Marriage: What if it’s about definition, not discrimination?

This is an excerpt from Journalist and Blogger, Ruth Limkin, as a response to the presentations in the Parliament on August 24th:


Some kind and compassionate people are stating that marriage is discriminatory, because persons who are in a same-sex relationship are excluded from it.

While I don’t doubt their sincerity, I wonder if they have simply misread the situation. Perhaps that which they claim is discrimination is simply about definition?

A musician is “a person, whether professional or not, skilled in music”. A baker is “one who bakes”. A school is “an institution where instruction is given, especially to persons under college age”. A marriage is “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

Applying the definition of musician excludes me, and some drummers, from claiming such a status. (Sorry drummers, I couldn’t resist).

Applying the definition of marriage excludes a lot of different people, and lots of different relationships, from claiming such a status.

Is this inherently unfair or hateful? Or is it simply a definition, which by virtue of infusing something with meaning, places a boundary around that which it applies to.

When we consider that many types of relationships cannot claim the status of being able to marry, it adds a complexity to claims of unfair discrimination against those in same-sex relationships.

Organisations like ‘Australian Marriage Equality’ continue to side-step the issue of whether they support ‘marriage equality’ for all Australians, including those who have more than two people in their relationship. They hide behind spurious claims that polygamy comes from another time and is generally about men controlling women, yet fail to recognise the Australians who have three or more in their relationship don’t exist only in history.

Polyamorous Australians marched in the mardi-gras this year. I’m sure they’d claim their voice is being suppressed in the current marriage debate. After all, marriage, by definition, excludes those in group relationships just as much as it does those in same-sex relationships.

Do those who want marriage to include same-sex relationships also want marriage to include group relationships? If not, advocating for the redefinition of marriage, while arbitrarily excluding some Australian relationships, places one in a precarious position of inconsistency at best, or hypocrisy at worst. It’s either dewy-eyed, disingenuous or deceitful.

If exclusion in and of itself is unfair discrimination, then the only way marriage won’t be discriminatory is to allow any number of people to enter a marriage. Is that what we really want? I suspect it’s not.

Every person matters. Every person has inherent value. Your worth is not determined by your marital status, so let’s not confuse discrimination with simple definition.

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