Australia has recently been subject to a debate over proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The changes were seen by conservatives to be necessary as there was some evidence to suggest that the Courts found that sometimes, some of their rank were found guilty of harassing, offending or insulting others based on their race or religion. During the debate,
Senator Brandis further added that he found it "deeply offensive and insulting" for Labor and the Greens to say his campaign for the changes to race hate laws had something to do with him being a white man.
Thankfully, the changes were voted down in the Senate.
The same week, ‘legendary’ entertainer Barry Manilow at the age of 73 announced that he and his partner had been together for 39 years. The reason that Manilow’s relationship was ‘newsworthy’ is that his partner is male and they finally married in Palm Springs in 2014. Any partnership that lasts 39 years must have a lot of commitment and consensus by those in the partnership and in my view anyway, should be commended.
Manilow apparently kept his personal life to himself because he was worried that he would lose his fans if he ‘came out’, but found out that most actually supported him. And so they should have.
Patrick Garvin, a staff writer for The Boston Globe took a different view, namely why is there an expectation for people who don’t live traditional male/female partnerships to ‘come out’ and justify their lifestyle choices? Garvin has a point – while sometimes a conversation will turn to how various couples met and determined they would form a partnership, there usually isn’t a discussion on why a particular male formed a partnership with a female.
Despite the claims made, Brandis can’t be serious that he is being actively discriminated against. Yes, he is a white man and while he is divorced, it’s highly likely that he has never had to justify his choice of the opposite gender for the partnership that brought two children into the world. This is the same George Brandis who is responsible for the carriage of the changes to the Australian Marriage Act, which are required to remove the requirement that only a man and a woman can be lawfully married.
In 2004, the Sydney Morning Herald reported
Less than an hour after Prime Minister John Howard announced the changes to the Marriage Act, the government rushed legislation enabling the changes into parliament.
The US Judge who ruled on same sex marriage completed his ruling with the following words
Mr Howard said the Marriage Act would be changed to include a definition of marriage as the voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others.
The laws currently do not define marriage.
"We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation", Mr Howard told reporters.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves.”
Australia still has a long way to go before we can claim to be a society based on equality. As Howard said, the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation. Howard changed the law to prevent same sex marriage without the need for a referendum, postal plebiscite or any other delaying tactic; Brandis and Turnbull can adopt a position on marriage that agrees with contemporary beliefs and change it back.
By the way Senator Brandis, Manilow faced discrimination as he had to justify why he prefers to be partnered with a male – you and Turnbull haven’t had to justify your choices of female partners. It is a factual statement that you are a white male. Factual statements are not discrimination – it’s in Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.
What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.
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