Australia manages to make its way back onto the Human Rights Watch list for its second year in a row. Journalist Max Chalmers of New Matilda writes that Australia is on the list because of five large issues the country is currently facing, with marriage equality being one of these five.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the 2011 Census showed that there were approximately 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia, with 17,600 same-sex male couples and 16,100 same-sex female couples. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also says that same-sex couples only represent 1% of all couples in Australia, but even so, should not all Australian people have the opportunity to be able to marry the person they love?
Freedom to Marry say that there are currently a total of 19 countries that allow same-sex marriage nationwide, which include the: Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland. There are also two countries that “have regional or court-directed provisions enabling same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry” with these countries being Mexico and the United States of America.
The Netherlands were the first country to legalise same-sex marriage back in 2001 when the parliament voted 107 – 33 to end the discrimination of marriage laws. The law took effect on April 1, 2001 and requires that at least one member of the union be a Dutch national or live in the Netherlands.
It is now 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality for the LGBTI community. According to ABC News, back in 2013 on October 2, the ACT’s Marriage Equality Bill passed the legislative assembly. This allowed same-sex couples to marry in the ACT and a total of 46 couples registered to be married. However, the ACT Marriage Equality Bill was challenged by the Commonwealth, and as a result, the bill was sent to the High Court to be deliberated. Australia’s first same-sex marriage took place in Canberra on December 7, and among the many unions that day, Ivan Hinton of Australian Marriage Equality married his husband, Chris Teoh, and said it was “an amazing experience.”
But it was not to last as the High Court decided five days later that the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws were inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act and therefore unconstitutional. All 31 marriages were annulled. However, the High Court has now said in a statement that “whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the Federal Parliament,” meaning that the power to resolve this issue exists and lies in the hands of the federal government. But it has been almost a year and a half since this decision and nothing has been done, it has only been talked about.
The most recent country to legalise same-sex marriage is Ireland, which achieved this on May 22, 2015 by asking the Irish people to approve the following statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” Ireland approved this statement with 62.1% of people saying yes to change the country’s constitution to define marriage in this way, making Ireland the first country ever to approve marriage equality by popular national vote. Some people are supportive of the decision such as Vice President Joe Biden who says the country took a “courageous stand for love and family when they overwhelmingly chose marriage equality,” while others such as Cardinal Raymond Burke suggest that it “is a defiance of God… Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage.”
Despite what others may think, it is the truth to say that this development is incredibly encouraging for Australian couples which Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, said “watching what unfolded in conservative Ireland… to see that astounding result… that would have told any thinking opponent of this reform that it is inevitable in a developed Western democracy like Australia.”
Legalising same-sex marriage is an important issue that needs to be resolved. Beau Donelly of the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a man named Shawn Callahan about his stance on same-sex marriage who says he is all for it, more so now because of his daughter coming out to him. Callahan says that he is afraid his daughter will face discrimination because of her sexuality and that Australia’s political leaders need to do more to support gay people, including legalising marriage equality. He says that failing to legalise same-sex marriage reinforced prejudices and that it created a sense of unequalness among the LGBTI community.
Although at least 64% of the Australian population support same-sex marriage, there will always be those that do not. It is generally the religious argument that stands in the way of same-sex marriage, but what if this is no longer really the case? Dr. Abigail Rine teaches gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school, and says that her students find the conjugal view of marriage in an essay entitled “What is Marriage?” intolerant. Rine says this conjugal view is expressed as “the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other… that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.”
The students in Rine’s class “hate” the essay and struggle to understand the full argument that it presents. They are more in favor of the revisionist view of marriage which says marriage is “an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people.” She goes on to say that marriage has an “arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” meaning that married men and women do not always fulfil their marriage “by bearing and rearing children together,” and goes further to say that “children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.”
Above all, marriage should be based on the love you harbor for your significant other. Ivan Hinton expressed this message beautifully when talking about his partner Chris, saying “the relationship that we have is as deep and as personal as any in this nation. I love him with all my heart and there should never be any rule in this country that disrespects the commitment that two people like us wish to express to one another.”