On April 29 my partner and I married each other. We were surrounded by family and friends who celebrated with us our decision to enter into a union to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. It was a wonderful day that carried a generous spirit from everyone there.
I do not think that marriage, or otherwise committing to a lifelong, exclusive partnership with someone, is the right choice for everybody. I do not think it should be held out as a must-do on the checklist for a successful life. It is not necessary to pair up with one person forever for that person’s life to be meaningful or important.
But we wanted to get married and we did – I guess that makes us boring, conventional people. I have many people in my life that live more non-conventional lifestyles. Friends that don’t subscribe to the view that you go to school, get your degree, get your 9 to 5 job, pair up, settle down, have kids and plan for retirement.
I have friends suited more to having transient, ephemeral relationships with different people, or who do not have the desire to combine the romantic, sexual, financial and domestic aspects of their personal relationships. My less conservative friends provide me the gift of a much richer and more interesting life experience. I am grateful for this. I love the window that I get into their lives. I love to celebrate their lives and choices as they celebrate mine with such generosity and warmth.
Not everyone wants to make the boring, conservative lifestyle decisions that I have made. However, no-one should be cut off from making those choices that I have been happy to make because of their (or their partner’s) sexuality or gender identity. To me, that is ridiculous. It is offensive. It is discriminatory and it arbitrarily marginalises people. The Howard government’s 2004 amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 were made solely to prevent members of our community from making the same choices I have been able to make.
The amendments have also given rise to the lie that there is some fixed definition of marriage. Or the even more bizarre lie that it is not Parliament’s job to legislate changes. Marriage has had a fluid definition throughout Australia’s history. Before the Married Women’s Property reforms of the 1880s, a married woman could not own her own property. In 1928, a marriage could only take place in Victoria between 8am and 4pm. Until 1961, matrimonial laws were a matter for the states, not the Commonwealth. In 1976, we got no-fault divorce. And until far too late into the last century, the status of marriage could prevent a wife from prosecuting a husband for rape.
Thankfully, marriage is making its way to the least sexist it has ever been. We have an opportunity now to continue the evolution of what marriage means in a way that is much more inclusive. It beggars belief that members of the conservative side of Australian politics are so gung-ho about excluding queer people from adopting a socially conservative lifestyle. No-one should be forced into the mainstream – it’s too dull. However, no-one should be thrust into the margins and denied the liberty of choice.
I look forward to our parliament doing the right thing and getting on with it. Because bloody hell, I am certain that of all the fabulously diverse people under the queer rainbow, there are some really boring people who want to make the same really boring choices as me.
Tom Wolff is a family lawyer at O’Farrell Robertson McMahon and president of the Bendigo Law Association.