I last posted about marriage equality in Australia in August 2011, and things were looking very promising here at that time. It has been a year and a half since then, and a lot has happened around the world. Denmark became the eleventh country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. In November 2012, voters in the US states of Washington, Maine, and Maryland changed the tide when they voted for marriage equality for the first time in US history, and voters in Minnesota at the same time rejected an amendment that would have enshrined marriage discrimination into their state constitution. The Mexican state of Quintana Roo legalized nuptials for all, as did courts in four of Brazil’s 26 states and their national capital: Alagoas, Bahia, Brasilia, Piaui, and Sao Paulo. There were further court victories in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and activists there seem to have a state-by-state court-based solution to remedy their inequality. More recently, marriage equality has passed crucial votes in Uruguay, England, France, and just over the water in New Zealand. All four of those countries are expected to have full marriage equality in the coming months. On top of that, there are serious movements in Ireland, Scotland, Luxembourg, and even Colombia to bring marriage equality to all. Hell, even Thailand is about to vote on civil unions and the government of Vietnam is currently looking at that as well. Holy crap!
Back in the US, the legislatures of Illinois and Rhode Island each had one chamber pass marriage equality, and both states appear poised to pass marriage legislatively in the very near future as Democrats control the other chamber in both states. A measure is being introduced in Minnesota this week, Delaware shouldn’t be too far behind, civil rights campaigners are busy shoring up support to override the fat-ass governor’s veto in New Jersey, and Colorado should have civil unions by the end of this month. Hell, same-sex marriage was even brought up in New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming! Not that is has any chance in any of those states right now, but it’s at least being talked about there. Who would have thunk? Five other states are looking to overturn the marriage discrimination amendments in their constitutions in 2014, and both the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 cases are scheduled to be argued in front of the Supreme Court in March, with decisions handed down by June. It could be horrifying, or the best thing ever. Let’s hopes the justices do what’s right and strike down both discriminatory laws as all lower courts have done before them.
So, what about Australia? The governing Labor Party voted to officially include marriage equality in their party platform in December 2011. Despite that, Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed allowing conscience vote on the issue – so members of the party can vote against party platform if they want to. With that, it pretty much dashed any hope of bringing equality to hundreds of thousands of Australians who need it. The leader of the Liberal Party (Australia’s right-wing party) refuses to allow a conscience vote on the issue despite quite a few high profile members of his party supporting it. Nevertheless, a marriage equality bill was brought up in the House of Representatives where it was defeated swiftly – 42 to 98. That’s a ridiculous defeat for a country where polling suggests 70% of the population is in favour of the change and for a country where Macklemore’s song “Same Love” about gay rights and marriage equality – which only scratched the charts in the US, topping out at # 89 – went all the way to # 1 here down under. The public want this change, but politicians are playing dirty games and catering to a few critical swing voters.
Next up: maybe a state based attempt? Marriage has been regulated federally in Australia, but legal scholars don’t seem to agree on what would happen should a state pass a marriage equality law. Tasmania tried to legislate for marriage equality a few months ago. It passed one house of their Parliament, but missed out by two votes in the other. It seems some of their Members of Parliament didn’t want to thrust little Tasmania into a battle over marriage with the federal government. My state, New South Wales, is the largest state with the most resources to defend any marriage equality law from the federal government. The state Parliament currently has an enquiry out to the public, and it looks like it may come up for a vote in a few months. Victoria and South Australia have also had rumblings and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. We know it is inevitable, but just how long will Australia wait and just how far behind other parts of the world will they fall before the government grows some balls and takes some action?
Now, we know that the laws here don’t provide marriage equality for all Australians, but that doesn’t mean that loving gay and lesbian couples can’t get married. When civil laws of a country fail, sometimes there’s a religious law that will back you up. It is surprising that so many people hide their bigotry behind their religion, but as I’ve experienced it, religion is one place where you can and should be accepted. Enter two of my best mates: Elcid and David.
Late last month, Elcid and David tied the knot in a religious ceremony and a lavish reception to rival all other weddings. As many or most Jews are very liberal, the local synagogue had no issue performing a religious wedding for the boys (as long as both were Jewish, so Elcid spent the last who knows how long going through the conversion process.) The synagogue called both grooms up to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding – a religious ceremony called the aufruf. On the day of the wedding, the two grooms took their place underneath the chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) and Rabbi Ninio united them together as a married couple in the eyes of God.
They signed the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) and then they both stomped on glass – a symbolic Jewish wedding custom) before moving into the reception hall. Of course, we had to hoist the boys up on chairs and dance the Horah!
Then there were drinks, food, more drinks, more food, and a crazy photo booth where Team America shined! (Elcid is also originally from the old country)
Then I had to give the big speech that I had been panicking over for weeks – and fortunately it went extremely well (despite me incorporating the word “penis” into the speech… four times…) And then there was cake.
Delicious cake. Made by a friend of theirs. And it had the world’s cutest wedding cake toppers WHICH MATCHED THE BOYS’ OUTFITS.
See?!?!? Now, I don’t know if they had the cake topper made that way, or if they picked out their outfits based on the topper that they found, but it was amazeballs. EVEN THE KIPPAHS MATCHED! Let me repeat: even the fucking kippahs matched! HOLY AMAZEBALLS!
From start to finish, the wedding was absolutely perfect – every detail. Except for the length. I wouldn’t have been opposed to another hour of dancing! At the end, the boys exited stage left and the rest of us went home full, tired, and slightly tipsy. Or a bit more than slightly tipsy. Perfect night!
So my question is – especially posed to Prime Minister Gillard – if our synagogue recognizes this marriage between two loving adults as equal to all other marriages performed in the eyes of God, why can’t Australia recognize that as well? Why can’t Australia – and all of the other countries out there – respect our religion and let us decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong? Marriage equality isn’t just a civil rights issue. It’s also a religious freedom issue. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make my submission to the New South Wales marriage equality inquiry.