…no not just for some but for everyone.”
On March 23, 1965 Jackie Deshannon recorded her rendition of Hal David’s haunting words set to Burt Bacharach’s beautiful music, What The World Needs Now Is Love. It was released on April 15 1965 and reached number 7 on the US charts.
Over the 52 years since Jackie’s original, the words and sentiment of the song are still as true now as they were then. Over 100 artists have either recorded or performed this song live, including Broadway for Orlando’s June 15 2016 recording that donated all proceeds to the victims of the June 12 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida – a hate and terror crime against LGBTIAQ+ citizens. Of the 320 patrons of Pulse that night 49 people lost their lives and 58 others were wounded – I daresay the remaining patrons will bear the emotional scars of that night for the rest of their lives.
The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in United States history; the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the history of the United States—surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack—and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Hate. Violence. Fear. Control. All of these things go hand in hand, as was demonstrated on that tragic June night in Orlando in 2016.
Meanwhile, in Australia, we have been fortunate enough not to experience anything as heinous as this kind of attack on our fellow Australian’s – possibly because of our gun laws? But this post isn’t about guns, terror or hate. It is about love. Just love.
On August 9 2017 the Australian Senate denied the restoration of the highly contentious and outrageously expensive same-sex marriage plebiscite, and as a result a $122 million non-compulsory postal vote has been proposed – the vote which will not require legislation and is essentially an expensive survey.
Marriage equality (ME), same-sex marriage, gay marriage, whatever you want to call it, has been a point of debate for many, many years and I want to break it down. Traditionally, marriage is between a man and a woman. But in 2017 is that really how marriage still looks, or should look? The nuclear family has largely been replaced by extended families or single parent families. Marriages are no longer predominantly held in churches and performed by religious figures. Divorce, sex before marriage, children before marriage, lives without marriage are common.
19 May 1960 Australian Attorney-General Sir Garfield Barwick of the NSW Liberal Party introduced into the Australian House Of Representatives (HOR) the Marriage Bill 1960 which was intended to replace individual state and territory marriage laws with national marriage laws. On this date Barwick noted that:
… it will be observed that there is no attempt to define marriage in this bill. None of the marriage laws to which I have referred contains any such definition.
The bill was withdrawn at committee stage to allow for amendments to be made before submitting the amended bill on 21 March 1961 as Marriage Bill 1961. The major parties (Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Liberal Party of Australia (LIB)) were given a conscious vote on the bill and it was passed on 22 March 1961 without divisions. The bill was introduced to the Senate on 23 March 1961 and passed on 18 April 1961 without division, however Senator George Hannan a LIB from Victoria attempted to define marriage as ‘the voluntary union of one man with one woman for life to the exclusion of all others’ but was denied in a vote of 40-8. The Marriage Bill 1961 was passed without division. The politicians had done their jobs without need of a plebiscite or a vote or a postal vote.
In 2001 the Netherlands became the first country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Over the past 16 years many countries have followed suit including, but not limited to, Canada, Denmark, France, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and our neighbours across the ditch New Zealand. But in Australia the debate rages on! In response to international ME laws the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 was introduced to the HOR for the purpose of defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other countries, and prevent same-sex couples from engaging in international adoption. The bill passed the Senate 38-6 on 12 August 2004. The politicians had done their jobs without a plebiscite, or a vote or a postal vote. Yet in 2017 it is going to cost the Australian public millions of dollars to get an opinion on amending this amendment…
There are a lot of arguments for and against ME, but I haven’t heard a convincing argument against it yet. Some of the notable objections I have read and heard I will address below:
“The bill is necessary because there is significant community concern about the possible erosion of the institution of marriage …”
~ Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock (LIB, New South Wales) in June 2004 in relation to the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004.
Why? Why are there concerns over the POSSIBLE erosion of the institution of marriage? How can recognising MORE marriages as valid diminish the institution in an environment where the rate of marriage in the heterosexual community is decreasing and the rate of divorce is increasing? In an environment where 1 in 3 Australian Heterosexual Marriages will end in divorce, how can ME be a threat? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the rate of marriage is decreasing whilst the divorce rate is increasing.
In the 20 years between 1995 and 2015 the crude marriage rate has decreased from 6.1 to 4.8, the crude divorce rate has also fallen from 2.8 to 2.0. However, these figures do not account for the rate of separated couples who have not divorced. Since 2010 the cost of applying for a divorce has increased from $432 to $865, which is a significant cost for a lot of Australian’s. The Netherlands too have seen a decrease in marriages (6.5 in 1990 and 3.8 in 2015) and increase in divorce (1.9 in 1990 to 2.0 in 2015). The statistics show that Australia has a higher crude marriage rate than the Netherlands but our divorce rate is the same. For me, the argument that ME will somehow negatively impact on the sanctity of marriage is not supported by the facts.
An alarming trend I have been reading about is the insistence that ME will open the door to legalise adults marrying children. Let’s get stuck into that one because the suggestion that a loving same-sex relationship is in anyway akin to paedophilia is beyond offensive! Firstly, I will refer back to our little buddy the Marriage Act 1961, which stipulates that the marriageable age in Australia is 18 – also the age a person in this country is deemed to be an adult. However, a person between the age of 16 – 18 years can marry a person over the age of 18 under exceptional and unusual circumstances with parental consent and a court order from a judge or magistrate. As a legal adult in Australia is a person over the age of 18, it is a fact that for the past 56 years it has been LEGAL (though uncommon) for children to enter into a legally binding marriage in this country. ME will have no impact on children entering into marriages other than to perhaps strengthen the laws against under age marriage.
Secondly, the dictionary.com defines a paedophile as a person who is sexually attracted to children; a homosexual as a person who is sexually attracted to people of their own sex; and a heterosexual as a person sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex. From a psychiatric standpoint, the current American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) defines pedophilic disorder as sexual focus on children. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica defines paedophilia as a psychosexual disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or opposite sex – they reference both the DSM5 as well as the World Health Organisation ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (1993). By definition paedohphiles and homosexuals are completely different, as are paedophiles and heterosexuals. ME is about consenting adults being given the same rights in marriage as the heterosexual citizens of this country.
As for the argument that same-sex couples can have a civil service and be recognised as a couple under the law, so why do they need to marry? Well, a beautiful friend of mine said it best and I will quote him here because as far as I am concerned that is the argument made!
“Whenever I think about the argument that if we have the same thing but it’s called something different use this analogy: Imagine if when a woman finishes university, after doing all the same work as a man, we give her a certificate of completion instead of a Bachelor’s degree.”~ Pat Walsh, Australia, 9th August 2017
Another argument is that the change will leave religious figures open to litigation as their faith won’t allow them to marry LGBTIQ+ couples. Religious figures already have the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for heterosexual couples, LGBTIQ+ couples wouldn’t be any different. But that is a minority issue actually, because since 1999 the majority of marriages in Australia have been conducted by civil celebrants, with 74.9% in 2015. The 2016 Census revealed that the majority, 30.1%, of Australian’s identified as No Religion, followed by 22.6% as Catholic, 13.3% as Anglican. No religion is now the majority religious group in Australia. Religion has no place in politics. Religion has no place in government. Politicians, or any Australian really, should not have the right to impose their religious views on others.
In 1902 Australia was the FIRST country IN THE WORLD to give women both the right to vote in federal elections but also the right to be elected to national parliament. The following year in 1903 the suffragette movement was formed and led by Emmeline Parkhurst to fight for British women’s rights. Yet here we are 115 years later (ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN YEARS LATER!), we have gone from being a world leader in civil rights to dragging the chain. Come on Australia, it’s time to catch up!