all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

17 April, 2015

The ‘Marriage’ Game the Whole Family Can Play

Richard Griggs, the Tasmanian director of Civil Liberties Australia, has argued (for want of a better word) in favour of same-sex marriage in The Mercury.  His assertions in favour of same-sex couples marrying could just as well apply to siblings or other closely-related people (even by adoption*) who might wish to marry each other but, under current, bigoted laws, may not thus ‘express their love’.  Accordingly, here is Richard Griggs’s article only slightly amended:
Talking Point: Same-family marriage simply gives each person equality in law
[No one] recently argued in these pages that same-family marriage was not a civil rights issue.
Same-family marriage, [no one] said, did not equate with the historic civil rights movements which gave women the vote or dismantled whites only zones in public places.
These are examples of civil rights campaigns but a full explanation of what actually constitutes a civil right needs to go much deeper.  When we do that, same-family marriage clearly becomes a civil rights issue.
Civil rights are about giving everyone the same opportunities to participate in civil society.
When we change legislation in recognition of civil rights we give more people full participatory rights in society.  We open the door and let more people in.
You can tell it is a civil rights issue when an identifiable group in society is prevented from accessing a public institution for no reason other than their membership of that particular group.
Public institutions can be physical, like shopping centres or public transport, or they can be rights of passage or rights of citizenship, like voting.
Surely marriage must sit alongside voting as an important part of civil society and should actually outrank shopping and transport in terms of its importance.
Marriage is a central part of civil society and, therefore, to exclude some couples from marrying is a civil rights issue.
Marriage has been with us for centuries and parliaments have elevated the institution of marriage into law.
Marriage is entered into by many couples.  Some marry for good reasons, some for poor.  Some marriages last a lifetime and others less than a year.  And of course some people are perfectly happy never marrying at all.
It is the freedom to choose to marry which is important.  The freedom to have the same options as other couples [or, surely, triples or quadruples, etc.].
For some readers marriage is a religious institution of long standing that only in more recent history (the past few hundred years) became enshrined in law by parliament.  There is historical debate in some quarters about which came first, marriage or organised religion.
Current marriage laws passed by our Commonwealth Parliament make clear that marriage is now owned by the people and Parliament, not any single religion.
The law allows non-religious couples to marry in a non-religious location with a non-religious marriage celebrant.  It also allows for people of two different religions to marry.
There will be some religions which do not support same-family marriage and they should be free to choose to practice [sic] their religious beliefs.  But those same religions shouldn’t assert ownership or control over marriage for the remainder of society.
They should be free to practice [sic] their beliefs but not free to mandate their beliefs on others.
Earlier this year my wife and I were married on a summer afternoon in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.  Gathering together our friends and family and making a public declaration of shared loved and commitment in front of them was a very proud and emotional moment.  It was a beautiful day which I will never forget.
My wife and I were lucky to enter our marriage with the support of the law and the love of our family and friends.  I feel deeply sad that same-family couples are denied the same opportunity to share such a wonderful life event.
One day the law will be changed in Australia to allow same-family couples the same freedom to choose as unrelated couples.
Why am I so sure?  Civil rights movements grow in momentum over time until most in society no longer see the particular issue as a threat any more.  We are very close to that point in Australia.
Once society thought it best if only men could vote and only white people could use public transport and enter the shops.  One day we will also see the error in denying same-family couples the freedom of choice to marry, just like everyone else, and have their marriage recognised by society, just like everyone else.
*  see §22B of the Australian Marriage Act 1961:
(2)  Marriages of parties within a prohibited relationship are marriages:
(a)  between a person and an ancestor or descendant of the person; or
(b)  between a brother and a sister (whether of the whole blood or the half-blood).
(3)  Any relationship specified in subsection (2) includes a relationship traced through, or to, a person who is or was an adopted child, and, for that purpose, the relationship between an adopted child and the adoptive parent, or each of the adoptive parents, of the child shall be deemed to be or to have been the natural relationship of child and parent.
†  for example, in Massachussetts, since at least 1784, no man may marry “his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, stepmother, grandfather’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, father’s sister or mother’s sister”.

‡  yet see, say, the Code of Hammurabi which, oddly, only a mere 3,370 or so years ago, featured many civil, secular laws relating to marriage.

UPDATE I (2 July):  see “German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government” by Lizzie Dearden:
Germany’s national ethics council has called for an end to the criminalisation of incest between siblings after examining the case of a man who had four children with his sister.
Patrick Stuebing, who was adopted as an infant and met his sister in his 20s, has launched several appeals since being imprisoned for incest in 2008 and his lengthy legal battle has prompted widespread public debate.
Sexual relations between siblings or between parents and their children are forbidden under section 173 of the German criminal code and offenders can face years in prison.
But on Wednesday, the German Ethics Council recommended the section be repealed, arguing that the risk of disability in children is not enough to warrant the law and de-criminalising incest would not remove the huge social taboo around it.  […]
The Ethics Council’s recommendation only covered incest between siblings and members did not recommend decriminalising sex between parents and children.
UPDATE II (11 July)Virginia Utley (according to Charles Moore in The Spectator) has written to both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the United Kingdom:
‘Please could you tell me what a family is?’  Nowadays, she goes on, you teach us that a family can be made up of men who love men or women who love women, who must therefore be equally entitled to marry one another.  ‘Now,’ she continues, her sister and she ‘both think boys are very nice but neither of us met one we quite liked enough to marry…  So my sister and I have bought a house together and have lived happily there for years and years and years.’  So, ‘Please can my sister and I get married?’  If not, the sisters themselves, and Virginia’s sister’s daughter, will not get the benefits which accrue to married people.  ‘I am sure,’ she entreats Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, that ‘you will not say “No” to us when you said “Yes” to all the others…  Because that wouldn’t be fair, would it?’
UPDATE III (21 November):  Hon. Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania, made a speech in the Tasmanian House of Assembly supporting a motion to legalise same-sex “marriage”; an edited version of that speech was published in The Mercury and here is part thereof only slightly amended:
I have supported changes to the law that remove legislative provisions that were discriminatory of incestuous couples and polygamous groups or that did not adequately provide for incestuous couples and polygamous groupings—for example, where a partner was unable to attain a legal entitlement to a partner’s estate, property or financial or superannuation benefits, or indeed better provision or protections for children who are part of an incestuous or polygamous relationship.
While it is true that in the early 2000s when I supported this legislation I did believe that significant relationship registration adequately dealt with the interests of those in same-family or polygamous relationships, in 2015 my perspectives and views have progressed.
Reflecting on what I said in this place in that debate in June 2003, a year or so after being elected, predominantly they are things I still hold true, such as promoting a fairer, more accepting, tolerant society.  As I said, I believe our society these days is more understanding and accepting as a community and I believe today that extends to incestuous and polygamous marriage.
In 2003, I expressed a view that registering incestuous and polygamous relationships would not jeopardise the concept of marriage.  I do not believe that incestuous or polygamous marriage will either; in many respects it will strengthen it.  Particularly when any couple or other group upholds the values and the integrity of their marriage vows, they are displaying great commitment and their relationship is strengthened by doing so.
Our community contains many healthy and stable de facto relationships and, as I said in 2003, these so-called non-traditional relationships can and do involve perfectly committed and secure individuals.
The fact I am married does not automatically attribute greater standing or make less significant the relationship between those de facto or less traditional relationships, many of which have far outlasted formal marriages.
We live in a world that contains non-traditional relationships, de facto, single parents, significant relationships, same-sex relationships.
If I paraphrase what I said in 2003, I do not believe that the legislation before us then, nor do I believe that same-family or polygamous marriage in 2015, will affect the sanctity of the institution of marriage and those who choose that institution, like myself, and I would sincerely hope that many more will continue to embrace and revere it.  For those who do not or cannot, why should we judge their relationship as any less valid or important?
I intend to vote in support of the motion today.  I intend to vote in support at the national plebiscite in support of incestuous and polygamous marriage.
I believe it will allow an incestuous couple or polygamous grouping to strengthen their relationship and validate it in a way that [wife] Nicky  and I are able to do.  It will provide the same responsibilities, protections and entitlements that Nicky and I have, and in my view, it will strengthen the institution of marriage.
I am offended by the notion that our community says same-family couples or polygamous groupings are less capable of love and commitment and marriage than heterosexual or homosexual people.
It will remove a disadvantage that exists for incestuous couples and polygamous groupings who want to marry and it will allow them to be treated equally.
I believe it will also provide better protections for children being raised by incestuous couples and polygamous groupings who want to marry.
I believe it will remove discrimination and inappropriate community attitudes that incestuous couples and polygamous people suffer by accepting their diversity and validating their relationship, their choice, their decision and commitment to marry a lifelong partner or number of partners.
I will table an amendment to the motion that will incorporate key elements of the matters I raise today.  We recognise marriage is defined in the Commonwealth Marriage Act, that every Tasmanian should enjoy full freedom of belief and freedom of expression and a respectful debate leading to the national plebiscite proposed by the Australian Government.
I give my in-principle support to same-family and polygamous marriage and the proposed amended motion which I now table.