For those of you who don’t already know, The Australian Government are about 10 years behind the rest of the modern world when it comes to preserving human rights. Now, the fact that I need to specify which human rights violations by the Australian Government I’m referring to in particular says a lot of sad truths about this country I love so much. To be clear though, I am talking about Same Sex Marriage. It is all we are hearing about at the moment in Australia. And a $122 million survey, reminiscent of the “Will you go out with me? Yes/No” notes that use to be passed around a primary school classroom, may finally bring this ‘debate’ to an end.
A major point of emphasis for the NO side of the campaign seems to be the ‘meaning’ of the word marriage or, to be more specific, people’s modern attachment to this word. As a word and an institution that has been around for thousands of years, I just wanted to add a few points to the debate for you NO’ers to consider.
So What Has Marriage Meant Throughout History?
The word marriage comes from Latin, marītāre, meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married. It’s the legal definition and people’s beliefs that have put prescriptions and caveats of gender on the word. The word as it originates does not define sex. People, as we put meanings on words depending on cultural, social or religious beliefs, have defined it. This also means that while your meaning of the word marriage may be strictly a man and a woman – that is based on your own social constructs, heritage, religion, history and norms. Whereas another person with a different background, history and religion could/would define a word differently (outside the legal definition which is dictated by a government).
Also until recent history, love had nothing to do with marriage. For a lot of human history it was unimaginable that people would get married on the basis of something as fleeting and irrational as love. In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disorderly and antisocial act. Until recent history, across most of society, marriage was a way of a family gaining particular in-laws, making alliances, securing land and economic position in tough times and securing a bloodline. Young people often had no choice of whom they married. It was an arranged strategic alliance of families. A business arrangement. And this is more recent history than you’d probably like to imagine. That’s what the word marriage meant. Women were often very young; 11, 12, 13 years old. Younger. Totally socially acceptable at this time in history. Thankfully, times change.
Keeping alliances within a family was also a reason for marriage. In the Bible, if you hold faith in it, Isaac and Jacob married cousins and Abraham married his half-sister.
Again, then totally acceptable by the social and cultural definition of marriage at that time. Times have changed!
What Has Changed?
Thankfully though, and somewhat thanks to the authors of a particular time period bringing the trend of relationships based on love to the forefront of their writing (initially with mistresses outside of a marriage but – baby steps!), marriage morphed and became about love!! And now days, guess what, love doesn’t discriminate!
Can You Feel in Two Minds?
I thought I should mention.. I use to have a different opinion. I was in two minds.
Believe me, as a firm believer in human rights, I would have been voting yes!! That hasn’t changed.. but I just didn’t understand why same sex couples might want ‘marriage’ exactly. Now while I have just smashed apart the modern meaning of the word above.. the meaning of the word ‘marriage’ had such a different significance to me a few years ago. I had an attachment to it and I didn’t even realise. To me it was a word with meaning from the bible, from the movies, all of those stories, a man and a woman, something traditional, movie style love and romance traditionally depicted between a man and woman.. wouldn’t same sex couples prefer their own version? Do they really want marriage exactly as heterosexual couples would define it? I’m not sure why as a completely sexuality accepting woman I would feel this sense of ownership deep down in a dark place over a word.
Then, I realised all of the above.
I realised that it was MY significance. One that many many people share, yes. But still something constructed. Something fluid. Significance deriving from outside sources. Significance that has already changed many times throughout history. The significance of that word can be a very personal thing. And everyone’s relationship with that word can be different and valid, no matter age, sex, religion, ethnicity, eye colour, whatever.. So now I don’t feel so attached. The word is everyone’s! It isn’t me alone that it means something too. I’m happy to share that word, with all its semantics and baggage, with the LGBT community.. if they want to enjoy it, rejoice in it an respect it then why the hell not!!!?
Not to mention, how about we just get our act together and keep up with the rest of the world. They already think that we ride kangaroos to school down here and half of us are named Shazza, the other half Dazza, with a couple of Kath and Kims thrown in. Let’s not have the rest of the world thinking that we are a bunch of picket wielding bigots wearing plaid..
Check out how far we are behind here.