There are issues which although they may not effect one personally, nor even effect one’s friends and family, that it becomes a matter of justice. That which is right; in the name of equality.
In 1959, Gladys Namagu was denied permission to marry her white fiancé, Mick Daly. In response, the Menzies government promised that such discrimination would never be written into Australian marriage law.
The history of this travels back somewhat further into misconceptions as to the meaning of Terra Nullius. Originally meaning a land which belonged to no one, it was later interpreted that the inhabitants of the land, our Aboriginal peoples were not human, a subspecies at best hence “no one”; nonentities.
Although there are many examples, and far too many for our white culture to come to terms with, where Aboriginal women were forced into sex, there were also many loving couples who were refused the right to marry, due solely because of the color of one’s skin. In Queensland we had white/black unions forbidden, while in WA we had black/black unions forbidden. The reasoning for the former was to maintain racial purity, whereas the reasoning for the latter was to “assimilate” black people so as to allow the race to die out naturally, by being gradually diluted.
In 2004, John Howard sought to overhaul the Marriage Act so that marriage could only be between a man and woman, and to stop courts recognising foreign gay unions.
Prior to this, the Marriage Act had evolved from customary law, the major change in modern times being the introduction of civil registrations in 1856.
That which motivated former Prime Minister Howard was that after extensive lobbying by the then powerful fundamentalist church lobby groups, that it was insisted that he, John Howard “shore up” the Marriage Act to ensure the exclusion of same sex couples, and to deny recognition in Australia of same sex couples who had married overseas. Mr Howard sought this action in a move he said was to defend traditional families.
The Rev. Fred Nile was particularly vocal:
The federal government under John Howard recently introduced a bill to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to secure the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” Nile said. ”That was done deliberately because of threatened legal challenges. Three Australian same-sex couples, including one couple from Western Australia, had been to Canada to get marriage licences. They returned to Australia and announced their intention to seek legal recognition of their Canadian marriages from the Family Court of Australia.
These are major examples of senseless discrimination which have existed in Australia.
Forward to today, 18th June 2012: Churches lay down law on gay marriage
Church heavyweights have been spurred into action by the bills, with the heads of the Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches issuing strong statements to their congregations yesterday urging them to oppose any move towards same-sex marriage.
I would ask these “church heavyweights” the question, Why. Why do you oppose an item of contract law which has not been your sole jurisdiction since 1856? Do you the church, believe that you have the right to say who one should love, and who one should not love?
You, the bishops and priests had the right to choose your vocation, and to marry or not to marry. Gladys Namagu chose to love, but did not choose the colour of her skin. Our dear gay and lesbian friends choose to love, and the gender of their loved one is but an incidental.
I hope, not just hope, but I pray to the angels that this last piece of discriminatory legislation will soon be overturned. The heartache that this has caused defies description.
In 1958 Sir Robert Menzies vowed that discrimination would never be written into Australia’s marriage laws, but in 2004 John Howard did just that.
**For Lloyd, Paul, Joni and their partners, this one is for you.
And of course for Reb too.