BY MIA FREEDMAN
It’s Mardi Gras weekend and so I want to share this; it’s a transcript of the speech I delivered at the Equality Dinner in January 2012, organised by Australian Marriage Equality. Share it on your Facebook and send it to everyone you know. It’s the message that everyone needs to read today.
When Richard and Mildred Loving got married, they had to choose their location carefully. You see, Richard was white and Mildred was black and in 1962 America, this made their marriage illegal in 16 states including Virginia where they lived. Returning home after their honeymoon, police broke into their bedroom in the middle of the night and arrested them.
Much to the disappointment of authorities, Richard and Mildred weren’t having sex at the time so they couldn’t be charged with the crime of ‘interracial intercourse’. They were still hauled off to jail and charged for being married. The judge ruled their vows null and void, noting that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red and He placed them on separate continents. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix”. Nice.
Richard and Mildred were forced to move to Washington DC where their marriage was recognised but after a few years they were desperate to visit their family and friends. Facing arrest if they returned home, two civil rights lawyers took their case to the US Supreme Court where the judges overturned the Interracial Marriage Act in 1967. In their unanimous ruling, they noted that: “The freedom to marry has long been recognised as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men” (and women one would assume). Happy and orderly. Amen to that. The idea of two people being banned from marriage because their skin didn’t match is a preposterous one to consider in 2012.
So how can we blithely accept the same kind of discrimination based on sexuality? How long until we look back at 2012 and say REALLY? What were people THINKING? My guess is it won’t be too long. Because the arguments against same-sex marriage are just too silly.
There has been a lot of division over the past century so I wanted to start the night off with a quick mention of what we have in common. Kerryn Phelps and I both have a daughter. Both beautiful girls with doting parents. I know one or two of you out there who like to get stuck into a good political debate. Been there, done that.
Some of us share the joy of marriage. Others are happily single and drinking all the champagne.
And there are those in the room who haven’t been given the choice. Which, I must admit, seems a little odd. From where I stand I don’t see any reason why that might be the case. And yet, here we are.
I’m going to be frank. I don’t get it.
And not in an ‘I don’t feel like having the discussion’ kind of way. I just. Don’t. Get. It.
We’ve been having this discussion on the website I publish, Mamamia, for years now and in all that time I have not once encountered an argument against same sex marriage which makes any reasonable sense. Not once.
The most vocal opponents base their arguments on God and the bible. Which is ironic given that marriage certainly didn’t start out as a religious institution. For most of European history, it was simply a business arrangement. Love and God had nothing to do with it, which is why the church was anti-marriage; because it undermined its power base. Today, you may choose to get married in a house of worship but that’s not what makes your vows legally binding. Marriage is a civil institution so how can we allow some taxpayers to do it and not others?