I recall being about 24 years old and knowing everything. The clarity, that this humble little mind told me I had, was startling. Sure in some respects, I did know it all. I was in a super privileged law course at an equally privileged university, learning a heap of smart stuff. Do not get me wrong, I completely struggled with the working class necessity to learn it all from scratch whilst my Ponsie private school cohort threw language and experience around that was foreign to me. I was aware that I was the outsider.
I wrote an essay called Queerying the Legal Definition of Marriage (spelling error intentional), in the elective Law and Discrimination unit I took. It was 1993 or 1994. Queer theory was enjoying its first blush of respectful recognition. Much to the disgust of several of my over-achieving colleagues, I scored a solid credit, which by Monash Law school standards, was high. A good 5 – 10 points higher than said colleagues.
So my thesis was this: I did not support same sex marriage because I did not support the patriarchal institution of marriage and sought, at all costs, to deconstruct it. It served no purpose but to devalue other-ness. It is the very same argument that Gillard hid behind. I cannot tell you how many times during the Gillard years I bored my wife with my “that is so 1994” derision of her belief system.
Yes, that is right: My wife. We married in 2009, in a hotel room in Toronto. We got engaged a year and a day earlier, in Chopper Read’s pub in Clifton Hill. There were over 100 guests at our engagement, and we married in front of three complete strangers. Sure, there was an excitement about eloping. We caught a private car to business class airfares and dined in New York that night. We met Woody Allen, and hungover, we opened curtains to a view of Central Park. But we flew across the globe, away from family and friends, because at that time, Canada was one of the few places we could marry.
I sit here now, with many of the same leftist belief systems that catapulted me through youth, but I am middle aged. You don’t need to be older to get this, but for me, being older, I finally do. Marriage is an institution that will not go away; it is understood across cultural divides, and across nations. It possesses the burden of expectation, the attraction of tradition, and cultural ‘norming’. It also allows people to feel that their commitment is the same as everyone else who has dared to.
The leftist anarchist in me still wishes to demolish most institutions. However the moderated middle aged me recognizes we cannot, and within that, if there are to be institutions, there must be equal access to them.
People opposed to same sex marriage do not stop gays from marrying. They simply force us to go off shore. On a purely equal rights platform, the only thing denied is the capacity to marry at home, surrounded by family. That, wearing any hat or bearing any political persuasion, is just fucking bullshit.