Friday, May 4, 2012

One In Fifty

I've been trying for months to not write this rant. Today, on this blog, I concede defeat. 

I am a straight woman in a committed monogamous relationship with my straight male partner, Rob, who is divorced. We wear matching wedding bands on our wedding fingers. We refer to each other as husband and wife. We are as close to being married (or civilly partnershipped) as you can get, without being married. We have all of the legal protection that defacto couples have, but we are not married. We're not even engaged.

One day we'll do the deed. It won't involve a white frock that looks like a cross between a toilet roll cover and a pavlova. It won't be in a church, or involve religion. There will be spectacular finger food, an incredible cake (or two: we can't decide between lemon-coconut and Black Forest...and Mum will want a traditional fruit cake, so we should plan for three cakes) and tears of joy. It will be a very special day. 

It will be a privilege to marry Rob. I know he feels the same way about me. 

But we've agreed that until every single adult in Australia has the right to enjoy that same privilege, we won't either. Estimates suggest that at least 2% of the world's population is gay. That's one in fifty people. 

In this country, not all single adults can marry the person they love. If Irene and Anne want to marry, they can't. If Adrian and Enrique want to marry, they can't. Penny and Sophie can be parents, but they can't be married. And Rob and I can. 

So I ask myself, what is so special about Rob and I that we have this privileged existence where we can partake of an ancient ritual of legal and spiritual coupledom, when the same ritual is denied our friends. What have we done to make us more deserving?

Lyle Shelton,  Chief of Staff of the Australian Christian Lobby, husband of Wendy "Won't Somebody Think Of The Children" Francis and lapsed journalist, has been stirring the pot on Twitter today. He's tweeting the Senate hearings on marriage equality.  According to Mr Shelton, aside from the obvious reason that homosexuality is against his God's law, his argument against redefining marriage to include same sex marriage is that it places one of society's feet on a banana peel. 

The ACL believes that from gay marriage, it'd be just another short lurch to the left and we'd be legalising polygamy. What does he think will happen next? Rev-heads marrying their cars? Geeks marrying their iPads? Foot Fetishists marrying their Jimmy Choos? 

Twitter identity Can_Do_Campbell was quick to point out that where polygamy exists, it tends to be within a religious structure like the FLDS.  Mr Shelton responded that it wasn't part of Christianity; it's only mentioned in the Old Testament. Does that mean we can toss out Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark, the talking snake, the burning bush? 

Okay - just checking.

Despite some determined questioning - and just a little provocation, and isolated abuse - Mr Shelton failed to respond to questions about why legalising same sex marriage would have any impact on his life. In other words, what does it have to do with him? 

This basic disconnect accounts for much of the tension between religion and secularism. The religious lobby - any religious lobby - sees it as their responsibility, their divine purpose, to spread the word of their Gospel and thereby save the world. In order for religious zealots to fulfil their purpose, they must ensure that everyone follows the rules set down by their God.

Those who believe in a different God, or in no God at all, are therefore required to reject their own beliefs and follow the teachings of a God they don't believe in. How is that fair? In the case against marriage equality, it's literally using one inequality (their perception of their superior beliefs, and their right to impose those beliefs on others) to enforce another inequality.

It's not for me. Lyle Shelton and his colleagues will never convince me that I am more entitled, more deserving, more special than my friend Irene, a gay teacher, counsellor, mentor and generous friend for over thirty years. Or my cousin Adrian, one of the sweetest, most sensitive and smartest people I know. Or Senator Penny Wong, a brilliant young Australian and role model for all of us.

When Rob and I marry, I hope Irene and Anne and Adrian and Enrique will be there to celebrate with us...and I hope we'll be on their guest lists too. Until then, we have one more battle to win, and many more cake-related decisions to make.

Twitter: @Can_Do_Campbell @LyleShelton


  1. You're fabulous.

    If only more people thought like you, and were willing to stand up and make a difference.

    Thanks for your strong words!

  2. Excellent! I am also a straight advocate in a monogamous relationship. My partner of 16 years and I feel very passionately about this issue. We have seen the heartbreaking effects of prejudice against our gay loved ones and will never stop fighting until equality is achieved.

    Well done Sal and keep it up!