t change the way marriage is viewed. It won’t sustain any damage – it won’t increase the divorce rate, it won’t decrease children born out of wedlock, it won’t bring the wrath of any supernatural beings upon us. What it will do is say to everyone, yes, we as a society recognise the value of being in a stable committed relationship based on love and mutual respect for each other.
That to me sounds like a value worth upholding, and a value that all Australians can share.
Next time you are at a marriage ceremony, as you chomp your way through the cake, as you take away the bay widening2 items – think about those who can’t share in that same joy because of the way society restricts membership to the club.
And as to the newly married couple – my very best wishes to you, may your exclusion of all others be long and happy.