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State same-sex marriage is a Frankenstein compromise
The state and territory same-sex marriage laws by their very design confirm a second-class of relationships, with a two-tiered system born from a shotgun wedding of civil union and de-facto relationship laws, but because the word “marriage” has made it to the page, I have been asked to drink the Kool-aid and get on board. I’ll pass thanks.
In 2004, Labor Leader Mark Latham teamed up with Prime Minister John Howard to change federal marriage laws, and with a stroke of the pen, people like me were excluded from marrying the person we love.
With Prime Minister Abbott firmly against marriage equality, it seems activists and pro-equality politicians have changed tact, adopting the expedient and shortsighted strategy to progress same-sex marriage through the states and territories.
This is despite that it will likely leave state-married people legally vulnerable as they traverse state and federal systems.
The trans and intersex communities also emerge as a third class of people, cut free as they could scuttle the whole deal.
State marriage can’t conflict with federal marriage law as this would breach the Constitution. So as the Howard/Latham discriminatory amendments to marriage laws head towards their 10th birthday, these pieces of state legislation have been carefully worded.
The legislation which passed the ACT Legislative Assembly in October and was quickly rushed back into parliament just one day later to tweak the wording to help overcome the Coalition’s constitutional challenge, and the legislation being debated in the NSW Parliament, is not actually “marriage” in the common sense or legal sense of the word. It is something else entirely.
The unions which same-sex couples enter into cannot be called a “marriage” per se and so instead we have been given a Frankenstein-like mish-mash between registered de facto relationships and civil unions created specifically for same-sex couples.
It’s effectively segregation. Equal, yet different, and we’ve been told by our community leaders and supportive politicians to get behind this legislation. Yet just a few years ago, civil unions were a deal breaker for an incremental step forward. Now an inferior option has been anointed.
For so long, advocates have rejected the creation of a separate form of “marriage” or union made specifically for LGBTIQ couples such as civil unions and the relationships register arguing that these were “providing politicians with a cop-out option,” yet now they seem to not only be embracing these cop-outs, but also encouraging couples to take part in these watered-down unions called “same-sex marriages”.
For marriage equality advocates, the successful passing of the ACT’s Marriage Equality Bill 2013 is great, especially when it comes to political point scoring.
It is showing the Federal government that if the States and Territories could change federal marriage laws to recognise same-sex relationships, that they would.
But in terms of actually providing same-sex couples with the respect, rights and recognition they’ve always wanted, the Bill is a lame duck and the activists making a spectacle out of a mass gay wedding, despite offering only a poor substitute to full marriage equality, is reckless and disturbing.
It is the choice of couples to decide which union suits their needs and beliefs and when to enter into it, whether that is a de-facto relationship, registered partnership, a civil union, marriage (whether it takes place in Australia or not) or a same-sex marriage.
But until the day when federal laws are amended again so as to define marriage as between two people to the exclusion of all others; until all the benefits of marriage are extended to all couples regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and until the couples who have married overseas are recognised by our government, we will not be truly equal.
Keep the opinions flowing – chat to Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Matheson