Facilitating Difficult Conversations, Towards a Richer Society
Written by Chris, Rainbow Program Leader @ Relationships Australia Qld
“Why is marriage such a big issue for gay couples?”, she asked. “Surely there are more important things to fight for?” I was taking questions during a Rainbow Program training session on legal rights for same-gender couples and, on the face of it, this trainee may have had a point.
There is still a range of social justice issues impacting the lives of Queensland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, which may seem far more important than marriage: A ban on same-gender couple adoption, an absence of safe accommodation for people undergoing gender transition or escaping same-gender domestic abuse, unequal age of consent and inadequate support for sexually and gender-diverse students in schools, to name a few.
So why are we so hung up on marriage?
It’s important to note that in Australia legislation is divided between state and federal powers. The recognition of same-gender partnership varies in name and deed between the various states and territories. Marriage is the one overarching legal construct, which is understood across the country, removing ambiguity in critical situations such as hospital visitation, powers of attorney and deceased estates. Many same-gender couples, whose extended families are hostile to their domestic situation, remain legally vulnerable while they are unmarried.
But there is another conversation to be had here and it connects to questions of social equity and inclusion, which are central to the work of organisations like Relationships Australia Queensland. Because at the heart of every culture on earth, in some shape or form, is the formal union of two people. It paves the way for the creation of family and it is the gateway through which we have traditionally passed, to access full membership of our community. It is not called ‘civil union’ or ‘legal partnership’. It is called ‘marriage’.
Since the sexual revolution, many couples have made the choice to turn their backs on the institution of marriage, although arguably that has not lessened its power as a symbol of family and community connectedness.
There was a time before ramps, when wheelchair users were prevented from entering public buildings and a time before that when women were denied access to the political process and the doors of social establishments remained firmly closed to Aboriginal people. We have learnt that exclusion and social ostracism ultimately hurt us all, negating the social cohesion needed for a society to thrive and its people to flourish.
The national conversation around marriage equality is complex and multi-faceted, inevitably stirring the deep waters of moral reasoning and spiritual conviction. RAQ is committed to facilitating the difficult conversations, with a compassionate ear and respect for our diverse views, towards a wiser and richer society.
-- Chris, Rainbow Program Leader @ Relationships Australia Qld
** If you identify as LBGTIQ and would like support of any kind, please call us on 1300 364 277 to arrange a meeting with one of our Rainbow Program counsellors.
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