Buvette Masthead

Marriage equality or Human Rights?

Philippa Moss

Historically, women have always been disadvantaged by the institution of marriage.

I can attest to the fact that I was financially and emotionally disadvantaged by my marriage and then my subsequent divorce. My gorgeous children and amazing family aside – the institution of marriage is not my friend.

Marriage is deeply rooted in patriarchy and gender inequality. Despite today’s popular view that marriage equals love, matrimony is not actually grounded in love or intimacy: historically, it was a strategic alliance between two families, more often than not orchestrated by the families to ensure long-term stability and prosperity. Often women were forced into marriage for economic security, even in our modern society, this can still be the case.

So as a member of, and advocate for, the sex and gender diverse communities – do I want same sex marriage? I’m not sure I believe in marriage at all, so it follows – why would I want marriage equality? I have had to think long and hard about this issue and after many discussions with friends and family, as well as endless reading of erroneous media and public opinion, I know my commitment is not to the institution of marriage; my commitment is to human rights.

Today the marriage equality debate is not about definitions or religious beliefs, customs or laws. The marriage equality debate is about people, families and human rights:

The right to marry and found a family

The right to not marry, to describe our relationships and families in other ways

The right for our families to be protected by society and the State

The right to declare in front of friends and family that this is “our person” and “our relationship” and it is worthy of celebration, declaration and affirmation.

We have been denied our human rights, persistently and egregiously. We have had enough.

The failure to understand this, to understand that human rights of real people are at the centre of any discussion about marriage equality has led to a situation where we will have a non-compulsory, non-binding, postal (really postal in 2017?) opinion poll.

The plebiscite was always a bad idea, constructed to hold together an increasingly fractured party-room. Once the High Court decided that the Commonwealth government could make laws with respect to same-sex marriage, it should have been straightforward. It has not been so.

There has been a failure of moral and political courage by politicians over many years to stand up for what is right for LGBTIQ people and particularly with respect to marriage equality. It is the job of governments to govern, and elected representatives to consider and pass laws for the common good.

If the plebiscite ever had any validity, it died when conservative members of the Government said they would vote no whatever the result. On that day it was clear that this was just a tactic to delay a free vote in Parliament, because a free vote would, more than likely, pass the Bill.

Still, now we are here. Unless those challenging the legality of the plebiscite prevail in the High Court, from 12 September “ballots” will be arriving in our letter boxes.

There is deep unrest in the LGBTIQ community about this plebiscite and a range of views on how to respond. Some favour a complete boycott, not even dignifying it with a response. Some believe in fighting against it to the end, but voting if necessary. Yet others believe it vital to participate, to actively campaign for a “YES” vote to protect their rights. And some believe marriage is a patriarchal heteronormative institution we would be best to avoid.

Whatever your view, whatever your decision, we have to get through the next few months. Self-care is important. Social media will be awash with strongly held views – on all sides of the argument. We know to expect the usual array of homophobic and transphobic views, harsh comments and abuse. It is ok to turn off social media, hide people from your feed and seek out supportive and nurturing friends and family.

If you or someone, within the LGBTIQ communities or allies, friends and family, needs additional support there is help available through the AIDS Action Council counselling service on 6257 2855 or through Qlife which is operational between 3pm until midnight, 7 days a week – qlife.org.au

I’m not interested in getting married or the marriage debate – it is very boring, but if I have to vote, I will be voting for human rights.


Philippa Moss

Philippa Moss is a HIV activist, professional feminist and best known for her outspoken voice promoting healthy public policy and healthy urban development. Philippa has been a happy resident of Canberra for the past 17 years. Originally from Sydney, she came to Canberra at a pivotal stage in her life. She is a proud mother of two children, a son and daughter in their teens/twenties, who as a Queer parent has always felt a part of Canberra’s greater Lesbian, Gay and Queer community. She was recently appointed the Executive Director of the AIDS Action Council (ACT), after acting in the role for the past two years. In 2015 she was awarded the ACT Telstra Business Women’s Award for Purpose and Social Enterprise, along with the Australian Institute of Management’s Not for Profit Manager of the Year (ACT) award. More about the Author

  • Leanne O’neill

    Well said. I too do not believe that marriage is a wonderful institution. I do believe in human rights though. I believe that two people having given informed consent, have the right to marry if they wish.

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