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Recognising Same Sex Relationships

Superdrewby October 2003

The issues of gay marriage and the recognition of same sex relationships are highly contentious and divisive .  No other issue has raised the public's attention and caused so much long term media exposure both for and against.  The issues however, are often joined together even though they actually are separate issues and should be treated as different things.  The use of the word marriage is not conducive to gaining legal recognition of same sex relationships.  This article discusses the issues of recognising same sex relationships and gay marriage or gay civil unions, providing the arguments for and against.

There has been enormous media attention on the issue of Same Sex Marriage and the legal recognition of Same Sex Relationships over the last several months.  In early 2003 two provinces in Canada announced legislation that would legally recognise Same Sex relationships through Gay Marriage, whilst a small number of countries including The Netherlands and Belgium have allowed same sex marriage for many years.  And countries such as France, Germany, Denmark, Argentina and Finland provide the same legal recognition for same sex relationships as de facto heterosexual relationships.

The furor over recognising Same Sex Relationships reached fever pitch during 2003 with vitriolic attacks on same sex couples by the Vatican, President George Bush, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard and many other influential world leaders. (BTW I'm not suggesting John Howard is a "world " leader - I just live in Australia). 

The Vatican in it's twelve page document called for all Catholics to stridently oppose the recognition of same sex relationships.

"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the document says. "To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral" it theorised and "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."

While President George Bush suggested  "Marriage should be limited to unions between a man and a women".  Bush went on to say that his government is looking at ways to alter the constitution so that gay marriage or recognition of same sex relationships is simply not allowed.

John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia entered the debate by insulting same sex couples, all non Christian couples and those heterosexual couples without children by suggesting that marriage was only a union between a Christian male and Christian women for the purpose of procreation and the recognition of same sex relationships would threaten the species. 

"It's (marriage) a bedrock institution," Howard told The Courier-Mail newspaper. "You're talking here about the survival of the species."

Gay Marriage and Recognition of Same Sex Relationships are two issues

The issue of Gay Marriage and the recognition of Same Sex relationships are intertwined but they are separate issues.  The word marriage has religious connotations and is intrinsically linked to the Church, whether we want it to or not.  A marriage is a public commitment between two people, that in most countries is legally bound by the signing of a marriage license.  The recognition of same sex relationships is about gaining  equality for people of the same sex who are in a long term relationship.  The equality asked for is only the same as received by a heterosexual relationship, it's simple things such as:

These are just a few of the things that legal recognition of same sex relationships would provide us with.

The Word Marriage Muddies the Water

The issue is muddied I believe by the use of the word .  If the vast percentage of Australian and American citizens (over 70% in the US) believe that gays and lesbians should have equal rights, but those same people don't support Gay Marriage, this tells us we are saying or doing something wrong!

Maybe we need to come up with a better term than Gay Marriage, something like a Civil Union, or a Life Partnership, something that removes the religious connotations and public's hostility, but still has the same weight of meaning.  By changing the words slightly we may have a far better chance of reaching the equality we are fighting for.  These days same sex and heterosexual couples are choosing to have Commitment Ceremonies as the alternate to a marriage ceremony.  The objective of both ceremonies being the same, but the terminology is different and there are no religious connotations.

The reason that same sex couples get "married" are the same reasons that heterosexual couples get married, because they want to commit themselves to one person for the rest of their lives and they want to share their commitment with their friends and families. 

Now not all same sex partners want to "get married", just like many heterosexual partners don't want to get married, but both couples still want to live together in a relationship that is legally recognised as more than just two people living together.  In most western countries, a heterosexual relationship is deemed to be legally recognised after the couple have been living together for a certain time period.  In Australia this is 2 years, at which time the relationship is then known as a "de facto" relationship.  Legally this relationship then has the same recognition (or thereabouts) that a marriage has.

In the coming weeks and months Superdrewby will be adding more content to this page and exploring the issues for and against the recognition of same sex relationships and how each one of us can help!