• Should marriage be boycotted until all Australians can legally marry? (Hero Images/Getty)
"For many of us from migrant backgrounds, where family ties are often very tangled indeed, it’s just not that simple."
By
Ruby Hamad

6 Oct 2017 - 10:37 AM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2017 - 12:14 PM

As the debate over marriage equality continues, the idea of a marriage "boycott” for straight couples seems to be gaining traction.  

Writing for The ABC, Genevieve Callaghan spelled out her tongue-in-cheek case for such a boycott, requesting that her straight friends “hold off getting married until we can all get married.” Failing that, she continues, “don’t invite people who will have to choose between suppressing sadness or unleashing rage to respond to your invitation.”

She is not the first to make this suggestion. Indeed, a boycott was seriously floated as far back as 2012 in the US before marriage equality became law of that land, with The Nation magazine asking the question, What Would Happen If Straight People Boycotted Marriage?

Closer to home, I am seeing more straight couples in my networks wondering if they should voluntarily wait to tie the knot...

The Nation wondered whether groups such as the National Marriage Boycott might be able to sway public opinion and put pressure on politicians through economic incentive; at the time the wedding industry was worth $160 billion a year.

Closer to home, I am seeing more straight couples in my networks wondering if they should voluntarily wait to tie the knot, as others express regret that they had gone ahead with their nuptials while their gay friends were still barred from it.

While I agree with this idea in principle, and it may seem a no-brainer – why indulge in something that is denied other people including people you care about? For many of us from migrant backgrounds, where family ties are often very tangled indeed, it’s just not that simple.

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First, let me say that personally, I would be more than happy to live in a society where no one bothered with marriage at all. Ever. It is superfluous, complicated, expensive to get into and out of, comes with a shockingly oppressive history, and could potentially connect you for the rest of your life to people that you’d rather just leave behind.

But for those who so wish to marry, refusing to do so on principle and shacking up instead may be an unexceptional alternative for many from Anglo and other European backgrounds, for those with a different heritage, cultural differences and community pressures could well mean losing many family members.

This scenario was a real dilemma for me and my ex-partner a few years ago when things were getting very serious in our relationship. Although my ex felt even more strongly than I against marriage, I also knew that my mother would likely immediately stop speaking to me if we “lived in sin.” At the very least, she would refuse to ever set foot in our house.

Given I have already been estranged from my family for 10 years in the past, my aversion to marriage was not quite strong enough to warrant the risk of another fallout.

After all, it was bad enough in her eyes when I told her that we were considering marriage “to make her happy,” but warned her, “I’m not going to take his name, we are not wearing a wedding ring, and we are not having children.” Her response was to look at me in utter bewilderment and ask, “Well, then what is the point?”

Given I have already been estranged from my family for 10 years in the past, my aversion to marriage was not quite strong enough to warrant the risk of another fallout. And while my ex was prepared to do it for me – however reluctantly – I kept putting it off regardless, until one day, it no longer mattered for other reasons.

Although now single, that whole episode still comes to mind when I see requests and demands that “all” straight people hold off the nuptials until marriage equality is the law of our land too.

Things are never as simple as they seem to be and understanding why requires an appreciation of the complexity that comes with living in a pluralistic society such as ours. To insist otherwise is an example of how the dominant culture, only able to see the world through its own experience, easily assumes that what goes for it, goes for everyone.

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But the lives for many second, third, and even fourth generation children of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are complicated by the never-ending negotiations we must make between our family backgrounds, our own beliefs, and the expectations of the wider Australian community.

Our various cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds make our experiences and priorities different, and that means that even when we agree on the fundamentals, we can't necessarily react in the same way.

As much as I publicly advocate for marriage equality, I understand that some couples can’t take their support for marriage quality to the point of considering a boycott because of the potential long-term repercussions of family fractures.

Of course, this is only all the more reason for our government to do its job as our elected representatives, and, rather than allow this issue to further divide our community and marginalise the LGBTIQ+ community, to settle this matter by a parliamentary vote once and for all. 

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