Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Caroline. She’s fiercely loyal, protective, and just the right amount of crazy. You know with Caroline that if someone hurt you, she would turn up in her pick-up with a shotgun and wait with it fully loaded until you were safely in her arms.
Yeah, she’s that kind of friend. No matter where I am in the world, this woman has my back.
Caroline is getting married in a few weeks. I’d love to go and share the love, but the wedding is taking place in Canada – that’s just a little too far for a long weekend. Caroline isn’t Canadian however, nor does she reside in Canada. She is getting married there because she can’t get married in her home state of Alabama. Come to think, she couldn’t get married here in Australia either, or in my home country of New Zealand. Even as a citizen she couldn’t get married in these countries, because the love of her life, the person who loves my fiercely loyal, protective, and just the right amount of crazy friend the most also happens to be a woman.
They’ve been together 6 years and they’re mad-hippy-dippy in love, these two. That’s the way Caroline does it after-all. I don’t know how her Canadian marriage will be recognised in her own country, but I do know it won’t be recognised here. The Australian Government not only prohibits same-sex marriage, it will not recognise a same-sex marital status conferred by another country. Get married in Canada, take your honeymoon in Australia and somewhere over the Pacific you become what? Travel buddies? Where exactly does the legal status of your relationship change? I’m trying to think of an analogous example for legally married heterosexuals – meet my wife here, here and here, but over there we’re just really good friends!?
If marriage is the single biggest symbolic and legal commitment two consenting adults can make to each other, how can democratic Governments decide so arbitrarily just when and where it will be recognised?
And it is arbitrary. Marriage segregation exists in the realm of personal whim and prejudice (thank you Collins English Dictionary for backing my word on this one). Consensual love and commitment tend not to threaten the downfall of society when straight couples are doing it, after-all. In the interests of avoiding personal whim or prejudice, I’ve thought long and hard about equal rights, and the dangers of dispensing them to some, not all. It seems to me that when a Government denies a portion of the population access to the rights others freely access, it is perhaps sheer luck that you fall on the ‘right’ side of the law this time around. Because codifying segregation is never limited to the issue at hand. It suggests a society where any ‘other’ can be ostracised should the so-called majority be inclined, whether the lines are drawn through religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
It is no surprise to me that the Conservative Right feel just as strongly about women’s reproductive choices as they do about the sanctity of marriage. Take a look at the series of laws – or as I prefer to call it, the epidemic of insanity – sweeping the US at present. For every North Carolina banning same sex marriage, there is an Arizona blocking funds to Planned Parenthood, and a Virginia trying to mandate invasive internal ultrasounds before an abortion can be discouraged performed.
But back to arbitrary. I don’t mean to suggest that those who hold an opposing view to gay marriage based on their religious teachings are acting on personal whim. Well actually, I don’t mean to suggest religious faith is a personal whim, but perhaps I do consider the use of biblical text to justify upholding marriage discrimination pretty close. I don’t see the same vigilance when it comes to mixing cotton and wool, or banning people with glasses from taking communion. And luckily no-one in my workplace is allowed to stone me to death for blasphemy (though I often receive a forceful frown). If anything the law protects me against anyone using Leviticus to sanction my behaviour.
This one isn’t about God, people. No-one will be forced to change their personal experience of same-sex relationships. And if recent surveys are anything to go by, most Australians who support same-sex marriage also support the right of a Church or religious institution to refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. Ceremonies. That’s okay! I’m not going to fight gay battles with God. Just with the Government. Technically I’m not allowed to get married in a Catholic church either and this suggests no threat to my rights before the law.
Because I am allowed to get married. I don’t have to go to another country to have a commitment to my spouse both realised and recognised (and I don’t forfeit that recognition just by taking a plane ride to another city). I don’t have to default to a ‘separate but equal’ civil union (no offence to those who choose this option, I merely dislike it as the only option). I don’t have to fight the Government to have my consenting adult relationship/leap of faith considered just as legally and socially worthy as that of any other couple featured in the announcements section of the Saturday paper.
Alright, so I’m not actually in a relationship at the moment, let alone close to getting married, but I’m just saying if I were … well luckily for me, the law says yes. See, I may not have a pick-up (or a shotgun) but I’ve got words and a platform, and I’m calling it here. If you are married, or hope to be, think of all that it means to you and yours. Then close your eyes for a moment and imagine your Government says “No”.
Caroline honey, I’ve got your back over here on this side of the world.
Here’s to the bride and bride!