For many it was very good news when New Zealand, the country who is often seen to be lagging behind its big neighbour Australia, came out in favour of marriage equality, legislating in its favour. “Australians expected to head there to wed”, screamed the headline, as hundreds of jubilant gay-right advocates celebrated.
Then America came down in favour as well, with one of the most beautiful statement’s of all time.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 wrote for the majority in the historic decision.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
Marriage equality is a decisive or divisive decision for church, state and society. Whether you’re gay or straight, single, in a relationship, or already married, surely we all need to be able to share in both society’s responsibilities as well as its blessings? Everyone’s feelings matter.
‘Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls‘*
The ongoing debate about marriage equality is really all about basic freedoms attached to liberty, and the belief that everyone should expect the same basic human rights.
It is also about the human values we share; of not hurting the feelings of others; making them feel inferior; allowing everyone to behave with ease and grace and experience joy in the wonders of true love and service one to the other.
Currently, 2017, the Australian Marriage Equality postal vote is underway and here at ‘The Circle’ we support the YES vote, which is all about making a decision for a modern society. Laws made in a patriarchal society need to be changed, and this is one.
The words of marriage celebrant Randall Berger make sense.
- The Australian Marriage Act doesn’t mention love or choice or fairness or human rights.
- It doesn’t mention God or procreation.
- It is completely secular.
- It’s a simple document with rules and guidelines for completing a sworn and witnessed statutory declaration between two people, witnessed by two more and officiated by a Celebrant authorised by the Attorney-General.
- It is about immediately being next of kin, joint property, benefits, inheritance …
- That’s it. But for same sex couples, that is everything.
- They won’t be thrown out of hospital rooms … when caring and offering solace to the people they love, including children.
- The won’t have to fight with blood relatives for the house they have shared with their partner for years …or …have to fight over funerals arrangements …
- Their children can’t be taken away.
- THIS is what marriage is …Equal protection under the law, protected by the Constitution.
- It’s called Marriage because it’s under The Marriage Act and it is important for ALL Australians to have this protection.
- 99% of the NO arguments are complete distractions and have NOTHING to do with the Marriage Act!
On a broad range of issues both cultural and political we need to close the divisive gaps that exist between diverse groups of peoples so that they do not feel, or believe, that they are on the outside of society looking in. We also need to be inclusive and show respect and regard for one and other.
If the protagonists involved in an intimate relationship are two men, two women or a man and a woman surely the ‘social event’ joining them together should be available to all, whether it takes the form of a civic or religious ceremony.
Marriage is an intimate association or a union between two people. If it is to be legalized then it should be available to everyone.
It’s not about people having ‘control’ over another’s life, or each other, but about establishing a loving, and hopefully, lifelong working relationship.
If the people involved are also soul mates, then surely such a relationship would be very close to a type of heaven on earth.
All people, regardless of race, ethnicity and creed from the 21st century onward needs to pull together as one. There are many challenges the world is facing on a global scale.
We cannot do that without first offering respect for each other and each other’s stories.
Marriage, the social institution, is about a commitment between two people, who decide that they want to spend their lives together.
So is it right that some sections of society are completely forbidden to have such a union made ‘legal’ while others can?
Australians are sure to become vocal once more on the issue as a plebiscite to resolve the issue looks more and more probable, and as its estimated cost continues to swell.
This is all about politicians walking away from the responsible decisions we elect them to make on our behalf.
It was American born English playwright TS Eliot who said ‘the purpose of re-ascending to origins is so that we should be able to return, with greater spiritual knowledge, to our own situation’.
Perhaps it goes to whether you believe ‘God’ said the ‘union’ must be a man or woman. And, yes this is qualified in many places including ‘The Holy Bible’.
However that particular publication was a compilation of ancient and new texts translated, assembled and interpreted by a group of men at a time when society was patriarchal.
The question is: did they interpret the ancient texts to suit their own agendas?
Since it was first written the Bible has been re-visited many times and altered according to new interpretations and changes in both language and society to suit current trends in thought. Why then is this contemporary issue any different?
The qualification about what marriage is, and who it was between however has not changed and it was embedded in human consciousness over the centuries. It’s about two people wanting to share a life.
By the end of World War II collectively society found that it had dramatically changed its priorities.
This was when people began questioning the status quo and what was really right or wrong.
Change is what a progressive society is all about, as is conversation and discussion. Humankind cannot any longer afford to be fettered by old ideas in a world that must come to terms with being a global society. The business it should be about is truth. It is out there, but can we access it?
Historically, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Retro age marriage often only meant a social agreement between families, with little, to no regard for how either the bride or the groom felt, whether before the wedding or subsequently.
This was all about ensuring that in some stratas of society, the rich became richer for centuries. It was also because quite often land came along with the bride’s dowry.
It was William the Conqueror from Normandy, William 1 of England who crossed the English channel in 1066 and implemented two laws that would gradually establish the relationship between a house and its land in the English consciousness. And this would drastically affect the institution of marriage.
First he declared all the land in England from his time onward belonged to the King. From then on it could not be owned by any other man for centuries unless he accumulated enough brownie points from the King.
He was the only one who could grant freehold ownership.
Second William instituted the law of primogeniture, meaning that the firstborn son automatically inherited his father’s title and property.
Both of these laws established that land ownership, was the only sure basis of power. It was nothing to do with farming, the whole point of landownership was that tenants and rents came along with it.
A landowner could call on his tenants to fight for him in medieval times, pay rents to him right up to, and including the Georgian age, and then vote for him during the Victorian age.
At this time he could also gain jobs and perquisites from the government in return for his support.
The more a landowner prospered the more anxious fellow landowners were to be connected with him.
Arranged marriages ensured that his descendants would acquire the leverage for more jobs and perquisites – which for centuries was the ideal route to power.
Money could be gained through trade commerce, fighting or by providing services to the government, King or Queen.
However, money, unsupported by power, was likely to be plundered and from the Middle Ages until the late 19th century in England anyone who wished to have it all, invested in land, and a house set on a country estate.
During all this time in England and Europe the ‘arranged’ style of marriage was ordained and officiated over by the Christian church, which if you think deeply about it is completely scandalous.
The Kings of France also all had ‘official’ mistresses.
Louis XV’s mistress for twenty years was Mme de Pompadour, who had her own suite of rooms at Versailles and he paid for her lavish lifestyle.
Yet, when she died he was ‘officially’ unable to attend her funeral.
The Kings of France’s consorts or wives, lived in separate camps and were usually only visited to begat an heir and a spare. Love marriages were few and far between.
The church also turned a blind eye when the Kings of France cuckolded another man in order to secure his wife so that she could become his mistress. Incredible display of double standards to suit their political and status agendas.
Cardinal Richelieu, head of the Catholic Church in France, arranged for Mademoiselle Jean Becu to have a husband so that she could officially become Louis XV’s mistress as Madame du Barry after Mme de Pompadour had passed on.
The King of France always understood that he could not take a ‘maiden’ lady for his mistress, she had to be married. What sort of double standard was that?
And then there was England’s Henry XVIII who chopped off Thomas More, his best friend’s head, because he would not secure for him a divorce.
Thankfully the French people threw primogeniture out during Napoleon’s time at the helm, while in England they didn’t.
Privileged people, like the current heir to the English throne, continued for years to follow the same old line of behaviour, especially in relationship to his wife. That’s how long the embedded attitude endured. It was eventually society that railed against his double standards when he fell back on the old ways, revealing their disapproval.
If they ever make him head of the Church, or the head of ‘all faith’s as he has stated he would want to be, then society and the Anglican church, despite his mother’s best efforts, will have a difficult task in sorting out what to do. In some societies in the world he would not be counted at all because they view adulterers very seriously indeed.
Where will the median line fall?
‘But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you’*
Modern society is all about being inclusive. Today the majority of people require that emotional and physical nourishment for each person should take place in a marriage so that each party will feel that his or her needs are being fulfilled.
It is my belief Jesus of Nazareth would have understood our society so much more than perhaps we think he would. He was a champion for people’s rights, allowing himself to be crucified to prove the point that we should all ‘love one another’ and do unto others as you would have them do to you.
He would also certainly understand the need for people of all creeds, from all faiths and all stratas of society to feel and know love, because it was what he was on about and the cause he died so tragically and so willingly to protect.
Why does the marriage issue have to be one that divides society into two camps Surely it should not be a case of either or, but both and.
Science is telling us what most of us intuitively sense that humans are a fundamentally social species. Marriage is a social institution and marriage equality fundamentally a question of fairness for all.
There should be an opportunity for everyone to celebrate and have their relationships recognized with equal respect. Love is the subject that never goes out of fashion or style.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012-2013 Updated, September 2017
*Kahlil Gibran – from The Prophet