Voting No? Read this First.

I am taking time out from my usual mental health awareness posts, to discuss the proposed legislation changes in Australia in regards to marriage. This is a topic about which I am extremely passionate, and I believe that we need to consider some of the facts regarding this issue. For the purposes of this discussion, I have predominantly referred to Western Australian state law, however these same scenarios and concepts could easily be applied to any state in the Commonwealth.

There are four purposes and intents of legislation.

These are – establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protection of rights.

I would argue that the legislation change in relation to marriage pertains to the last two; resolving complaints and protecting rights.

The argument has been made that gay couples already have all the ‘rights’ associated with marriage, under the de facto status. Marriage and de facto are not the same. It might not impact much for a same sex couple in day to day life, but in any event where the relationship status impacts the outcome (such as a separation, or death of one spouse), a de facto couple needs to prove their relationship status. Under Western Australian law, the following factors are taken into account when ‘deciding’ the validity of a de facto relationship:

– the length of the relationship
– whether you live together and for how long
– whether there is a sexual relationship
– the financial dependency between the couple
– the ownership of property
– how committed you are to shared life
– whether you care for or support children
– the public aspects of your relationship

A married couple, on the other hand, does not need to do this. They can simply produce a certificate which verifies their relationship status.

The consequence of this, is that a Court could decide that the de facto couple do not meet the requirements and state that they are not de facto, stripping them of any rights associated with this status. There is no such risk for a married couple.

One of the concerns raised in regards to marriage equality has been around surrogacy and the possible increase of children being removed from biological parents.

In WA the Surrogacy Act 2008, states that an eligible couple have to be of the opposite sex, AND there has to be a medical reason that is preventing the woman going through with a pregnancy. This piece of legislation is entirely separate to legislation related to marriage, and any legislation change to the institute of marriage, does not in any way impact the legislation regarding surrogacy. That is separate debate for a separate time.

I agree that any changes to the Surrogacy Act in any state need to be carefully considered and discussed prior to the legislation being changed. But that is a completely separate issue and is not at all associated with any changes made to legislation pertaining to marriage.

Another issue regarding children that has been made, is that marriage is an institute, created for the purpose of creating a family – for procreation. Therefore, gay marriage does not fit this, given that gay couples cannot reproduce without aid. However, by this logic, any couple that enters into marriage without the intention or ability of reproducing, also does not fit – my marriage included. Is my heterosexual marriage now invalid? Of course not. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. It is not dependant on any requirement that children become part of that union, in fact, even children are excluded from the union by definition. Marriage is a relationship status under the law, between two people only, and the exclusion of individuals to this status based on sexual orientation, is discriminatory.

Some religious groups have raised the concern that legalising gay marriage will take marriage as a religious concept, away from the church.

However marriage has already been separated from the church. Non-religious couples are able to opt to use a celebrant, and have no religious aspects included in their marriage ceremony. Couples are able to attend the registry office and legally become married without any involvement or association with the church. Introducing marriage equality does not impact this pre-existing situation at all. Further to this, Section 116 of the Australian Constitution specifies that the Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. Therefore, not only is marriage, as a legal union, already separated from the church, it is unconstitutional for religious reasons to be used to impose specific requirements in legislation.

Further to this, I would like to draw attention to the lack of reference to the issue of homosexuality in the New Testament. There are verses that may relate to the issue; however, have also been interpreted as referring to prostitution and pederasty, rather than a loving relationship between two people. However, if you are looking for ‘love’? You’ll find it referenced over 250 times. Given this, even if religious observance was able to be imposed through legislation, it would be difficult to suggest that Christianity (which is grounded in Jesus’ teachings) does, without any chance of doubt, have an opposition.

Some wedding vendors are voicing a concern that their ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ will be impacted, if marriage equality is introduced, because they will be ‘forced’, against their conscience, to provide services and products to gay couples. In regards to the ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ of businesses to discriminate against an individual based on sexual orientation, this is already outlawed. The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 WA states that businesses are not allowed to discriminate, refuse service or provision of products, on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation etc. You can already be taken to Court if you are found to be refusing service or provide products to customers based on sexual orientation.

The core function of a business is to produce a profit in exchange for a product or service. That is your right as a business owner. Being able to discriminate against the customers or clients that approach your business is not your right. And is already illegal. Your rights are not being impinged in any way, and they certainly aren’t changing or decreasing if we legislate in favour of marriage equality.

So I ask you, if you are planning to vote ‘No’… what are you actually against?

The platform for debate and campaigning that this plebiscite is facilitating is enormous. Let’s think carefully about what we share, post, and preach. It is going to become, if it hasn’t already, an extremely difficult time for some, already vulnerable, members of the LGBTIQ community and their families. For them, this is not just a ‘debate’, it is a fight to justify their validity and value in the world. And the outcome is a statement about their lives, and their future.

Have an opinion if you feel it necessary – but make it an educated one.

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My White Picket Fence

It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.

~ Jane Austen

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Someone said to me the other day, “I think everyone is sick of the preaching”.

Like a moth to the flame, I took the bait, and asked what they meant. The response was, “You know, with all these ‘issues’ – gay rights, women’s rights… I think people are just over having it in their face.”… “I mean, I don’t have a problem with them fighting for what they want… but they don’t need to ram it down my throat.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard similar sentiments. That these ‘people’ fighting over their ‘issues’ (their ‘issues’ being their accessibility to basic human rights – just to clarify) really needed to stop making so much noise… because there were people out there who didn’t want to hear about it. People who wanted to bow out of the debate.

It got me thinking… why are some people so involved in the fight – so loyal to the cause… whilst others sit back, and wouldn’t notice if they never heard another thing about any of these ‘human rights issues’?

And more than that, how can a human being watch another, dis-empowered and oppressed group of human beings, fight for their basic human rights, fight for equality, and not stand up and want to fight with them? Why are we so scared of getting our hands dirty? Of having muddy footsteps inside our white picket fenced lives? It seems we have a tremendous lack of empathy.

‘You can go have your fight for human rights… I have nothing against it… but can you do it over there? Over where it doesn’t impact my life? My white picket fence life?’

Then I considered who I had so often heard these sentiments from; the who, was more often than not, white, straight, middle to upper class, men. That is not at all to say that this group of people are the only people to say that they are not interested in the human rights of others, or that they are all disinterested – we know that there are many men that fall into this category that are extremely involved in fighting for these causes. Similarly, there are many people, from many walks of life, expressing that they are not interested in ‘being involved’.

But in my experience, with the people who have expressed those feelings to me, the demographic has always been the same.

Throughout history, it has been this demographic that has been the oppressor. Women have been oppressed by men. The LGBT community have been oppressed by the straight community. Various groups from various communities have been oppressed by white people… This list goes on. How then, can we expect this demographic to have empathy for an issue they have never had to experience? Not only have they not had to experience it, they have been part of the group that has actively facilitated it.

I know, I know.

You, personally, didn’t oppress anyone.

So why should you bear responsibility? Why should you apologise?

You’re right. You shouldn’t. And no one is asking you to.

What you are being asked to do, is not actively facilitate it any longer. And by saying nothing… by doing nothing… you are speaking volumes.

These voices that you would rather be silent, because they tarnish the rose-coloured world you live in, these are the voices that need to be heard. Every voice – on both sides of every argument, needs to be heard. Not only the ones that we agree with, but also, and especially, the ones that we don’t. Because they force us to think. They force us to feel. They push us into developing a stance. They make us act.

It is very easy to sit in a position of privilege, and decide that you would rather not hear about others, who are less fortunate than you. To pretend that, not only is it a problem that doesn’t exist, but it is also not your problem. It is not your fight.

But just as someone born into poverty does not get to randomly choose that they are no longer poor, you, born into privilege, do not get to choose that no longer carries a responsibility. Make no mistake;

By not acting.

You are acting.

Powerfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Box

I was quiet, but I was not blind.

~ Jane Austen

 

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The Box.

Where we are born. Where we grow up. Where we learn what it is to be a contributing member of society.

Where we learn what it means to be a legitimate person.

White. Straight. Monogamous. Educated. Wealthy.

But it runs so much deeper than that. Being a woman, I am aware of the constant stream of information drilled into me about how I should act, what I should think, how I should dress. When I should learn to ‘keep my mouth shut’, and when it is OK to have an opinion. It would seem that unless it is about the new matte, long stay lip gloss, or whether I should choose the blue plunging neckline dress, or the red skin-tight mini for next week’s wedding (FYI – neither are appropriate for a wedding), the reality is the Box would prefer it if I would kindly refrain from having an opinion at all.

Be polite. Don’t swear. Don’t bully people with your opinion… it’s curious how quickly that translates to, it is not attractive for you to have an opinion. And there it is… the ultimate goal for a woman.

Be attractive.

Be desired.

Be sexy.

My mind, my thoughts, my feelings, my strengths and weaknesses, my entire being… reduced to whether the traits that make me, me, are attractive to someone else. I am not just talking about a man finding a woman attractive… a parent finding their child’s behaviour attractive – not even a parent – a friend, a grandmother, a complete stranger watching a tantrum in the middle of the shopping centre.

“Shut that kid up”, their behaviour is not attractive.

In school, we are dressed the same, we learn the same, individuality is something to be condemned. It does not matter if you don’t like the uniform – because what you like, who you are… is irrelevant.

In university, you can’t have an original thought. If you happen to think of something completely autonomously, you best go research that – because I guarantee there is someone else who thought of it first. And there always is. They always exist. Why is that? Why do we not question why, as intelligent, curious beings, we are becoming incapable of new ideas? Of extending our thinking beyond this cage we have grown up in?

So here I am. A white, married, childless (I know – tick tock), woman.

To ask exactly that. To question everything.

To take on the Box.

The funny part? Someone has already thought of this too.

Stay tuned…