Marriage is between a man and a woman… and the church and the government and your mum

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I can’t help but notice that a lot of people are getting married lately. Every couple of weeks, I’m seeing white dresses and rings all over my Facebook feed. I’m also hearing a lot of wedding-related conversation.

I don’t hate the idea of marriage at all, and although the thought of planning a wedding fills me with cold dread, I can how it might be nice to do the deed at some point down the track.

I do have a problem with the traditional (and legislative) caveats that come with the ceremonial joining of two lives. Marriage and weddings have become a balancing act: please the church, please the state, please the family. It’s your special day, right?

 

Boy Meets Girl

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Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl. No, wait, scratch that. Marriage does not apply to those last two pairings. Silly me. To me, and people like me, the “gay marriage debate” is just us shooting confused looks at one another and meeting every opposing argument with, “Why is this even a fucking question?” A marriage involves two people who want to permanently join their lives together (legally, spiritually, perhaps physically through some kind of surgery…) and obviously have the intestinal fortitude to deal with all the bullshit that is part and parcel of taking that plunge. It’s pretty simple, really. In theory. In a vacuum. Ah, sweet love.

 

Going to the Chapel

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I haven’t been to very many weddings, but all of them have been religious (Catholic) ceremonies. To me, the ritual was dry and unromantic; it even disturbed me in places. (There’s something about verbally agreeing that your union will result in the production of offspring that seems pushy and overly involved. Can we leave my uterus out of this?)  Having said that, I completely respect a couple’s desire to include their faith in their union. After all, religion is a deeply personal experience. For the same reason, I am completely offended by the hijacking of marriage by any one religion. To suggest that a marriage is any less legitimate because it didn’t happen exactly according to some ancient custom is stupid. It’s also kind of offensive. It’s also technically wrong. After all, what’s a joining of two souls without a bit of legally binding paperwork?

 

All You Need is Love and $40.50 for a Certificate

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Nothing screams romance like registering your every move with your friendly government. I was pretty disappointed to find out that my birth certificate wasn’t a “Congrats for being the winning sperm” thing, but more like a livestock tracking system. You can get ‘married’ by a bilingual Eclectus Parrot in a hot air balloon over a volcano, but it doesn’t mean anything (in the eyes of the law) without that scrap of paper. Despite the fact that a separation of church and state is written into the Australian constitution (I know, we have one – crazy shit), the only real basis for not changing the Marriage Act to encompass the union of all couples is that, like, you know, it’s just not right. I mean, we’re not saying “according to the Bible”, but…

The Commonwealth shall not make any law… for imposing any religious observance.

Right. Of course. Shit. OK, so, it’s not about religion. It’s about… tradition! Upholding the cornerstones of our society or something. Changing things makes us feel weird.

Then again, if federal finances continue the way they are, marriage equality may be a quick cash flow solution for the government. I mean, that’s a lot more $40.50 payments…

 

Why Are You Crying?

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Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. That’s a thing, right? There’s some kind of borderline-creepy scrapbook that details everything from the dress to the typeface on the place cards, with some vague notion of a groom who’s, like, handsome or has ten Ferraris or something? Even the non-scrapbookers have been told since birth that the day of their marriage will be their special day.

“Why don’t you want your father to walk you down the aisle? Do you hate him? You’re his only daughter. He’s dreamed of this day,” sobs your mother when you tell her you’re thinking of keeping things low-key.

“You’re not inviting your second cousin and her six children? You’re practically Satan,” scolds your wife-to-be’s great-aunt.

“I’ll go, but I want things arranged so that I don’t have to see, hear, or smell my stupid bitch sister. Some kind of tagging in and out system would probably work, but it’s pretty inconvenient for me,” sniffs your Nan.

“We’re making the trip up just for your wedding. We’ll just stay in a hotel though, so don’t tell your mum we’re coming,” writes your uncle. (This one actually happens in my family. It would be kind of cool and secretive if it were something more juicy than “don’t tell your brother we met up for coffee today” – because he’s totally going to care.)

I’m genuinely surprised that more brides and grooms don’t start their vows with “Firstly, fuck all y’all”. Tradition is lovely if it means something to you. It’s fucking irritating if it only means something to two very pushy people in your extended family. The apparent rules around who to invite, where to seat them, what to feed them, and how to fork out thousands to do it are enough to give any marriage-participant a cold sore the size of a grape. And that’s what you want when you look back over your wedding photos: tired eyes, a forced smile, and a perpetually empty wine glass.

*

My mum gets this, thank god (or the God-Abbott coalition). She tells me that as long as I’m happy, she doesn’t care if, when, or how I get married. I assume there are practical limits on this; human sacrifice hasn’t been a family ritual for at least a decade.

Your marriage should be like your sex life: how you do it is between you and your partner. If other people want to come and applaud, they can do so from a safe distance, on the condition that they offer no suggestions.

“But, you know, missionary is traditional…”

TB

Day Seventy-One: My opinion on Bernardi’s opinion

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Lots of people say stupid things. Sometimes they say them to just one person, who can swiftly reach over and slap them, and end things right there. Other times, they will spout their idiocy in a large group, prompting eye rolls, anger, and mutterings of “what a dickface”. Then there are those people who take their moronic comments, launch them to a great height, and let them rain down upon greater society. I’m talking, of course, about the esteemed Senator Cory Bernardi.

The only thing I love more than someone with very strong opinions is someone with very strong opinions who wants you to respect their opinions (while your opinions can just fuck right off, thank you). It is my opinion that when you suggest very publicly to a country how said country ought to function, you cease to have the protection of “everyone’s entitled to an opinion” and enter the realm of “are you kidding me with this shit?”

Remember, if you would, back to the time when Australian families were all sickeningly happy and heterosexual, when there was no crime, no juvenile delinquency, no abortion, and everyone just did whatever their boss wanted them to. Struggling? So, it seems, is history. I would be more inclined to agree with ‘going back to the glory days’ if in fact such days ever existed (or the dude talking about them was even born when they supposedly happened). There have been lots of changes in our society, some for better and some for worse, but if evolution has taught us anything, it’s that survival is all about adapting, not fighting change. (I’m sick of this filthy air-breathing that humans have come to embrace. I say we go back to the sea! In fact, I regularly and publicly attempt to breathe water. Water is the best…)

I wouldn’t be so annoyed by Bernardi’s comments (OK, I probably would be) if he just expressed them in a way that didn’t condemn thousands of people and ignore other pertinent contributing issues. I feel the best way to illustrate what I mean is by quoting the man himself. Oh, I do love a good quote!

(Note: these are quotes from the book, The Conservative Revolution, as printed by the ABC on Monday January 6. Sadly, I have not read the book, and can accept the possibility that these quotes may be abberations in an otherwise well-balanced and intelligent piece of literature…)

 

On abortion:

“The political pressure from the left has ushered us into a morbid new world. It is not enough to stop the trend. What is needed is a reversal back to sanity and reason.”

 

Oh, yes, we baby-killing fag enablers are only that way because the political left ‘ushered’ us that way. Nobody was getting abortions before the political left came in and started handing them out. I’m not sure where Sen Bernardi suggests we reverse back to, but it’s probably so far that he’d be pulled over and fined for reckless driving.

 

On the number of abortions per year (after his figures were disputed):

“It’s a lot and I don’t know anyone in this country that wants to see more abortions; in fact, I think most people would like to see less abortions.”

 

Are you kidding? People love abortions! Just like they love choosing to euthanise their pets. Of course nobody wants to see abortion become the next botox (which is what I think when I hear ‘trend’), but plenty would agree that as long as women are requesting and using this service, it should be available and safe. The notion that making something legal and available makes people want to do it more has been disproven with drug decriminalisation in smarter countries—although, to be fair, nobody just tries abortion at a party and gets addicted to it, so perhaps the legalisation of the two shouldn’t be compared.

 

On what he proposes we do about it:

“I haven’t said we should outlaw or prohibit abortion; I have said there is a right-to-life issue we should be exploring.”

 

Since ‘unlawful’ abortion is still illegal in Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania, and it’s an issue governed by states rather than at a federal level, I’d say this comment is redundant. For interest’s sake: Abortion is legal under some circumstances—like serious danger to the physical and mental wellbeing of a woman (Queensland, New South Wales), “maternal health” or “foetal disability (South Australia and Northern Territory), or provided that the services are performed under strict medical supervision at the advice of doctors (other states). I wonder what kind of “exploring” Sen Bernardi is proposing. Based on his other comment—”I think we need to start to investigate measures and ways in which we can assist in that regard”—I’d say he has about zero idea.

 

On modern families:

“Given the increasing number of ‘non-traditional’ families, there is a temptation to equate all family structures as being equal or relative.”

 

Bah! Equality! Wouldn’t that just be ridiculous? On what grounds would anyone even think to suggest that these ‘non-traditional’ families were as good as the fast-falling mum-dad-and-two-point-four-kids model? I actually agree with Sen Bernardi here. I am tempted to equate all family structures as being equal (though perhaps I would use less redundant language to express the sentiment). I’m sorely tempted to believe that it doesn’t matter in what family structure you grow up as long as you are loved, educated, and cared for.

 

On juvenile deliquency in single-parent families:

“Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?”

 

While it’s true that juvenile crime has been linked to single parent families (at least according to the studies I scanned), the reason is not the single parenting itself, but the correlation between single parent families and neglect—though the percentage of total abuse victims who came from these families was not significant. Other contributing factors included poverty, low social status, and crowded dwellings (i.e. big families). A child with two parents may get more attention and support, but he may not. Two dads earning good money to support their one child should theoretically have fewer problems than a straight couple struggling to raise a brood of eight on unemployment payments. Then again, when were children ever predictable? Some of those I see in trouble with the law come from the most stable, two-parented, financially-blessed families around.

 

On alternative (and fanciful) methods of starting a family:

“What is missing in the push for human cloning, in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy, for example, is the understanding that children come into families as gifts, not commodities.”

 

Yeah, guys. Quit all that cloning, all right? But seriously, try telling someone undergoing IVF that they’re failing to see children as gifts rather than commodities, and you’ll probably cop a hormone-and-disappointment-fuelled kick to the nards. Generally speaking, the same goes for surrogacy. There aren’t many women out there whose first choice is to have someone else carry their child (and I’m sure if a gay male couple could somehow produce a child without a woman involved, they would). Surrogacy, like IVF, is a long and involved process with no guarantee of success. Altruistic surrogacy is now legal in all Australian states and territories, and allows for the practice to occur if there is no payment exchanged (beyond medical expenses). Doesn’t that sound like the definition of a gift?

 

On his “enduring views” that are totally not far right:

“These are traditional views that have stood the test of time and been developed over successive generations. You can’t tamper with tradition and not expect there to be adverse consequences.”

 

So I’ve learned every Christmas when I try to tell people how horrible fruit mince pies are, and how we should ditch the roast and eat Thai food. In this case, though, the adverse consequences are people whining, “but it’s tradiiishuuuuun” and the resolution that I will do things my own way when I have kids. The thing is, traditions are just things that people have done for a long time. Beating your wife might be traditional in your family, but that doesn’t make it the best path. There are plenty of ridiculous traditions being upheld all around the world. The problem with tradition is that it’s rigid, and it ignores the obvious changes that are contributing to its becoming obsolete.

 

And one more, on the (apparently needless) separation of Church and State:

“I believe that by stripping God and religious principles from our culture (and our politics) we have become a nation which does not know which port it is sailing to.”

 

You know what keeps ships on course? Compasses. You know what doesn’t? Bibles. Bad analogies aside (which port does he think we should be sailing to? I’m genuinely curious about his elaboration on this one), the separation of religion and politics is kind of a cornerstone of our government system. Many (some would argue, enough) of our legal principles come from basic Christian teachings anyway—don’t kill other people, don’t steal, don’t embezzle $40 billion from your company and drain the retirement funds of every person who works for you. Well, maybe just, ah, don’t steal. It’s probably not a lack of religious guidance that is cutting our country adrift (geddit?) but a government and corporate system that values money over people and maintaining the status quo over risking a beneficial change. But then, maybe there is something to be said for running a country based on Buddhist principl— What’s that? Only Christian? Never mind.

 

Obviously, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to ask you to accept my opinion as the true word of God/Allah/Ganesha/FlyingSpaghettiMonster, but I hope you’ve found them stimulating nonetheless. Besides, I’m only a small ripple in the vast ocean of the internet. (I do promise to be more responsible when I enter parliament, publish a book, and get interviewed by the ABC.)

 

TB