Time for a new definition of marriage?

by Peter Magee on December 24, 2011

Peter Magee
Recent polls show that a majority of Australians are in support of gay marriage. Yet to date, the Government has not acted on community opinion and legalised gay marriage.

The Marriage Act 1961 defines “marriage” as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. As the divorce rate in Australia and around many countries in the world continues to increase, how relevant is the part about marriage being “for life”? Is it obsolete? Does the definition need to be amended to reflect the current world trends?  More importantly, should the right to marry continue to be denied to homosexual couples?

I do not think that the gay marriage debate should be focusing on one’s personal view on whether gay marriage is right or wrong – at the end of the day, the debate should be focussed on equality, and giving all Australians equal rights. Legalising gay marriage will in no way impact on heterosexual couples who wish to marry, nor will it in any way diminish their rights. It will simply extend the right to marry to gay couples.

In 1926, Australia became the first country to grant women the right to both vote and stand for all houses of Parliament.

In 1967 a referendum gave Indigenous Australians their full rights as citizens.

While most Australians today cannot imagine  women not having the right to vote and Indigenous Australians not having full rights as citizens, is it time to amend the definition of “marriage” contained in the Marriage Act? Majority of Australians seem to think so.

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