One of the most common refrains from those opposed to marriage equality is that allowing two men or two women to marry would somehow undermine the institution of marriage, devaluing the tradition for heterosexual couples.
In my experience, the reality has been the exact opposite, and nowhere is that more evident than in wedding ceremonies themselves.
Marriage celebrants are required to reiterate the ‘nature of marriage’ as part of the ceremony, and since 2004 that ‘nature’ has been:
“Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
When Kathy was at the altar in Adelaide, she didn’t expect to hear those words in her ceremony, and was shocked when she did.
“I just burst into tears,” she says. “I said to the celebrant that we need to stop, that this isn’t right.”
Kathy and her partner have five boys between them – her 26-year-old gay son was there, so was her partner’s 22-year-old gay son.
“I was extremely distressed and we stopped, it took a while to recover,” she says. “I just found it dreadful, and then I felt complicit, in a way.”
Kathy and her partner had already agonised over how they would feel getting married in front of two sons denied the same right.
“To have to agree with those words in front of our sons was dreadful,” Kathy says.
She feels angry to have been forced to go through it, but more than that, she feels deep sadness for her sons.
By drafting an exclusionary marriage law, and forcing it to be read by marriage celebrants – our government has turned what should be a private, personal occasion into a political statement.
What should be a celebration of love is instead stained by a fundamentally personal insult, which – more often than not – will be a direct hit to friends and family the couple has asked to gather for the occasion.
My mother cringed through the line at her wedding.
My sister and brother-in-law made sure it was immediately followed by a statement that they disagreed with it.
As Michael Koziol reported last year, other Australians have asked guests to put fingers in their ears, or tactically organised for their celebrant’s mic to cut out.
Such are the lengths that Australian couples are driven to so they can avoid an ugly, abrupt intrusion into an intimate family occasion.
My sister shouldn’t have had to think about her brother's sexuality on her wedding day.
My mother shouldn’t have had to cringe and look apologetically towards me as she stood at the altar.
Kathy shouldn't have had to agonise about celebrating her love, and she certainly shouldn't have had to shed tears of anguish at the altar.
If anyone’s ruining the sanctity of marriage, it’s those who force their politics into other people's personal decisions, driving a wedge between the very family units they so incessantly claim to defend.