Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bronwyn Williams

Same sex marriage … as if you haven’t read or heard enough already

‘Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one’ – Inspector Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry), The Dead Pool, 1988.

First published September 26

And so it goes with same sex marriage in Australia. For those who may be interested – and I don’t expect anyone to be waiting with bated breath for yet another point of view on this topic – this is my opinion.

First, we are governed by a parliament whose main claim to fame is paralysing ineptitude. We elected them, and pay them, to govern us, hopefully for our collective benefit – not to have them waste unconscionable amounts of time, money and other public resources asking us what we think about stuff.

The ‘plebiscite’ – or decree of the common people – upon which we are expected to vote, sometime in the next six weeks, is a cynical joke being played on a gullible public. I wish it were not so.

I wish we all understood it is a scornful device, designed to distract us from the many failings of our elected representatives – to take our attention from the rising cost of living, the failing health and education systems, and the plethora of lies and obfuscation we are fed by a government intent on selling us out to the big end of town. Big, dirty, Indian-owned coal mine in Queensland that needs a billion-dollar injection from Australian governments to be even remotely approaching profitable – anyone?

But, we’re falling for it. We’re taking positions in opposing camps, and the ‘campaigns’ on both sides are getting nastier by the minute. All for the sake of a ‘vote’ that will mean nothing – the government has no obligation to adhere to the ultimate result.

If the ‘No’ vote is successful, I suspect the status quo will remain and the matter will be shelved for another few years. If the ‘Yes’ vote wins out, the plebiscite will likely be declared unrepresentative, and compromised by the vote tampering we already know is happening. They will say it is statistically useless – it fails to meet the basic requirements of a random, representative survey – and they will be correct. And, we’ll be back to square one.

Second, advocates for same sex marriage refer to the better, more immediate legal rights available to married couples. This is true – once married, an individual has many legal rights in respect of their spouse, including rights of inheritance and decision-making on their behalf.

However, these rights can, with a modicum of careful planning, be equally available to unmarried couples, whether same sex or heterosexual – bearing in mind that issues with regard to these matters are not the sole province of same sex couples.

The interests of the children of ANY union, for example, will always be dealt with under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Inheritance can be assured with a properly drafted will – something every adult should have. Rights in respect of decision making can also be protected by Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Enduring Powers of Guardianship – again, documents that all committed couples should have in place.

The down side of legal marriage is that it is often far more difficult to extract oneself from a failed marriage, than it is to leave a civil union. Legal divorce proceedings can be drawn out, tortuous affairs that leave everyone involved – the couple and any children they may have – permanently traumatised. Everyone, that is, except their lawyers, who are mostly very well compensated.

Without the need for a 12-month period of separation – a time in which bitterness and resentment can grow and fester into a wound that never truly heals – unmarried couples have the option to get on with their lives with greater expediency and far less legal bullshit.

Whilst many married couples divorce amicably, many don’t, and those 12 months can be an opportunity for one or the other, or both, partners to engage in a pitched battle of wills, using anything at their disposal, including their children, to ensure a ‘win’.

Third, marriage itself, as an institution, has historically been a constraining relationship for women. From the time, in the relatively recent past, when a married woman could not borrow money without her husband’s approval to today, when women are often financially, and logistically far less able to fight for their rights when a marriage ends. A man with the benefit of an uninterrupted career and no children to care for has it all over a woman struggling to keep a family of dependents together, while she works to support them. Some men step up and ensure their children’s welfare after divorce, but many don’t. And women are left holding the baby, and the mortgage, and all the responsibility.

There is no reason to believe that same sex marriages will be immune to these problems – that they will not fail, that there will be no imbalance of power within them, or that the people involved will behave with complete fairness and decency if they end. Approximately one third of heterosexual marriages in Australia currently end in divorce, and the median length of a marriage in Australia is 12 years. No evidence suggests same sex marriages will be significantly different.

Fourth, the debate has been further confused by the intrusion of transgender voices – loud, insistent voices that hold great sway over the politically correct neo-liberals amongst us. (No doubt the government is secretly doing handstands over their involvement – after all, transgenderism is even more polarising than same sex marriage).

For example, Greens politician Janet Rice clearly believes her marriage to trans-woman Penny Whetton to be a same sex marriage – see http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-subversive-marriage-of-janet-rice-and-penny-whetton-20170921-gylw77.html. But it isn’t. Although her partner has transitioned, he was born male and has not changed his birth certificate. Rather than being part of a ‘subversive’ union, as she claims, she’s just a regular woman in a legal marital relationship with a man. She isn’t a lesbian, and he isn’t gay. They have no skin in this particular game.

Finally, if the issue is a matter of freedom of choice for couples of the same biological sex, which I believe it is, the government should follow what is clearly majority public support for same sex marriage, and pass the appropriate legislation. If same sex couples want the benefits, and the potential negatives, of legal marriage, why can it not be facilitated by our political masters? Practically, such relationships will be no different to heterosexual marriage – assets may be accumulated, children may be born, there may be problems, and they might end – and the law can deal with them in exactly the same way.

For those couples – whether same sex or heterosexual – who choose not to marry, the law also provides a variety of safeguards.

But, rather than taking a simple initiative, as they do with other legislative matters, politicians of all colours are behaving like scheming, craven manipulators – point-scoring at every opportunity, and inciting a divisive debate among the populace entirely for their own self-interested purposes.

And, so I ask three questions – why are we allowing them to do this?

Why don’t we tell them to take their idiotic plebiscite and shove it?

Why don’t we instead campaign for a single, uniform legislative regime for relationships that not only gives freedom of choice to all couples, but also deals fairly and dispassionately with everyone, both while the relationship exists, and if, or when, it ends.

*Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker.

• Simon Warriner in Comments: … I see this plebiscite as an admission of utter incompetence by the government, plain and simple. Mine will be returned, unticked with that message written on it. I suggest others do likewise. Useless, incompetent individuals are using this issue to stoke the fires of identity politics. It is a nasty game they are playing and it will end in tears, and far worse before it is over.

• Bronwyn Williams in Comments: #10, #11 Clearly you have a problem extracting the point from this opinion piece, so perhaps you can follow this simple allegory. Imagine you have a farm paddock, cared for by a manager you selected, and who you pay. On one side of the paddock there’s a huge pile of ruined crops, the fences are broken, and the cows have long since left to go jump over the moon …

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Lynne Newington

    September 27, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    .
    22.Your commentary, your wit and your way of presenting the issues
    Posted by Matt Holloway on 28/09/17 at 01:34 PM

    I hope you don’t mind me reading past contributions to TT Matt, your accolade to Bronwyn confirmed my own summation not knowing her living across the way.
    I was also interested in the mention of Sacred Heart Mission….

  2. TGC

    September 27, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Put a sock in it.

  3. Matt Holloway

    September 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Your commentary, your wit and your way of presenting the issues.

    Truly as sharp as ever Bronwyn. Reading it made my day.

  4. Lynne Newington

    September 27, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    ….and later sending me a $500 dollar bill for his efforts!
    What a prick….as if I was born in the last shower.
    In other words don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!

  5. Lynne Newington

    September 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

    …..now bringing back memories, one of them terrorising me [and not at the bottom of the rung either], for having the audacity to question the unauthorised alerations to a church documment. I should of knocked his ruddy head off instead of walking out that swinging door in disgust …….the chair he was banging around

  6. Lynne Newington

    September 27, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Going over Bronwyns article again, she could certainly give the church a run for their money…….even with the twists and turns of their undemocratic Canon Law.

  7. Tim Thorne

    September 27, 2017 at 2:20 am

    #11: The $122 million either:
    (a) was not budgeted for, in which case it adds to the national debt;
    (b) comes out of the ABS budget, in which case it could well have gone to something more socially useful; or
    (c) has to be transferred from elsewhere in the budget, in which case it should have gone to some other expenditure item.

    If the government honestly wanted to ascertain public opinion on the issue it could have commissioned a poll from one of our reputable companies which specialise in opinion gathering. This would have cost us less than $122 million.

  8. Doug Nichols

    September 27, 2017 at 2:17 am

    Re #7 and #9, I agree very strongly that the whole plebiscite thing is a complete waste of time and money, but voting yes is, unfortunately, the only reasonable course. The only reason we’re having a plebiscite is because the government is so conservative that it doesn’t want this change to happen and it doesn’t want to have to debate it. If you support the motion but don’t vote you are doing them a favour.

    Vote yes, make them have the debate and the free vote, enjoy seeing them have to make SSM the law. And if they somehow wriggle out of it on a technicality, or by voting no despite the majority yes vote by the people, then we can expect some ramifications as people realise that their $120 million was spent for nothing.

  9. John Powell

    September 26, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Beautiful commentary Bronwyn I applaud you !

  10. TGC

    September 26, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    #13 I’ll wait for the movie!

  11. John Wade

    September 26, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Those markings on the side and top of the postal ballot form, what are they for?
    Can they be translated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to give a detailed view of the demographics of the voter?
    Like, do these ballot papers also collect information for the .gov?

  12. Bronwyn Williams

    September 26, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    #10, #11 Clearly you have a problem extracting the point from this opinion piece, so perhaps you can follow this simple allegory.

    Imagine you have a farm paddock, cared for by a manager you selected, and who you pay. On one side of the paddock there’s a huge pile of ruined crops, the fences are broken, and the cows have long since left to go jump over the moon.

    On the other side of the paddock, two wallabies are facing off over a piece of lettuce, which they will probably end up sharing.

    You’re visiting the paddock to see how things are faring, and your paid manager directs your attention to the wallabies. He wants to know how he should deal with them. He wants you to spend some time and money, and come up with a way to determine which of them should get the lettuce.

    So, you go away and do as he asks, and the shit on the other side of the paddock retains its permanent place on your mental back burner, as was your manager’s intention.

    To help you out, the paddock is Australia, the disaster on one side of the paddock represents our many economic and social problems, and the wallabies’ easily resolved issue is same sex marriage.

    So, what does that make you, now you’ve fallen for the manager’s patently obvious duplicity – a ‘stuffed dill’, perhaps?

    And, by the way, cream cheese or goat cheese for the stuffing? I prefer cream cheese, but maybe goat’s your thing.

  13. Lynne Newington

    September 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Well something has prompted the pope to begin taking up the issue of children of hetrosexual clergy not noted as yet here in Australia…..It will be interesting if he acknowledges those clerical fathers who sort rescripts of their vows and denied “due to the evident danger of scandal if the rquest was granted”….
    Archbishop Porteous will be sighing with relief.

  14. TGC

    September 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    #9 Another TT’er showing a “do it my way or not at all” mentality.

    #19 assumes the $122 million – if not spent on this postal survey, would be available for something else- of #9’s choosing?
    I don’t think it works that way.

  15. TGC

    September 26, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    #7 Unsurprisingly taking the ‘finger’ approach
    “I see this plebiscite as an admission of utter incompetence by the government, plain and simple. Mine will be returned, unticked with that message written on it. I suggest others do likewise.”
    Stuffed dill!

  16. Gordon Bradbury

    September 26, 2017 at 11:05 am

    “I see this plebiscite as an admission of utter incompetence by the government, plain and simple”.

    Completely with you on this, Simon (#7).

    It’s an admission of failure by Government and Parliament.

    If they can’t decide this issue then why can’t we have a “survey” on other important issues like education, health, defence, etc.??

    It is complete and utter rubbish and a gross waste of $122 million.

    My dislike of our political system grows day by day.

  17. Wining Pom

    September 26, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Simon. just tick yes and get it over and done with, because a no vote will not finish it. It is inevitable.

  18. Simon Warriner

    September 25, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    I think you are on to something here, Bronwyn.

    Our politicians are meant to be our representatives. Clearly they do not know what to represent.

    If they are so far out of touch with their electorates that they need to engage in this absolutely appalling waste of time, money (ours) and effort on this one issue to get a feel for where the community think the greatest common good is to be found, how far out of touch are they on issues that are important to far greater proportions of the community than this issue, which when it is all boiled down impacts well less than 5% of the population?

    I see this plebiscite as an admission of utter incompetence by the government, plain and simple. Mine will be returned, unticked with that message written on it. I suggest others do likewise.

    Useless, incompetent individuals are using this issue to stoke the fires of identity politics. It is a nasty game they are playing and it will end in tears, and far worse before it is over.

  19. Second Opinion

    September 25, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Spike,
    This is not about taking offence.

    The SMS, however innocuous, confronts me.
    If Centrelink be any guide, can I delete it?
    Is it an activity requirement?
    Can I say NO!
    It might have been a useful tool if I was free to say NO.
    I am not foolish enough to open it.
    It is after all, a poll that I have no desire to participate in.

  20. Spike Pedestal

    September 25, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Just delete it then Second Opinion if it offends you so. There, all sorted. Next!

  21. Wining Pom

    September 25, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Good article Bronwyn.

    2nd Opinion, what’s the difference between an unsolicited text and a vacuum cleaner salesman banging on your door? Or a mailbox full of crap? Or to bring it into the social media age, the constant ‘suggested posts’? And have you ever lived through an election?

  22. Lynne Newington

    September 25, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Everybody has one’

    Thats one way of putting it I suppose.

  23. Second Opinion

    September 25, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    After receiving an unsolicited SMS text, no doubt partly funded by Alan Joyce, I am beginning to appreciate how Big Brother might operate.

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