I watched the American news reports with interest as last week the laws enabling same-sex marriage were overturned by popular vote.
It’s amazing how in a world where we have come so far in regards to equality, that this fight is still going on. Even more amazing is that at the moment, it’s a fight that’s being lost.
In yesterday’s blog I made mention of Australia’s multi-culturalism. Once again I’ll say that this is a nation that has welcomed, with open arms, people from almost every culture and civilisation around the world.
Yet in spite of this, we still have so many aspects of our culture that are steeped in that British origin of modern Australia. Including our concept of marriage and family.
We don’t live in 1901 any more! It’s the 21st century, and humanity has moved forward over the past one hundred years or so. Women now have the right to vote, Aboriginals are not second-class citizens and we’re no longer “White Australia”.
But yet in spite of all this progress, a large part of society still has difficulty in acknowledging the equality of people based on their sexuality. A large amount of people still are unable to accept that a homosexual relationship is just as valid as that between a heterosexual couple.
Now no one expects change to come over night. Every step towards equality has been a fight; but we’re slowly starting to get there.
Interestingly enough, though, on Monday November 9, The Mercury reported on the number of weddings that are being performed in a church against civil ceremonies. According to the article1 almost 3 times as many couples have been wed in civil ceremonies over religious weddings in 2009.
Why do I bring this up? Well, perhaps one of the biggest arguments against same-sex marriage is that of the religious connotations. Religion tells us that marriage is a union before God between a man and a woman. What we’re seeing, though, is that religion is becoming less of an influential force when it comes to this legal recognition of a couple’s commitment to one another.
Stay with me here.
Our foundational laws are originally based in Christian tradition. Western Civilisation, as far forward as it has come and as much as it proclaims a separation of Church and State is still dominated by that religious foundation that it was built upon.
Certainly, many of the laws that come from that foundation are beneficial to society; however, the dominance of religion in the law is on its way to an end.
Australia may be, according to the legislation, a Christian nation. However we are a multi-cultural society, and in practice, that Christian foundation has all but fallen by the wayside. It’s one more reason to be proud to be Australian – we’re free. People in Australia are free to practice their beliefs and cultures without prejudice.
However the fact that we refuse to legally recognize same-sex marriage is a black mark on that record of freedom. The legal definition of marriage is based still in those Christian origins – yet almost three quarters of weddings are not based around religion!
Another argument that I heard recently made my mind boggle. It was the argument that legalizing same-sex marriage would take away from the rights of married heterosexual couples!
Of course, the actual invasion on “rights” was never explained. I’d like to know how granting rights to same-sex couples takes anything away from anyone else.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems that we have in this issue, though, is the fact that there are so many different definitions of a relationship. One couple is married, the next is de facto, another are partners and the fourth is a same-sex relationship. Amazingly enough, regardless of which definition a couple applies to themselves, their entitlements on separation are in most cases viewed the same way.
How sad is it that we can acknowledge a couple’s equality in a legal sense if/when they separate, but we can not when they wish to make a commitment to one another! Way to place faith in people’s ability to stay together.
In spite of this progress, and the fact that when separating at least, couples are thought of as having equal rights whether married or not; there’s still a sacred element to the institution of marriage.
So the question is, how do we correct that?
The first step is to acknowledge that regardless of their gender, any couple wishing to make a public commitment to one another before their friends, family and the law should be entitled to make that declaration and have it recognized equally. There is no objective, rational reason not to take this step.
As with everything in society, as time passes, definitions change and purposes get reassigned. The 21st Century Marriage is no different.
Over the past week or two, I’ve been watching Facebook and noticing a distinct increase in the number of “groups” and “fan pages” that seem to be around.
Now I’m not sure whether this increase is due to more people thinking that they have to get their 1 million member group or fan page, or whether the latest Facebook version to hit the internet has put more focus on groups and fan pages for whatever reason – and really, I don’t care, that’s not what I’m here to write about.
There were a couple that I happened to stumble across that carried claims of “Australian Pride”. Apparently Australian Pride demands that all immigrants speak English – in all situations – and also, stop coming to Australia.
Now before anyone starts sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches, I’d encourage you to first read right through this blog.
First of all, I do agree in part with the basic points of some of these groups. We do have a national culture and a national identity – and yes, a large part of that is based on the fact that the nation of Australia we see today was heavily formed through the settlement of this land by British convicts and settlers.
Our national language is English. There are – or were – many distinct dialects and languages spoken by the Aboriginal Australians, but the modern nation of Australia, in 2009 is a Westernized nation, it is a nation with a very strong European heritage and it is a nation that has a distinct national language.
It is also a nation that has now welcomed people from almost every culture across the world, and with that comes differences that need to be accepted.
I found two things hilarious about the people getting very fired up about immigrants who don’t speak English in their presence.
First: the majority of those complaining expressed their opinion with such terrible spelling and grammar that I was forced to wonder whether they had been educated beyond the second or third grade. Seriously, if you’re going to actually complain about people not speaking English? Learn to write it, or you just look like an illiterate racist.
Second: the number of comments that had people suggesting that people speaking a language other than English were talking about them was astonishing! Way to combine a strong case of paranoia with an amazing level of self-absorption! Chances are, they haven’t even noticed you, so get over yourself.
Now, as I said, yes, Australia’s national language is English. I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively across this great country of ours, and you know what I’ve found? I’ve never actually met a person who does not speak English. I’ve never had to use an interpretor or consult another source to understand what someone was saying. Whenever I’ve had a conversation with people who are from a non-English speaking background? They’ve still spoken enough English to be able to have that conversation.
I imagine that if more people actually stopped to talk to others who aren’t from an English-speaking background, they’d find that these people actually do speak English, but choose, when in conversation with others who speak their native tongue, to use that language instead! Why not? It’s not like that conversation’s effecting anyone but those people involved.
Well, those people involved and the paranoid Paris Hiltons out there who think that everyone’s staring at and talking about them.
That’s not Australian Pride, that’s arrogance, racism and stupidity.
So what is Australian Pride then?
I think one of the foundation stones of Australian Pride is recognized today. November 11. Remembrance Day. Lest We Forget.
See, November 11 is the day when Germany signed the Armistice that ended the First World War. It was a war that changed the world forever, but it was also a war that showed a major part of who Australians are.
I don’t pretend to be a First World War scholar. My fascination with History tends to go back millenia rather than decades; however, that doesn’t stop me from feeling a sense of pride and honor at being Australian when I look back at our actions during the Great War.
Australia’s military tradition is one of standing by our mates. It’s a tradition of not backing down. It’s a tradition of willingness to put our own lives on the line to protect not only ourselves, but our friends. That, my friends, is something to be proud of.
On this day, ninety one years after the First World War ended, let’s remember those men who have given their lives in service to our nation. We owe them and their memories a lot.
Australian Pride is not racist, it’s not bigotted, it’s not ignorant. Australian Pride is that word that so many Aussies just naturally conjure up when we think of our nation and its culture: mateship. We may not have a perfect history, I doubt any nation really does – but we do have a history that holds many things that we can be proud of. One of the things I’m most proud of is that anyone can be a mate; in the end it doesn’t matter what race you are, what religion you come from, and definitely doesn’t matter what language you speak. We all share the bond of being Australian.
We are one, but we are many; and from all the lands of Earth we come. We share a dream and sing with one voice I am, you are, we are Australian.
We’re all Aussies, so let’s be proud of who we are, and proud of the nation we share.
And today, let’s remember and be proud of the people who’ve helped to make it a great nation.
Lest We Forget.