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Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009, 02:47 pm
Same-sex marriage


Thought i'd write about this because i seem to be taking a minority position on the gay marriage issue. I don't "believe in" gay marriage, because i don't "believe in" marriage. I tacitly support gay marriage only because straight marriage exists, but i don't believe that either institution should be mentioned in the law (or treated as an "institution", as opposed to a "personal ceremonial thingy-doodle").

The article linked above brings up a couple of points that are worth raising;

1) The 2020 summit was a sham, in that the ALP never intended to do anything but what they intended to do all along (and plenty of people said so at the time). The only ideas getting out of the summit alive will be ideas they don't really care about one way or another, or ideas they were going to implement anyway. When your excuse for not considering an idea from the summit is "our policy is this, but you're saying that", it's pretty clear that that never stood a chance. Hence, "sham."

2) Marriage is, in my opinion, also a bit of a sham. In the words of the above article, "the Government said that their “policy on marriage reflects the widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman”" (apologies for quoting a quote).

I would add to that that the word marriage carries a range of connotations that not all people agree with. For example, "marriage" is almost always used to mean monogamy, frequently means a commitment to have children, often (still!) means certain gender roles are to be assigned to the couples involved, and, of course, frequently means "a man and a woman". It's (still) almost always "a major event in a person's life", and a major single event in a persons life (people will give you odd looks if you reveal you've been married multiple times to the same person, with no divorces in-between), and generally blown up into a big stupid thing that you're meant to spend your childhood planning for and your adulthood commemorating (on a strict annual basis). It also carries monetary presumptions - the ATO and Centrelink see you differently if you're married (in fact, Centrelink officers are notorious for being complete shitholes when it comes to males and females who merely live together, even if they're not married). And the process of divorce is deliberately made arduous and bureaucratic partly for these reasons (when my parents went through it, they had to separate and physically live in different houses, not because that made any financial sense for them - it actually caused some hardship, but because it affected the way the law treated them).

None of these things mean anything to me, but they are the central ideas in the way marriage is defined (and treated).

On gay marriage:

The Government's position on this is homophobic. The "widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman" is, flat-out, homophobic. It's bigoted, and i guess that just adds to the list of my ongoing relationship problems with K'Rudd. The reason i use the word bigoted is twofold;
1) The ALP's decision means that one type of person has certain legal characteristics that another type of person does not (whether you think these characteristics are an advantage or not) - and note that they have rejected the proposal of gay civil unions - not just "marriage itself" (!),
2) The ALP's decision functions as a symbolic insult to people who might consider themselves inclined toward marrying somebody of the same gender as them (imo this is the bigger problem for most people in most circumstances).

My position, as i've said, is that the country is caught up in the wrong argument. I don't think we should be fighting to extend a web of outdated presumptions and dubious legalities to include gay couples, we should be removing both the presumptions and the legalities from everyone.

Marriage shouldn't have any more legal reality than a prayer, or a lifelong friendship. There are some situations where marriage has an impact upon people's lives or wellbeing. The most obvious one that comes to mind is marriage as an economic strategy - two people combine their incomes to reduce the burden on them both. There is targeted welfare that benefits married couples (but, quite frankly, welfare can be better-handled whether marriage is an issue or not), but this situation is also hampered by having marriage be legally recognised, as it can also exclude you from welfare (e.g.// Centrelink tries to use it as an excuse to exclude people with opposite-sex flatmates from welfare; and taxes can take married partners into account).

The other situation is where a partner has certain rights/responsibilities (e.g. access to joint insurance, ability to drop in on their lover while they're in hospital, expectations regarding the care of children) as a result of being married. None of these cannot be acounted for in a marriage-free legal system. Regarding children, we already have laws regulating parental responsibilities irrespective of marriage. Regarding insurance or hospital drop-in rights, it would also be ridiculously easy to come up with a much better alternative than to go by state marriage records. For example, how about a system where every person is allowed to nominate one other (why not two other?) person to be their "medical confidante", or their "insurance buddy"...? I doubt this poses any sort of legislative challenge that isn't already posed (in a more presumptuous and unneccesarily bureaucratic manner) by marriage.

The only losers from a marriageless system would be geneologists (and don't you already wonder how much historical information they miss completely, being limited to marriage/birth/death records?). The winners would be everyone, with a more flexible way to spread benefits around a community, and protect oneself from state/economy-imposed sanctions.


What concerns me is that i haven't seen much sign of tolerance for this viewpoint from the gay-marriage-activist community. For example, i've had one person say to me that we should support gay marriage simply because otherwise, "the other side will win." The implication being that this is a two-sided issue (when clearly i've just positioned myself as occupying a third side).

You might ask, well, why shouldn't we? I'd answer that i think a person should advocate what they feel is right, not simply what they feel is politically expedient. (Look at how much headway Peter Garett has made into his 'real' politics by selling out... virtually none. They only let you do what they want to let you do.)

There's also a concern that by going for gay marriage without any radical critique, you may well be "helping the other side". At a recent gay-marriage-symposium-conference-y-thingy-doodle, a couple of audience members raised concerns about what the struggle for gay marriage actually represents. Some pointed to the ease with which gay culture can be co-opted by a right-wing, money-centred approach to life (in contrast to the "Socialist Alternative" party-line, that capitalism is "inherently homophobic", a claim i find very dubious), and, in this context, seemed concerned that some otherwise fairly-radical activists were concentrating on removing the insult from the lack of gay marriage, without attacking the root presumptions that power the insult - such as the fact that marriage is a legal institution in the first place.

That isn't to say that the insult shouldn't be confronted. Kevin Rudd's policy is homophobic - there's not really much argument on that score. But why does that imply that gay marriage is the solution? Why can't you say "Kevin Rudd, your policy is homophobic - get rid of the bureaucratisation of human relationships that made this insult possible in the first place!"

A cynical person might also suggest that parts of the gay marriage movement actually are interested in a fairly limited view of what constitutes a valid human lifestyle. Certainly parts of gay culture are like this; this is pretty much undisputable. Left-wing politics has no monopoly on gay people. It begs the question: why concentrate on the insult, the exclusion of gays from "normality", rather than atacking the injustice that makes the insult possible - and that has a more tangible relevance to a hypothetical somebody in a more troubling legal or economic situation? I think a normalising sort of attitude helps power a push for gay marriage at the exclusion of a critique of marriage (and of the legal/economic web it exists within), and if that's the case, then it's a push that leaves people out. It actively crafts its own insult for a minority within the minority (and another minority back within the majority, i might add). But, of course, that's as bad as saying that someone who questions the push for gay marriage is "helping out the Other Side", and i believe that it doesn't apply to too many actual gay-rights activists.

So what does this all add up to? Do you support gay marriage? I wonder if this is a bit like asking, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?", in that it implies the fallacy of the 'excluded middle.'

Do I support gay marriage? I don't want to answer 'yes' or 'no', because i reject the premise of the question.

...adding, "Kevin Rudd's a homophobe."

Fri, May. 1st, 2009 11:59 am (UTC)

I should totally have asked you about those thoughts just then before you went out the door! The internet would have become even more interactive.

Fri, May. 1st, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)

...and i don't know why, but everything i said to you and frollo (below) suddenly looks to me like T-Rex's speech pattern in Dinosaur Comics.

I think i've just been reading too many.

(And used the word "totally"...)

Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 08:25 am (UTC)

I love your posts! You always get me thinking.
My thoughts in dot points:
* I support the idea of anyone making a bond with a person or persons and wanting that bond to be recognised by society. I would prefer for there to be a "significant person" register where each person can nominate a number of people (say a maximum of 3) as a significant person. These people can then visit me in hospital, be beneficiaries of my estate, etc etc. I suggest this also because for many people "blood relatives" are also not necessarily our nearest and dearest. I want to choose who is important to me. I don't want society or the government to make that decision.
* I believe marriage is largely a religious tradition. Given that we supposedly have a separation of church and state I find it ludicrous that marriage has any place at all in our constitution (I also find public holidays like Easter somewhat problematic for the same reason).
* I support the idea of Gay Marriage because I doubt marriage as an institution is going to go away any time soon. Therefore I want two people, regardless of gender to have access to the benefits and rights that marriage bestows (words fail me here...I hope that makes sense). We can't get rid of marriage or remove it from our political system with much ease. But we CAN possibly win the right for those people who are of the same sex to also have this right.
* The stance of this government and the previous one that it a "widely held view" is a ridiculous justification. It is also a widely held view that lower taxes are good, and that speeding tickets are bad, and that free booze should be piped to our homes. But I don't see the government suggesting any amendments to our laws or constitution to reflect the peoples' wishes on these fronts. Plus, when was the plebiscite or referendum held to measure this "widely held view"?? I don't remember being given the opportunity to put my view forward.
* Kevin Rudd is a religious man and a large number of parliamentarians are Christian, and conservative (ethically, morally - whatever you want to call it). Enough said.

Fri, May. 1st, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)

Thank-you for the kind words, I love your replies :)

I support the idea of Gay Marriage because I doubt marriage as an institution is going to go away any time soon.

For this reason, i'll probably still march in the rallies later in the year.

But as a political strategy, with that justification (i.e. that "We can't get rid of marriage or remove it from our political system with much ease"), i feel a bit let-down by the left;

If you're haggling, as a rule of thumb, you ask for more than you expect the other person to give, and you expect them to give you less. To make a crude analogy, we ("we" being people critical of heteronormativity and marriage) seem to be asking for less in the first place. Which i don't think works, in politics.

We could be making demands consistent with the rejection of government control over personal relationships, we could be saying "Kevin Rudd, we don't think anyone in government has the right to decide anything about gay marriage, we want the government to recuse itself from having any say in this; thereby giving us gay marriage automatically as long as there are people to declare themselves married and gay."

They could be offering gay marriage as a minimum, instead of ignoring us completely. They could be saying "We're not going to give you everything you want, but we will offer you this worthwhile compromise (gay marriage)."

Instead, it seems to me that there's a sense in which we're asking for the compromise. If marriage reform isn't going to happen, it shouldn't be for us to second-guess the public and declare that this is so, if you see what i'm saying.

I'm seeing a similar sort of strategy in the MSA (Monash Student Association) at uni; they ask for less than the full range of student rights, and as a result, the NUS (which follows the same "asking for less" strategy) seems to have very little influence on any of Julia Gillards statements about higher education. (There was an article on this recently in Lot's Wife, the student publication at Clayton.)

I think people like Peter Garrett have followed a similar tactic, and achieved very little by it (yes, i still cling romantically to the beleif that he really still thinks all the things he used to say he thinks!).

Kevin Rudd is a religious man

I almost forgot about that aspect of him, but now i remember how he kept invoking it in interviews, segue-ing from talking about how he was offended that Howard kept invoking it in interviews. :S