Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong. I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.
Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds
Many young people dream of their wedding. Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him. If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?
Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage?
Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman. If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town. They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally. Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.
My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?
Question 3 – Gender Transformation
If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender? How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?
Question 4 – Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present. Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships. How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?
Question 5 – Atonement
Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them. If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?
Question 6 – A parent’s perspective
As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many. I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.
Question 7 – Our social fabric
One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all. As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws. If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege. How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?
Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities
I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?
Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society
Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation. There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint. For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.
As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?
Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote.
Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us. We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.
My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear. The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress. As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.
So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used? Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?
Originally posted on Polyfeministix – take a poll about how you will vote here
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