With the current push for marriage equality in Aotearoa, have we lost track of what we should really be fighting for? And is marriage really something we need to push for?
A friend of mine, Stephen Jackson, posted the following on tumblr, and has given me permission to reproduce it here. It pretty much sums up the problems with the current push for same-sex marriage in NZ:
ooo I feel like I should’ve written this earlier, been thinking about it a while. It’s all my own thoughts and opinions, I speak for no one but myself.
There’s a bit of stuff going around about marriage equality and I feel the need to voice my opinion because I don’t think there’s been a lot of discussion around it. I question why the Queer community needs marriage.
Personally I think we should just scrap marriage altogether. In this country you have the same legal rights as a married couple as in a civil union or if you’ve been living in a de facto relationship for quite a while. And so I fail to see what exactly we’re fighting for. To a degree I can understand the push for marriage in the States because that has all the legal benefits tied to it. However no one has given me a good reason why marriage is better than any other state-recognised union.
I have heard people say it’s for religious reasons, but on that basis alone marriage should be thrown out of law. I’m strongly for seperation of religion and state. And if you need the government to recognize that your chosen deity saw something I question your faith a lot.
Another friend said it was to do with their culture, that they miss out on something the rest of their family gets to do. But again we’re talking about a piece of paper, nothing stops you from having the pomp and ceremony of a wedding. Legalising marriage would have no effect on the way you choose to celebrate your union at all.
“Having the right to get married kinda sounds like assimilation.”
That aside, for me, having the right to get married kinda sounds like assimilation. Like, what are we fighting for, the right to be just like straight people? That doesn’t sound helpful to me. Perhaps assimilation would be ok EXCEPT for when it isn’t. It won’t stop judgement on the femme boys, it won’t make life easier for the trans person who can’t ‘pass’ and it won’t stop institutionalised homophobia or transphobia.
And on that note, there are FAR more important things to be concerned about than a word. Like institutionalised homophobia and transphobia. Like the fact that 1 in 5 same-sex attracted teens seriously consider and/or attempt to commit suicide, the rate being higher for trans youth. Why is it so important to make sure I can take part in a tradition based on religion and ownership of women when there’s kids out there struggling with the world and themselves.
So now I come to the main group pushing for marriage equality. Legalise Love. I know most of the people involved in this group and they’re all lovely people but there’s a few things happening in the organisation that make me uneasy.
“It is like they are saying that marriage and family go hand in hand, and they both need to happen together, which we know is bullshit.”
Firstly and largely, they aren’t just pushing for same sex marriage, they’re pushing for the right for same sex couples to adopt at the same time, as the same issue, I even saw them written in Express magazine as twin issues. When you sign their petition you are saying you want both of these things, not seperate petitions for seperate issues. This REALLY pisses me off because it is like they are saying that marriage and family go hand in hand, and they both need to happen together, which we know is bullshit. There is currently a bill in the ballot for the reforming of the adoption act, it covers a lot more than same sex couples being allowed to adopt. I would gladly push the importance of this but I will not be signing a petition that pushes marriage and adoption as one issue.
They have not (as far as I know) had any public meetings. I generally know what’s going on in the Queer community in Wellington so I feel like I’d know about it if they did. But from talking to other people they aren’t keen on much communication at all, I’ve had friends who’ve had unanswered emails, I currently have an unanswered email, the first email I sent didn’t especially answer many questions. There has not been a lot of interaction with the community and there hasn’t been discussion. It’s no good fighting on behalf of a group of people if you aren’t even going to talk to the people about what they want.
There is this other thing, when I think about voicing this opinion I feel like I am going to be shot down, but I think it is important. The president of LegaliseLove is straight. I am ALL for straight supporters, this particular person is fantastic, however, I am a feminist but I wouldn’t even dream of leading a women rights group and it’s obvious that a white person would have no place leading the civil rights movement in the USA. And so while I have all respect for this person I don’t feel it should be their job to fight from the front.
I do not support marriage but I will not stand in the way of those looking to achieve marriage equality. I do think it is important though, to start this conversation on why we do/don’t need marriage at all because I haven’t seen it yet, especially within an Aotearoa-New Zealand context. I fully understand that the way the law stands now is unfair and unequal but I want to talk about why we move towards marriage particularly rather than other options. I’m not even going to pretend this is a well written piece but I am fully behind the ideas I’ve presented and am freely open to discussion and criticism.