On May 1, the bitter debate in the Victorian Parliament over whether same-sex relationships should have the enjoyed by heterosexuals finally concluded with an overwhelming “yes” vote. Thanks to enormous community pressure, homosexual couples are now equal in a range of matters — from medical decision making to property and state taxes such as stamp duty. The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) applauds the law as “the most comprehensive legal step toward equality in Australia.” Any reform that weakens the homophobic underpinnings of our society is welcome!
But now VGLRL wants equality extended to, among other things, social security law. This is where it gets dangerous — as anyone deemed by Centrelink to be in a “marriage-like” relationship knows. Lose a job, and you get no unemployment benefits if your partner is working. When one partner is younger, their wage could disqualify their older partner from the age pension. By making one partner dependent on the other, the State lets the family wear the shock of the economic crisis. No wonder Howard and big business love those “family values”!
We need to advance, not retreat. Marriage is all about property. Women know this, having been possessions of fathers and husbands for centuries. The word “family” derives from the Latin “familia,” meaning the number of slaves belonging to one man. Legal recognition of same-sex relationships is a blow to this institution which has kept women in bondage and queers in the closet. Adapting to anything modelled on it is an unnecessary step backward.
By joining forces, the lesbian/gay/bi/transgender and feminist movements can move our common struggle for equality forward. What we can fight for now are: unconditional equal treatment for everyone, regardless of sex, sexual preference, age, marital status or lifestyle; access to free, safe reproductive technology for all women; free, quality 24-hour childcare; paid maternity leave; affirmative action and seniority protection in employment and promotion; equal legal status for all consenting relationships; a guaranteed independent income for all at livable union wage levels. Real choice in relationships, of any form, must be free from economic coercion or legal boundaries. The ultimate battle is to replace the private-property family system with one that will give us what’s so long overdue: true happiness — our liberation.