Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Discrimination and same-sex marriage

I sat down to watch Insight last night out of a keen interest over the issue of same-sex marriage. I was feeling very positive about the introduction of the Civil Unions Act in the ACT, and a perceptible shift in social attitudes towards same-sex couples in Australia (despite the Prime Minister's own revolting attitude on the issue).

As it turned out, I couldn't sit through the whole show uninterrupted. I found myself getting incredibly upset and angry at the bigoted and discriminatory attitudes displayed by members of the audience who were anti-same-sex marriage. I yelled at the television, I switched channels on several occasions in order to calm down, and I generally got quite worked up.

One of the most frustrating features of their arguments, was something that MrLefty has already summed up quite nicely:
Whenever a direct question was put to the conservatives - ie, "this is an example of the way the laws discriminate against gay and lesbian couples - are you in favour of this?" - they refused to answer it, instead immediately diverting off on an irrelevant and stupid "if you look at the tradition of marriage, it's about a man and a woman raising a child" rant.
Then there was the horrible John Heard who yelled over the top of people and made ridiculous sweeping statements to the effect that since he (as a gay man) didn't want to get married, no one else should have the right to do so. He also made the typical mistake of equating gay men with all same-sex attracted people (as though women simply didn't exist), since all his so-called facts related only to gay men.

Of course, the debate focused almost exclusively on the crap argument of "But, what about the children?" As if these hate-filled ranting lunatics really cared about the well being of children. The thing was that no one seemed capable of providing any evidence to support their claims that there was any risk to children from being raised by two people of the same gender.

For goodness sake, in a era when so many heterosexual marriages fail, and children are caught up in messy divorces, domestic violence situations, and shuttled between foster parents, state care and dysfunctional families - who are rarely provided with anywhere near-adequate government support - why are these people focusing on the children of loving couples who happen to be of the same gender? Furthermore, as John Stanhope argued last night - the two issues should not be conflated. People have children out of wedlock all the time (be they heterosexual or otherwise), and there is nothing about marriage per say that automatically generates babies.

The central issue in this debate is discrimination and a fundamental recognition of human rights. Why should a minority group within our society be treated as second-class citizens just because some narrow-minded intolerant people don't like the idea of gay sex? Currently people in same-sex relationships are treated like crap in our country. Regardless of the length of their relationship and the decisions that they make in terms of sharing finances and supporting each other, if one of them dies the other has no rights to their superannuation. Instead it goes into the ether, and the other partner is left with the debts that they have accrued together. That is crap. To add insult to injury, they are not given any legal rights in relation to funeral arrangements, or decisions over their partner's health if they are in a critical state in hospital.

If a same-sex couple raise a child together, only the one that is biologically related to that child is given any legal rights over them. If something happens to the relationship or the biological parent, the other parent has no legal rights to that child even if they have raised them from birth.

The list of discriminatory practices goes on and on, but another significant one is, of course, marriage. When I wanted to formalise my relationship with P, when I wanted my family to take part in a cultural ritual that would help them to understand that he was now part of the family and a permanent part of my life, I was able to get married. It was an incredibly special day for me. We wrote vows to each other and signed a legal marriage certificate, which formalised our relationship before our family and friends, before god, and under the law. We then had a big celebration and people made beautiful speeches about us and our relationship. We shared a meal and cake, and then we all danced. I will never forget the day.

Why on earth should anyone be denied the right to participate in such a ceremony simply because the person that they have fallen head-over-heels for happens to be of the same gender as them? It is so unfair that it makes my blood boil.

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