The Evolution of Marriage

Inkeeping with the theme introduced by the recent Literific Debate on gay marriage, the Gown published opinion pieces on the same topic in the paper edition Monday 17 September. They are republished below.


Photograph: Tyler McNally

Marriage is an institution which has constantly evolved over the course of human history. It is not so long ago that a woman, upon marriage, was considered the property of her husband, that a man could beat his wife, even rape her, with impunity because he was considered, based on fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible, to be her master. This is no longer considered part of the traditions of marriage.

Until the 1967 United States Supreme Court case, the aptly-named Loving v Virginia, many states had bans on inter-racial marriage. The arguments used to justify these bans were based on fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible; ill-founded concerns for the impact inter-racial marriage would have on children and also outright racism.

Today, many of the same arguments employed by those who would continue to deny the marriage rights of same-sex couples are remarkably similar to those advanced by opponents of inter-racial marriage and those who would deny women their status as equal partners in a marriage. The use of interpretation of religious texts, appeals to fear as well as demonstrably false claims and slanderous lies have been used by the same people who oppose marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people when they opposed; ci

vil partnerships, the Gender Recognition Act, employment protections, open military service and online blackjack equal age of consent.

More than any other group in our society, LGB&T people must constantly prove that they are not a threat to others. We had to prove that we were not deviants and perverts. We had to prove that we could not ‘recruit’ children into being same-sex attracted. We had to prove that the armed services would not be irreparably harmed by LGB&T personnel being honest about their sexual orientation and gender identity. We are now asked to prove that our marriages will not destroy the institution of marriage.

The notion that LGB&T people marrying the person they love will somehow damage or devalue the marriages of heterosexual people is one of the most baseless and divisive claims made by those who would deny LGB&T people their marriage rights and it is simply not true.

The only people who will be affected by a change in the law allowing same-sex couples to get married will be same-sex couples who want to get married and their family members, friends and colleagues who want their loved ones to be treated with dignity and equity under the law.

The zealous opponents of same-sex marriage will continue to look down on relationships between two women or two men. They will continue defame us and use bogus and out of context studies to claim that there is something wrong with us regardless of how often they are debunked. However, the key issue in marriage equality is this; fundamentalists of all faiths and none are entitled to hold their prejudiced views on LGB&T people. What they are not entitled to do is use their religious or moral convictions, regardless of how sincerely held, to be the sole justification for wielding the power of the state to deny equal rights and equal citizenship to same-sex attracted people.