WORDS | Saartje Tack
Equality VS Lunch
The fight for marriage equality is on. It’s simple. Either you’re for, or you’re a homophobe. I was painfully reminded of this only a few months ago. It was a Tuesday, and the campus was bathing in sunlight. I tried to make my way to the food court around lunchtime, which, as every Macquarie student knows, requires a certain skillset and expertise: the arduous climb to Y3A seems like a breeze compared to having to make your way past the picket line of noble and honourable individuals –in some circles known as activists –who try to lure every single innocent being into their web with a wide range of flyers and petitions that are going to save humanity.
I must say, over the years I have become quite the expert at avoiding eye contact on an empty stomach. This time, however, I was distracted.
“Gay marriage. Sign our petition for marriage equality.”
That’s when I made the fatal mistake. I decided to ask a question.
“I’d rather not. What exactly is it that is equal about this marriage you talk about?”
“Don’t you want LGBT people to have the right to get married?”
That’s when I was cut off and the word “homophobe” was dropped. I wanted to get the discussion back on track with a “But…”. Although, I soon realised it wouldn’t have made a difference, and gave up.
Maybe I should have tried harder to explain where I was coming from. Maybe I should have tried to clarify why I think we should not ask the question of ‘for’ or ‘against’ gay marriage, but the question of ‘marriage’ itself. However, I was hungry, and lunch was, is, and will always be, more important to me than marriage.
The Most Important Day
The debate with regards to ‘gay marriage’, or ‘marriage equality’, is often framed as a question of ‘for’ or ‘against’. However, the question that is rarely ever raised is whether ‘marriage’ itself still has a place in our society.
When you visit the Attorney-General’s Department website that has all the information about getting married in Australia, you are greeted by the following line, “Your wedding ceremony is one of the most important moments of your life”. Dearest government, I appreciate your concern, but if it’s all the same to you, I would like to decide for myself which moments are most important in my life. Also, I would like you a lot more if you didn’t try to make me feel as though I would be missing out on the most important moment of my life if I decide not to play the wedding game.
The webpage proceeds by explaining in dot points who can be married in Australia. It’s very simple, marriage is between a man and a woman, and minors cannot get married unless special approval is given, you cannot marry close family members, and certain words must be used during the ceremony. Then it gets interesting, you must ‘understand what marriage means’.
The 1961 Marriage Act defines marriage as, “The union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
First of all, could someone please explain to me what exactly it is that constitutes a man and a woman? We’ve all heard the stories of athletes who get disqualified from major sports events because doubts are raised about their sex. Let me ask you, have you had your sex-type checked recently? Or ever? In the definition of marriage, is it self-definition that makes one man or woman? Is it upbringing? Or is it the possession of a certain type of internal or external sex organ, and if so, is the celebrant required to check this during the ceremony? What exactly should this organ look like, and are there specific requirements as to quantity, size, and shape?
And more importantly, what does this ‘union’, other than that it is for life and to the exclusion of all others, mean exactly? Does it require both parties to be in a romantic and sexual relationship of love, as popular belief has it? What exactly is love then, and sex? And how much of it is required? How can we even begin to define these terms?
Or does it have absolutely nothing to do with love and everything with practicality? Marriage as a contract is between individuals, in which both parties agree on certain rights and obligations with regards to their interpersonal relationship. If this is the case, then why is it so important that we call this institution marriage, and put in place a plethora of questionable rules about who gets to take part in it?
What always strikes me is the idea of ‘marriage equality’. How can we consider extending a state-sanctioned ‘privilege’ to a small group of individuals and excluding others to be ‘equality’? Legally recognising romantic and sexual lifelong and monogamous relationships between one man and one woman, two women, and two men, still excludes all other relationships from not only legal, but also societal recognition, and as such, functions as an attempt to devalue them.
The issue today, dear (gay) marriage activist , is not that certain people cannot get married to each other. What is much more problematic is that ‘marriage’ is still perceived as a requirement for being a ‘normal’ human being. ‘Marriage equality’ is not a neutral act. It is not the obvious next step it is made out to be.
Lunch, however, is.