Comment: 'Sanctity' of marriage a wholly relic

If heterosexuals continue to treat the institution of marriage with such disrespect, perhaps they should open it up to same-sex couple who will, writes Rebecca Shaw.

If marriage is a sacred institution, then why is it tossed around so carelessly by so many heterosexuals? Perhaps we should open it up to more people who will appreciate it - the queer community.

Being a lesbian, same-sex marriage is a topic I often think about. Do I believe it is something we should even be striving for? (Probably) Are there other issues affecting queer people around the world that are more important? (Yes) Does this mean we shouldn’t bother? (Probably not) However, my opinion on any of those statements is not absolute. Because of this, I am open and willing to hear arguments about all of it. That we shouldn’t be fighting for the right to get married, as queer people will essentially lose ourselves and become exactly like our heterosexual counterparts. That marriage itself shouldn’t even exist as an institution any longer, so same-sex people shouldn’t attach themselves to it anyway. If someone is positing these thought-provoking arguments in a reasonable way, I can listen and understand and even consider that they might be right. On the flip side, every traditional argument about why same-sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed makes me immediately want to fight to the death to get it legalised.

The claim that usually makes me want to instantaneously propose to Beyoncè (besides the fact that I really want to marry Beyoncè) is the idea that there is a ‘sanctity of marriage’ that exists between heterosexual couples. Even in this year of our Lord 2014, people still have the gall to trot this out while maintaining a straight face. Nowhere is this kind of hypocrisy more evident than in that beautiful, life-filling invention called reality television. The star of the new season of The Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, was recently asked what his thoughts were on the possibility of a gay Bachelor. Juan made his displeasure at this prospect clear, because it “…is not a good example for kids to watch on television”(amongst other things).

I’m sorry? What was that, man on a dating reality show choosing between 25 women who live in a house together while you are all filmed? You’re trying to claim moral high ground? Oh okay, I can see how it would be fine for your children to watch that show if it involved heterosexuals and unacceptable if it involved gay people. That makes perfect sense; please tell us more, Father of the Year.

And it’s not just Juan who is a giant (yet handsome) hypocrite. Many opponents of same-sex marriage disingenuously spout the sanctity of marriage line while going home at night from a long day filled with denying rights to watch shows like The Farmer Wants a Wife. The clue as to how sacred that show believes marriages are is in the title. It is very similar to The Bachelor, except everyone wears a cowboy hat and has a tan from actual sunlight. Or perhaps they prefer Please Marry My Boy, where a grown man’s mother is tasked with selecting from a buffet of women for her son. The sanctity of marriage is so strong in 2013/14 that you can go on a reality television show and have a stranger select you to marry her son (who is also a stranger) based on the most superficial details.  Weddings themselves are also very sacred, with shows like Four Weddings: Australia, in which four brides attend each other’s weddings and give scores out of ten for various aspects. I believe in tradition, where the horrible judging was left to your mother-in-law and she said it behind your back, not on camera.

At no point is it clearer to me how unfair it is that same-sex couples cannot choose to get married then when I am at home watching ads for these shows, sitting next to my girlfriend of many years. The fact that they even exist is pretty insulting to humanity in general; the fact that people in committed same-sex relationships who love each other are forced to see people treat the institution so flippantly, see it so taken for granted, while other people yell in our face about the ‘sanctity of marriage’ is just plain ludicrous.

P.S. sometimes I watch Four Weddings in kind of a fascinated horror. Don’t judge me, heterosexuals make for good television.

Rebecca Shaw is a Brisbane-based writer and host of the fortnightly comedy podcast Bring a Plate.

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