Marriage equality issues with hetero ceremonies in Australia

Guest post by Sarah
Commitment Ceremony 1

I'm an outspoken supporter of GLBTI rights, especially when it comes to marriage equality in Australia. I go to rallies, I write letters to my local member of parliament and I post stuff all over my Facebook. That said, I had a bit of a meltdown a few months ago when discussing my impending marriage — I hold a strong view that marriage should be between two loving people, no matter what their gender or sexual orientation.

I had trouble confirming that I wanted to adhere to and join an insitution that precluded my best friend, and many other people that have been supportive of my relationship with my FH. After speaking with all of them, and confirming that none of them would hate me for going ahead with a marriage, I decided that while I would continue to fight for the rights of my friends, I would also go ahead with my own hetero marriage.

All of that said, my FH and I have just started looking at ceremony structures for the wedding, and have been advised by our celebrant that we must include this in the introduction…

“My name is … and I am a marriage celebrant, duly authorised by law to solemnise this marriage in accordance with the laws of Australia” – all good, no problem there. What I'm struggling with is the following that must be included, from the Australian Marriage Act of 1961:

“At this point, I must remind you both of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship you are about to enter. Marriage, as most of us understand it, is the voluntary and full commitment of a man to a woman and a woman to a man. It is made in the deepest sense, to the exclusion of all others and will be entered into with the desire, the hope and the firm intention that it will last”

My problem is that neither FH nor I believe that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman. While that's currently what the law states, I don't support it and don't want our ceremony to have any mention of it. We are having an entirely civil ceremony, and we want it to support and reflect our views.

The Aussie brides gave great advice on ways to get around this — suggesting having a separate, private legal ceremony and then getting “weddinged.” The latter is not an option for my FH, out of respect for his family, and I'll support that. So, thanks to another Aussie bride's suggestion, we'll be changing the wording instead:

“Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. THIS marriage, as most of us understand it, is the voluntary and full commitment of a man and a woman.”

Has anyone else included anything similar into your ceremony to recognize the goal of marriage equality? Did you keep it subtle for more traditional family/friends?

Comments on Marriage equality issues with hetero ceremonies in Australia

  1. I am getting married in August and I have lesbian moms. I live in the United States in Wisconsin where recently our state constitution was amended to include specific wording about marriage being only between a man and a woman. My parents have been together for 30 years, longer than most of the marriages of my friends and other family members, so the thought of having my own wedding without acknowledging that my parents are excluded from marriage in my state concerned me. While we are not required by law to include specific language about marriage, (we are also having a civil ceremony officiated by a judge), I have decided to include a reading from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision allowing same-sex marriage. I lifted the idea from Dan Savage who attended a wedding where the piece was read. It simply states that "civil marriage is a vital social institution and to deny anyone the right to marry is limiting their human experience." My FH's parents are very religious/conservative and may very well be angered by our choice to use our marriage ceremony to make a political statement. But I could not live with myself if I stood in front of my mothers and did not acknowledge that their rights as humans in our community is limited. And isn't one of the 10 commandments to honor thy mother (s)?

  2. I cannot remember from where I "found this text, but we are using it in our straight wedding, "have also asked that we take a moment
    To honor those loved ones who are not with us today
    [Names of those acknowledged here]
    And as we remember those who are not with us,
    We also recognize those
    Who are still denied the civil right of wedded union
    And forbidden the social and legal benefits of marriage
    We have come a long way toward treating all men and women as equals,
    And yet, we acknowledge that we have farther still to go
    And more we can do to respect the choice to love, and be loved
    As you look out over the mountains,
    Please take a moment of silence for those we have recognized.
    [Moment of silence]

    It's from one of the other blog divas from a post with links regarding writing your own vows. I don't think that person would mind our using it too, as they obviously believe the same as we do.

    • That's from Mrs. Cherry Pie at Wedding Bee. I remember reading it in her recap posts and thinking it was a nice way of putting it.

      • that's awesome. i'm a lesbian and i would love to hear that at a friend's wedding.

    • That is a great idea to put into the wedding. we are starting to choose our celebrant and i think i will ask if i can have them say soemthing similar to that.

    • Thank you! Ever since I got engaged I have felt guilty about getting married while so many of my friends are denied that right. I’ll feel a lot better by including a passage about how I feel and I really like the phrasing you have for taking a moment to recognize them.

  3. good luck Sarah, I hope your celebrant is willing to change it. My understanding (from our celebrant) is that if they get checked up on, they can get removed from the list of celebrants if they change the wording. I really hope your celebrant can help you get around it.
    I found myself accidentally pulling faces during the ceremony when that part was read. oops!

  4. Ugh. If that paragraph has to be in there by law, maybe change it how you propose, then follow it with a sentence like, 'And further, [Bride] and [Groom] have the sincerest hope and belief that the law will someday be changed to recognize that marriage is and should be a voluntary and full commitment of two people who love each other, regardless of gender." Snap. Would be awesome.

    • Thanks so much for this. I have literally copy and pasted this statement into my cermony draft! The wording is perfect.

    • This is almost exactly what I’m hoping to incorporate into our Australian wedding ceremony!

    • Thank You so much – I too have just copied your words to discuss with my FH and (most likely) include in our Aussie wedding following the Monitum from the Marriage act. 🙂

      Honestly until I read this I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the words in the monitum – I am glad I read this so I could find a way to put our views in there too.

  5. My brother's gay, my husband's best friend is a lesbian, and we work in the theatre, so we had many of the same feelings.

    We included a couple of shout outs: the Unitarian greeting of "whoever you are, wherever you're from, whatever you believe, and whomever you love, you are welcome here" was one of the first moments of the ceremony. We also wrote a bit in the opening prayer about love and marriage being a gift from God, and that we pray for the day when all people who love each other will be able to make the same commitment we do.

    Another great option is to include a link on your wedsite to a marriage equality charity.

  6. Haha, our support for marriage equality was not subtle at all. In fact, I think it pissed off a couple of my partner's relatives, but I didn't really care all that much (I mean, one of my attendants was a gay man who serenaded me during the ceremony, so my support of gay marriage shouldn't have been that shocking). Our primary reading/opening remark was from the Massachusetts court ruling that affirmed that civil marriage was a civil right:

    'Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition….It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a "civil right." '

  7. We're including a passage from the Massachusetts Supreme Court case that legalized same sex marriage. Unlike our other readings we are having the officiate begin it with "As the Massachusetts Supreme Court said in their landmark case .." So we are not being completely explicit – unfortunate because we know we have people coming that do not support same sex marriage but we wanted to include something.

    (same as what sarah said except we changed all the "civil marriage" to just "marriage."

    what about:
    Marriage, according to the law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. While this marriage, happens to be between a man and a women, YOURNAME and PARTNERNAME believe that marriage is … (whatever you want to say here that does not refer to gender) and they sincerely hope that all loving couples will one day have the great privilege of standing in front of their friends and family to declare their love and commitment just as YOURNAME and PARTNERNAME are about to do today.

    • I love this. I know some of the wording is for Australia, but it’s still a great acknowledgement of those who are not legally allowed to get married. I think I’ll tweak on this and use it!

  8. does it have to say between a man and woman? can you say…….Marriage, as most of us understand it, is the voluntary and full commitment between two loving people….???

    • Yes, you HAVE to have the definition in the ceremony for it to be legal. In the exact words of the Act.

      Sucks.

      • Is there anything mandating what YOU and/or your groom say at that time? Or someone else? Is it possible simply to have a friend/ relative read something beforehand (or ya’ll during) regarding your stance? In that case, the celebrant is safe, but you are clear on your views 🙂

  9. I was an aussie bride. My Maid of Honour was/is lesbian with a gorgeous girlfriend. We had the definition – had to as we wanted a legal ceremony. Then we had the celebrant say that marriage should be between two loving people regardless of race, creed , colour or gender.

    We also sis a speech about our friend's milestones – ie a 41st birthday, another engagement, baby on the way and I said that I am looking forward to my best friend's legal marriage (when it is allowed to happen).

    Bloody John fricken Howard – scare campaigns is what he is good at. Set us back a gazillion years.

    And as I am rather politically active I make it an issue. You should hear the screaming matches with my local pollies.

  10. Once again, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I come from a pretty egalitarian family background, and a religious environment that, for the most part, supports gay rights, has no discernible stance on gender roles, and historically has encouraged the writing of their own vows by bride and groom (and, these days, bride and bride, groom and groom, etc.).

    My belief that marriage is between two loving people is exactly what would put my mind at ease about getting married. It's about doing what would be right for my partner and myself, in our lives, not what makes the biggest political statement to my friends. It would never occur to me to check with my friends to see if my marriage was politically OK with them because I cannot imagine that they would think that I would marry to abandon them, or rub it in their faces.

    You can change an institution from the inside, too. Getting married doesn't make you a traitor.

    (And I'm from Texas, which is as much about man + woman as anywhere. The practical facts are that not being legally married would put us at a disadvantage in terms of financial security, and there is still enough frowning upon cohabitation here that, as an activist, my credibility would be greater as a legal wife than as a live-in. So, no, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.)

    • Thank you. I find the whole "boycott marriage" thing to be offensive and ineffective at best and offensive and exclusionary at worst. Getting married doesn't make you a traitor.

      • which not to say that I don't understand those who have chosen to not get legally married. I just think that as a movement it doesn't make sense to ask people not to marry and shame them as if they therefore don't care about same-sex marriage because they choose to get married.

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