Why Penny Wong is Right… and Wrong

In TFC on July 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

Posted by Tim Harrison

Recent press like this article discussing Climate Change Minister Penny Wong’s comments on gay marriage show what she says is a two edged sword.

Perhaps calling her a hypocrite is perhaps inevitable on the surface of things.

But is it possible she’s right to an extent?  Is “marriage”, largely recognised as “an institution between a man and a woman” something we should maintain as a heterosexual “institution”?  Should the concept of “gay marriage” be simply an extension of the existing form of marriage or is it perhaps a cue to come up with something new?

One thing, however, remains clear.  Despite the government’s laudable actions to revise “80 pieces of legislation to make sure we remove discrimination in a range of areas, such as social security”, there are still holes.

Without some form of legal recognition endowed upon their loving relationships, gay and lesbian partners must still do extra to ‘prove’ they are a couple at law.  With no equivalent of a marriage certificate, there is an obvious loophole.  This, regardless of  pomp and ceremony, must be fixed.  Now.

So, Penny is right that marriage to most our minds is a ‘man and woman’ thing.

But she is wrong – damn wrong – to sit back and say that the “80 pieces of legislation” are enough.

Penny may be proud (and rightly so) of the “value and importance of same-sex relationships”, but until the right to have any loving relationship legally recognised in this country is in place, toeing the party line is not good enough.

With the election mere weeks away now, the possibility of a political party that will support equality for all has never looked further away.

  1. Thanks for your thoughful piece, too often the knee jerk reactivism of gay activists lets them down. What Penny said was that she has been fighting on the inside for a long time. If she was not in parliment then who would be a voice for eqaulity?

  2. Couple of things:
    (1) Probably an update is needed for your blog: the 85 federal law reforms mean that we no longer need to “…do extra to ‘prove’ (we) are a couple at law”, and
    (2) I’d like to see you discuss how we can protect people who choose that “marriage” is not their thing, from being labeled as second class citizens for being unmarried. This was the big debate in the days when people fought for equality for defacto hetero relationships and saw “marriage” as an outdated institution controlled by religions. My relationship should be seen as equal to a married one and NOT second class even though my partner and I don’t ever want “marriage”. Whats the solution?

  3. Great to have feedback on this piece – thanks guys. There are as many questions as answers here. Just to clarify, when I talked about ‘proving’ our relationships – it was about to third parties not being recognised at law in itself. I was alluding to not having a piece of paper (marriage certificate) to show. Without something as simple as a marriage certificate, de facto couples (straight and gay alike) are still required to do something other than just photocopy their marriage certificate to prove they are a couple to various organisations (banks, etc). But, Greg, you are right that this is an issue for ALL de facto couples regardless of gender and not being married should never be seen as second rate. It would just be nice to have the *choice* and not to be penalised for that. Tim Harrison.

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