The postal survey regarding an amendment to the Marriage Act to include same sex couples in the Act resulted in a response 60% in favour and 40% against. Subsequently the Marriage Act has been amended to include same sex couples.
This was argued on the grounds of granting equality to same sex couples of the right to formalize their relationship along with the same legal and financial rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
I am in favour of same sex couples being able to formalize their relationship in a similar way as available to heterosexual couples.
However, I see a vast difference between equality to formalise a relationship under law and equating that to define the actual relationship of a same sex couple and a heterosexual couple as being the same. Traditionally, marriage has been seen as formalizing the relationship between a man and a woman. Therefore, by definition a heterosexual relationship cannot be seen as the same as that of a relationship between a man and a man or of a woman and a woman.
Ask a man if the relationship he has with his wife is the same as he would have with another man. Or, ask a woman is the relationship she has with her husband the same as she would have with another woman.
This doesn’t discount the deep feelings or sense of commitment a same sex couple can have for each other.
I have to state while the supporters of same sex marriage were celebrating the amendment to the Marriage Act to include same sex couples I was experiencing a deep sense of grief and loss. I felt the marriage I had celebrated with my wife 45 years ago had lost some of its meaning. It no longer specifically defines the formalizing of that unique relationship between a man and a woman. In a way somehow its meaning seems to have been diluted, some of the special meaning seems to have been lost.
Others I have spoke to have experienced similar feelings.
Admittedly, there will be many heterosexual couples who won’t have experienced this sense of loss and grief. But what of the needs of those who have? And they will be a greater number than the 2% or so of Australians who are same sex couples the amendment was designed to give equality to, and probably greater than the 40% who voted “no” in the postal survey
This poses a problem for the Uniting Church and other Christian churches in Australia as to how the churches will respond to the needs of those who feel this amendment to the Marriage Act has diminished their understanding of marriage.
Will it be necessary to agitate for the use of another word, maybe from another language, to be used by people who feel that the word “Marriage” no longer defines their unique relationship. A word which will be required to be used on all official forms where previously the word “marriage” or “married” has been used.
Society needs to understand this is an issue which needs to be addressed as it is not likely to go away.