I get it. I really do. There are sectors of our society that hold fast to the belief, born of religion or otherwise, that marriage is and should ever remain exclusively as between a man and a woman. As a female guest at my wedding spat venomously about my oldest male friend from University (a gay man), “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. I also understand that there are many who believe in the Bible –Biblical literalists, as they are known and that they hold fast to the tenets prescribed.
I was lucky enough to be brought up in an era that focussed on the “love and forgiveness” aspect of Christianity, not the fire and brimstone rage of a vengeful god. As an adult, I became a Vedic meditator and at the core of those meditations is the aspiration that we should be the living embodiment of love. To my way of thinking, this means to also be compassionate, inclusive, caring and accepting of others and their behaviours even when (or indeed especially when) those behaviours challenge our core beliefs.
Obviously as a society, we reflect in our laws that there are limits to what behaviours offend us to the point that we reject them wholesale (hence our criminal laws). Homosexuality was once written into our criminal laws and yet the Victorian government legislated to decriminalise homosexuality (under Rupert Hamer in December 1980 with an overwhelming majority voting to decriminalise 72-7. It was an offence which attracted the penalty of capital punishment until 1949.)
Yet, by denying members of our community to share in the basic legal act of committing to a monogamous relationship and being able to participate in the civil act of marriage (the Marriage Act being a Federal Act), we are practising “otherness” and exclusion. We may have decriminalised homosexuality but we have effectively left them in a margin in our Crimes Act.
Victoria is better than some States in that it offers couples the option of registering their relationship – as a de facto couple (be the couple same sex or opposite sex). For many, this is poor consolation and indeed highlights how our society differentiates between “us” and “them”. So whilst I live in a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage, I believe that by virtue of the majority of us practising “otherness”, we are not fulfilling the universe’s intention to be the living embodiment of love.
My husband and I recently attended the wedding reception of my oldest male friend from University here in Melbourne. Oh don’t worry. It wasn’t a sham wedding reception. He and his partner of 18 years were able to tie the knot in the USA and then return to Australia to celebrate with 120 of us at the home of friends. As a lawyer, who has been extremely proud of how innovative our Australian law makers have been compared with the rest of the world, it is with great sadness and disappointment that I note our inability to recognise the long overdue need for legislative reform in this area. It is also with an increasing sense of frustration that our politicians will not commit to a path to just do it: one way or the other- just get this issue to a vote, in much the same way as our Liberal State government did in December 1980 in decriminalising homosexuality.
So legislative reform is not about offending some and pandering to others. It is about how a modern and progressive society must address the issues of the day through its democratically elected government – our law making instrument. Their job is to get on with the business of governing which also means getting on with the business of making laws.
My clear preference is that when (if?) they reform the law, that our federal government recognises the fundamental human right to be able to express love in a manner consistent with our laws for all and regardless of the makeup of any given couple, that they can enter into marriage in the same contractually binding and meaningful way as the rest of us. For in love, we are neither gender – but an expression of the universe’s ultimate intention for us – to love and be loved in return.
The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation you must contact Counsel Family Lawyers for legal advice. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 8 August 2017. We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family situation. Please contact our office on 9320 3900 or email [email protected] if you would like any further information.
Written by Caroline Counsel