13 May 2019

Marriage: A state of mind, not a decree

| Susanne Morton
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In possibly the most important step for marriage equality on the global stage, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favour of same sex marriage. It’s sad to think that here in the ACT, we beat them to the punch some time ago, only to have the whole thing quashed by the Feds. As for our very own infamous Christian couple; well if they were in the States, they’d be applying for a divorce right now. Susanne Morton wrote this piece some weeks ago, and we think it’s worth republishing today.

The inequity of non-marriage rights for homosexuals is hypocritical and down-right embarrassing. Our politicians devote money to programs designed to address suicide, depression, anti-bullying etc and yet by their own actions of exclusion and division between heterosexual and homosexual people, are directly contributing to the afflictions they purport to be addressing. “Marriage is only allowed between a man and a woman”, says the Bible faction.

There is no proof to this claim but even if there was, religion should not play a part in determining our social laws. If we took to the Bible as guiding our civic behaviours, then many people would have been put to death last weekend as the cafés and shops around Canberra were full of people working on the Sabbath, which the Bible tells us is punishable by death.

Then there is the argument that only a man and a woman can effectively parent a child and as co-parenting is the most important function of a marriage, it should preclude the participation of same-sex couples. This magical parenting ability is apparently only bestowed on Man and Woman united in Matrimony. Well I come from a long line of married heterosexual couples and I’m here to tell you that parenting was not their forté.

Domestic violence, alcoholism, incest, neglect and drug addiction were all rife in my family tree, and while I’m not suggesting that same-sex couples fare any better as parents, I doubt they could do any worse. As we are all just human beings, none of us are any more magically equipped for parenthood than the other, least of all because of our sexual preference or relationship status.

Not that I’m pro-marriage, by any stance, in fact I find it a redundant and antiquated tradition, but if it’s legal for some and not for others, then that’s a different issue. Why should the gay community be deprived of participating in the whole silly business? God knows they have many lost years to make up for in the experience and they deserve to be counted in the statistics for divorce, custody battles, property settlements and marriage counselling.

And just think of how much more money they can contribute to the economy through the thriving wedding industry by their purchases of diamonds, fake tans, wedding fitness programs, celebrants, doves, designer gowns and dance lessons, essential components of today’s modern wedding.

I recently attended the wedding of a couple where the bride announced during her speech “I can’t wait to start our lives together”. This couple had been together for 8 years, had two children, a mortgage, a dog and a shared business but apparently, these things were just a prelude to their real lives, which would commence once a marriage certificate had been signed. This is the bit that confuses me.

For all intents and purposes, the business of marriage is already in full swing. The act of loving, sexual intimacy, sharing lives, finances and domestic routine is marriage. A ceremony and a certificate doesn’t make the relationship any more or less established, it doesn’t guarantee contentment, fidelity, financial security or even a life-long union and yet we are conditioned to believe that a relationship isn’t valid unless we have publicly declared our love and documented our names together on a register.

On the flip side, I just watched a reality TV show where a couple of strangers got married. Apparently, the woman just “really really wanted to get married”. So perhaps all my talk about mutual love, desire and intimacy are not really what people are looking for. Maybe they just want a validated relationship status and that other stuff is mere filler. After all, arranged marriages have been tried and tested for centuries with apparently, slightly better success rates than non-arranged marriages.

An acquaintance of mine married her husband, sight unseen, over the phone at the tender age of 20. She first laid eyes on him eight months after their phone-wedding. I asked her if they had phone-sex on their wedding night but apparently, he was on a dinner break and he had to hang up after the vows. Seven years on, these two are in a strong and stable relationship, I can’t vouch for the mutual love and happiness, but apparently that stuff isn’t important anyway.

I think the only thing to make of all this is that there is no one true definition of marriage. It means different things to each individual and draws on difference in culture, in beliefs, in traditions and background, in religion and in all the unique qualities that make us a part of the same race. The human race. And we are, each of us, entitled to define and participate in this thing we call marriage on equal terms. For me, I don’t need to recite vows, wear a ring or sign a marriage register. The feeling I have, being with the man who I am lucky enough to be sharing my life with is, is all I need to know that I am well and truly married.

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