A Re-think From Me About Gay Marriage

I guess we’re never too old to learn!   Today  I was taken to the cinema by my kids to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was delightful, funny and insightful.   I say insightful because I learned a very much needed lesson today from watching Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal of an elderly homosexual judge returning  to India to seek out his first love.  

I really did think I had sorted out my feelings and thoughts about homosexual people and their rights to full equality before the law.  Of course they deserve that,  but somehow I couldn’t see the gay marriage issue as an integral part of it.   Though I couldn’t be described as opposed to it,  it has never seemed a priority to me given there are so many other urgent reforms for Labor to deal with.  Besides, it’s difficult with many different opinions on this in the ALP both in caucus and the country at large.  In fact, I get impatient when I’m told it is a first order question for Labor to sort out.    

I thought that was because for me marriage as either a rite or an institution now seems an irrelevance,  an anachronism,  having become so devalued even when children are involved.   Surely,  I told myself,  full equality for same sex couples before the law was enough?    Their de-facto relationships had the same status as those of heterosexual couples.    They were even able to parent children  and they seemed to make as good a job of parenting as anyone else.   Why add the constraints of conventional marriage which often seemed to be so harmful to the people bound by it,   particularly  the children born within it,   with all the attendant potential problems of legal separations and divorce.

I’ve been re-thinking that attitude this afternoon.  Not about marriage but about homosexual rights to it,   and my failure to fully appreciate the urgency and passion of the need for this last barrier to full equality to be removed.   This love story about two young men who loved each other many decades ago,  were discovered together and shamed into lifelong separation,  moved me deeply and took me back to my own adolescence when I had my first exposure to the idea of gay love.  Well it wasn’t called ‘gay’ then.   Nor was ‘love’ mentioned in connection with it.   Homosexuals were criminals,  I learned,  but I couldn’t understand exactly what law they were breaking.  Newspaper reports were written in terms of ‘gross indecency’ and ‘offences’ which it seemed were so appalling they could not be explained,  even spoken of in polite society.

I went home after the film and immediately set about reading up on homosexual law reform or decriminalisation over the more than fifty  years since my teens.   Of course I had been aware of it all unfolding,  but looking back I can see that for me it was as if it were in another world.    I”ve just been reading an article in the Guardian which exactly describes my own teenage experience and probably of most of my peers.   Not really an experience mind you,   just an awareness as I started to read newspapers in the England of the fifties.   This para, written just a few years ago,  pretty well sums that up.

It’s hard  to imagine now how repressive was the atmosphere surrounding homosexuality in the 1950s.  ‘It was so little spoken about, you could be well into late adolescence before you even realised it was a crime,’  says Allan Horsfall,   a campaigner for legal change in the north west,  where he lived with his partner,  a headmaster.   ‘Some newspapers reported court cases but they talked of “gross indecency” because they couldn’t bring themselves to mention it,  so young people were lucky if they could work out what was going on.’         www.guardian.co.uk/…/communities.gayrights.    

In the fifty years since I grew up in that environment I have become a well informed,  rational and I like to think a fair minded adult who believes in equal rights and opportunities for all regardless of gender, race, or sexual preferences.    Watching the portrayal of that elderly judge,  a stereotypical mature,  ageing pillar of society,  talking of his lifelong love for another man,  I realized how little I knew about him and other people like him of my own generation.  I had certainly not till then empathised with his situation.   In the darkness of that  cinema I was taken back to my own adolescence when I learned not to think about those uncomfortable things.  

I had forgotten how uncomfortable they were, and as well how even more uncomfortable I had been made to feel about my own sexuality.   I was in my early thirties before I  thought I’d finally got that sorted out.   Then it became easy to accept women friends who were living in lesbian relationships.    I even began,  I thought,  to understand the theatre friends of my playwright,  now ex-husband,  who were openly gay.   Yes,  that word was being used by the early seventies even here in Australia where we had settled with our two children and where our marriage finally broke up.    But I can’t say I was willing to spend a lot of time thinking about gays.   There was too much else to worry about or later to enjoy,  to read about and focus on.

Well today I do have the time.  And that portrayal of an elderly judge in that delightful film has moved me to spend some of it reading about the appalling things we have done and are still doing to people growing up alongside us in our so called democratic egalitarian society.    Already I’ve covered quite a lot of material, and I shall be reading a lot more.   That article I’ve quoted above is particularly detailed,  informative and lucid.    It’s helped me see that just because I don’t value marriage,  or want it for myself any more,  it isn’t fair that I should deny it to other people for whom it is a much yearned for and too long denied right.

19 comments on “A Re-think From Me About Gay Marriage

  1. Great post patricia and good on you for sharing your new enlightenment with the Cafe. If it helps even one person to understand, you’ve done well

    I also went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel yesterday, and it’s a must see movie with a wonderful cast. {I want to go again}.
    Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal was brilliantly understated.

    I’ve never needed convincing about same sex marriage as my oldest lifelong friend is gay and I knew him as my friend long before i ever heard about
    homosexuality, and long before he declared his status, afterwhich it was too late for me to develop any negative bias. 🙂 .

    Thankfully, times and attitudes are changing but not enough quite yet.

    PS, my friend found the love of his life over thirty years ago and they’re still going strong.

  2. Thank you Patricia, this is a thought provoking post. From my own perspective, it’s not for anyone to make value judgements but is a matter of human rights. Many gays will choose to marry, many may not..but that’s up to them and not up to me, or a church or a government to make this decision for them.

  3. Marriage has little to recommend it, considering how many divorces there are, but if people of same gender want to take the plunge…. they have my blessing.

  4. This is an excellent post Patricia. I’m delighted that you have arrived at the conclusion, as has most of Australia, that marriage equality will not actually bring about the end of civilisation.

    On the contrary, it will in fact, help bring an end to the horrendous figures of gay youth suicide, anxiety, depression and feelings of inadequacy and isolation that are a consequence of society (or at least the Government) relegating same-sex relationships as being second-rate to their hetrosexual counterparts.

    As you may be aware the Catholic Church is currently waging war against marriage equality declaring that it will “destroy the future”.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. It will in fact foster an environment where society values individuals regardless of their sexual orientation. It will help create a society that is characterised by tolerance, acceptance and inclusion, rather than one that is divided by hatred, ignorance and exclusion.

    I know what sort of society I’d rather live in, and it’s not the one being dictated by some outspoken figures in the Catholic Church.

    Most people, like yourself, know someone who is gay or lesbian, possibly even a family member who is in a long term relationship with a same -sex partner.

    I can see no logical reason why the Government should perpetuate discrimination towards those people, and to reach a determination that their relationships are somehow “less worthy” than their hetrosexual counterparts.

  5. I can understand Patricia’s previous point of view which she has often expressed, that because she sees the institution of marriage has having little relevance to today’s society, that the issue of gay marriage wasn’t of significant importance. But (with due respect to Patricia), that attitude lacks somewhat in empathy.

    It is never ever going to be easy for gay people, but everything which we can do to assist is another step forward. There are always going to be those who hate, those who do not accept relationships based on a number of reasons which could include things such as gender, race.

    I have stated this myself on a number of occasions. I find Julia Gillard’s attitude somewhat hypercritical that is, just because she chooses not to marry herself then she should not deny the right for others to do so.

    It is completely unacceptable in my opinion that same sex couples be relegated to the status of “defacto”.

  6. I can see no logical reason why the Government should perpetuate discrimination towards those people

    Considering I had had Patricia’s outlook for a long time, and that it was largely due to the posts you put up reb about this issue that persuaded me to think about it differently, perhaps your old posts could be circulated through the offices of the various members, along with a link to the movie above 😉

  7. On the subject of the Catholic church. There has been civil registration of births, deaths and marriages in Australia since 1856 – hence a long time since births and deaths “belonged” to churches.

    It seems that churches have been willing for almost one hundred and fifty years to let go of births and deaths – so why the problem with the marriage part?

  8. The sentiments expressed here are all very valuable. It seems that we’re all in agreement with the exception of a few moribund religious groups.

  9. Patricia, I along with many do not have much respect or need of marriage, I have four children, that I did not in anyway encourage to marry,

    One has two children and has not seen the need for marriage.

    I have a gay child and grand child. They got the same advice form me, as was given to their siblings. Some have chosen to marry, some more than once.

    I am conscious of the fact, that my grandson is happiest when he is in a long term relationship. Whether he wishes to marry,, I do not know. I have never asked him.

    My daughter was married, divorced and had three children. She is now in a long term relationship and wants to marry.

    Patricia, you are right, that is not what this debate is a about. It is about having the opportunity to choose.

    It is time for the final step to be taken.

  10. Great post patriciawa.
    i remember seeing a show a few years ago about 2 men that had a long and loving relationship. they spoke mainly on descrimination in law, their super, not being next of kin in medical emergencies etc. the things hetersexual society takes for granted. and you wonder why some are so opposed.

    looks like a good movie to catch.

  11. patricia, great post.

    I can’t ever remember having a bias against gay people and I’ve never had a problem with gay marriage; after all if two people love each other and want to make that commitment, isn’t that enough? And isn’t that what marriage is supposed to be about?

    The argument that allowing gay marriage will debase the institution is so hollow, it’s no wonder it’s collapsed!

    How the likes of Fred Nile can say that with a straight face is beyond me, when it’s straight people who’ve made it a mockery-Elizabeth Taylor and her million marriages, the Kardashian woman who was married for about 5 minutes (as a publicity stunt, according to the rumour mill), men and women who have multiple affairs, marriages which are business empire mergers. Need I go on?

    And on a lighter note, if it stops Barnyard’s genes from being passed on, it’s a bonus.

    However, what really made me aware of the terrible injustice suffered by gay men, was Dr George Duncan’s murder on 10 May 1972. He had been bashed by senior Vice Squad officers in a “high spirited frolic”, it was later revealed, and thrown into the Torrens along with Roger James.

    Although Mr James’ ankle was broken, he managed to get out of the river and waved down a car, ironically driven by Bevan Spencer von Einem, the serial killer.

    Tragically, Dr George was not so lucky and he drowned. What makes it even sadder, if possible, was that he was his parents’ only chick.

    Well, it makes me ultra sad. Your children aren’t meant to die before you and they’re certainly not meant to be so brutally and callously murdered by gutless thugs.

    This act ultimately led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in SA, and the realisation by all but the most bigoted, that gays weren’t either to just be tolerated, put in the back of one’s mind or treated with outright hostility.


    Working with two gay men who became fast friends also led me to more understanding; in fact one of the men and I used to console each other when there were problems in our love lives. I’m happy to say that in our small Department, both men were admired and loved.

    Reading and commenting on Margo Kingston’s web diary and later reb’s comments on blogochracy and beyond, strengthened my view that the right to engage in EVERY facet of our society should not be denied on the basis of one’s sexuality.

    I have a cousin and a brother-in-law who are gay. I’ve lost contact with my cousin, but am close to my b-i-l. We spend a lot of time chortling as our sense of humour is in sync. My daughter and son #1 are also close to him.

    It’s ironic that the sexual acts that are apparently so mind wrenchingly immoral and appalling that they are justification for gays being denied basic human rights, are routinely practised among a goodly portion of the straight population. Go figure.

    Min, I also find Julia Gillard’s resistance to gay marriage very puzzling. It just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It’s definitely time that this archaic and frankly stupid, law is altered to embrace all couples. We just have to keep the pressure up.

  12. Now that’s what I call a good, honest Thread Header … well done (apologies for sounding patronising) … pw ..

    I too grew up in the 1950’s in the UK … and I’ve already expressed my own change of behaviour, compassion, empathy and understanding of gay issues …

    But that was just so, sreb, didn’t send me awful emails! 😉

  13. Top post Patricia.

    It’s time for a REAL change.

    There is no such thing as lesser priority issues when it comes to ensuring equal rights before the law.

    We see the law in action everyday…not so sure about God.

    Time to move on from the CON Ages…

    where bigots are nourished…permitted to express their sickness and delusions by surfing on the convenient back of “free speech”…propped up by the words of religious and political and media opportunists…profiteers, charlatans, snake-oil salesmen, bullies, totalitarian wannabes…

    unfortunately, the self-hating brainwashed – sometimes gutless – join in…

    and the others scared witless of just about everything.

    Throughout our long history there are key times when humanity sees the way out of the fog and the mist…THE MANY are empowered, see the light…and reach out to the persecuted and/or neglected others…crossing TOGETHER those bridges to a better, fairer place…

    This is such a time.


  14. There is a group of Christians in Sydney who think they can convert gays and the SMH is also running with Abbott’s sister.

    This post by Pat is timely….

  15. Mr Abbott’s office said he declined to comment yesterday, but he told The Weekend Australian that he had kept his sister’s confidence for four years.
    He kept her confidence for four years! While at the same berating the concept of gay marriage up hill and down dale as unhealthy, unholy and unnecessary! Some confidence.


    I bet he worked very hard to keep the secret for four years.

    What has changed that the sister is saying enough is enough at this time.

    Maybe she is fed up with her brother’s hypocrisy.

  16. Pingback: Relationships Married | Boundaries in Relationships

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