The spiteful and divisive marriage equality debate is an interesting one; however, the more interesting debate is whether the institution of marriage should be abolished, totally. Certainly, if you watched Q&A on ABC television you might agree.
Liberal senator, Zed Seselja, came under unrelenting and level-headed fire from Ms. Merav
Michaeli, a member of Israel’s Zionist Union party, as Australia’s marriage equality debate took a surprising turn. Ms. Michaeli refused to hold back on her strongly held view on marriage, which is: ‘no marriage at all’. She contended that marriage was fashioned in a time when we women were chattels, as were children, as were men without property, and of other colours: “This is not something that we should maintain in the world when we realise all of us are human beings. It is not about love. This was a tool that was made to dominate women for the sake of reproduction. This is not something we should sustain.”
It is an argument which should consider seriously. Marriage was not designed for the masses – it was for the rich. It was about property, and keeping it in the family. Often times, girls were ‘encouraged’ to marry cousins, so holding onto the land. The peasants did not bother with marriage – nor were they encouraged to do so; besides, they could not afford it. My Italian grandparents did not bother to marry. It was the Catholic Church, which was, ostensibly until the reformation the only religious institution, which called the shots. The Vatican dictated how hoi polloi would live their lives. They were kept in ignorance and lived in constant fear of the church’s condemnation. The priests wielded enormous power and control. In both the Old and New Testaments, there is no mention of marriage. The wedding at Cana in Galilee ( John 2:1-12) is not about marriage. It is about the celebration and is important for other reasons. Jesus turned the water into wine. St John writes: ‘This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory’.
The religious right – the fundamentalists – should stop with the spurious argument that marriage was ordained by Jesus. The Book of Common prayer – Solemnization of Holy Matrimony reads: ‘which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church’. Lovely though it may sound, it was written by man, and is a furphy – of the first degree! It has no credence and is not supported by the Bible, which, if you have faith, is the word of God. Jesus does talk about divorce because he was concerned about the parlous rights of women. It was a stridently patriarchal society and women could, on a whim or the anger of a man, be ordered out of the family home and left destitute on the streets. She had no legal rights, whatsoever. She was a wife – nothing more.
The religious celebrant asks: Who brings this woman to be married to this man?
That is offensive. A father giving away his daughter as if she were a prize breeding cow!
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus cited that 23-countries in the developed world now have legislated in favour of marriage equality: “Countries very similar to our own in a cultural or political sense – Canada, the UK, New Zealand, the USA have all had marriage equality for years now. And as far as I can see, they have only benefitted from achieving marriage equality. I don’t think that any dire consequences have befallen any of those countries which have already long since achieved marriage equality.”
Senator Seselja, whose dinosauric propaganda could have been written by Chicken Licken, and is also the Assistant Minister for Social Services, argued that redefining marriage has impacted these countries in various negative ways:“In Canada there’s been a number of instances where since they changed the law to redefine marriage, for instance, parental choice has been affected when it comes to things like sex education in schools. We’ve seen in the UK a Jewish school which has been told unless they adopt the Safe Schools type curriculum, the gender fluidity, that they may have their registration threatened. So those kind of effects on freedom of speech, freedom of religion, parental rights have played out in other parts.” It is the oldest debating trick. Throw in a red herring and hope it will serve to put your opponent off the argument. It did not work. Ms Michaeli was quick to respond to his absurd prognostications, and was met by loud applause from the studio audience: “I like it so much when the right takes the terms that the left has brought about human rights, and turns it around, and is fighting for the right to suppress other people. I really love that,” she said acerbically.
Marriage is an institution which has, and still does, imprison and disempowers women. Why do they have to change their names? Things have improved over the years, but only slightly. We still live in an deep-rooted, patriarchal society, from which many men are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. They are content with the status quo and see no reason for change.
On consideration, I am inclined to agree with Merav Michaeli, who argues, convincingly, that the institution of marriage, and the core family values which give men domination over their families, are outdated and dangerous to women and children.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.