Gillard on equal marriage

I’ve long been mystified by Julia Gillard’s position on equal marriage, and her almost complete silence on the matter. However, on a recent Google search, I found this, which left me even more mystified than before

“I do understand that the position I took on gay marriage perplexed many people, given who I am and so many of my beliefs. I’ve actually had lot of conversations with many of my old friends about this, some of whom have got a different view than me.

“But, I’m a lot older than you,” Ms Gillard told the young man, “and when I went to University and started forming my political views of the world, we weren’t talking about gay marriage indeed as women, as feminists, we were critiquing marriage. If someone had said to me as a twenty year old, ‘what about you get into a white dress to symbolise virginity, and you get your father to walk you down an aisle and give you away to a man who’s waiting at the end of the aisle’, I would have looked with puzzlement and said ‘what on earth would I do that for?’.

“I’m conscious that these may be views that have dated and that the way people interpret marriage now is different to the kinds of interpretations that I had. I think that marriage in our society should play its traditional role and we could come up with other institutions which value partnerships, value love, value lifetime commitment. You know, I have a valuable lifetime commitment and haven’t felt the need at any point to make that into a marriage. So I know that that is a really different reasoning that most people come at with these issues, but that’s my reasoning.

So, apparently she used to be against marriage altogether, but now wants to promote alternatives. If I read her correctly, she proposes to do this by stopping some people from getting married at all, while retaining “traditional” marriage for others. Is the idea that we could gradually extend the ban, for example, by prohibiting various kinds of mixed marriage until no-one at all could get married? Or is there some more coherent argument I’ve missed here?

70 thoughts on “Gillard on equal marriage

  1. Paul

    I did not mean to direct any criticism at you. I just don’t think the Gillard position is significant enough or authentic enough to merit serious critique.

  2. While I originally just saw her prolix explanation as deliberately obfuscatory, maybe it is just a visceral rather than cerebral posture, influenced by her personal history and not easily transmitted to the Town Hall stage for parsing by anonymous others. She’s got feet of clay like everyone else, but my “feeling” is that she is not a scheming serial liar like so many of the Liberals.

    I mean why do I continue with Melb Football Club?

  3. Nonsense is still nonsense whether it’s prime ministerial nonsense, visceral nonsense, intellectual nonsense or all three. If you’re prime minister your job is to think about these things.

  4. @paul walter
    If you think the traditional role of marriage is to be a ‘reificationary cultural trap’, why would you think that marriage should continue to play that role?

  5. Gillard’s description of attitudes to marriage in the milieu she inhabited in the twenties (which was much the same milieu as I inhabited and in which I got to know her at the time) is pretty accurate.

    The rest of her quoted remarks display the sort of incoherence one might expect from an intelligent secularist attempting to rationalise a position that she doesn’t really believe but that she has felt constrained to adopt for political reasons that can’t be stated openly.

  6. The nearest comparison I can think of is the nonsense that Bob Carr would sometimes come out with in support of some positions of the Right-dominated NSW Labor Caucus (such as on crime statistics in 1994 and 4WDs in 2001). It was almost as if he was engaged in a Straussian exercise of communicating his view of the absurdity of the policies in a coded way through his risible defence of them.

  7. @QuentinR
    Anybody who is in favour of marriage playing a religious role (and no other) should be in favour of completely removing it from secular law. The involvement of the state in a religious practice is bad for the state and bad for religion.

    Fred Clark is (unlike me) devoutly religious, which is the basis of his blog, ‘Slacktivist’. His first marriage was performed, in a religious service, by an Episcopalian minister. The hospital where his first wife was born had burned down and as a result there was some difficulty in getting hold of the birth certificate required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a condition of issuing a marriage licence. They got the paperwork done in time, but when it looked as if they might not be able to, Fred Clark suggested to the Episcopalian priest/minister that he could perform the ceremony anyway. That would make the couple married as far as they and the people they cared about were concerned — married in the religious sacramental sense. The State’s secular paperwork could be taken care of later. Fred Clark pointed out that if the Episcopalian Church was prepared to declare the couple married with the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that should be enough without the additional authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But the Episcopalian Church would have none of it.

    A few years later a couple of Fred Clark’s friends were married in a Unitarian church. This couple weren’t able to get a marriage certificate from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Unitarian minister married them without any authority from the State. The minister didn’t think that mattered and neither did the church congregation, the couple, or the people they cared about.

    Google “uncivil union””slacktivist” and then “uncivil unions””slacktivist” to read Fred Clark’s own account of these events.

  8. Jd, because it is a cultural reificationary trap.
    Who thinks of the implications of Paul Norton’s last remark?
    Depressing, isn’t it (viewed from a certain point of view, in this “relative” universe of ours).

  9. @paul walter
    I’m not clear on what a ‘cultural reificationary trap’ is, but it sounds as if it’s probably a bad thing, and if it is a bad thing then it shouldn’t continue, it should stop (or be stopped).

    On your other point, it may be that people sometimes feel constrained to say things that are wrong and that they know are wrong, and it may also be that they sometimes try to say them in ways that will hint to the perceptive that they know what they are saying is wrong. However, if Julia Gillard says there are good reasons for the law to enable marriage between opposite-sex partners but not between same-sex partners, the statement is wrong, and nothing about her attitude when making it can alter that.

  10. @Geoff Andrews

    Nah, were we not free to utter nonsense my presence (at least) on JQ’s comment threads would shrink dramatically. On the other hand, my nonsense is easy for people to contest.

  11. @Alan

    I’m afraid my comment (#4) was a bit too obscure.
    I was referring your comment (#3), that it is a prime minister’s job to think about such things, to our current (present) PM’s inability to “think about such things”.

  12. I’ve actually had a snooze and a rethink.
    There IS, of course, an element of inscribed and perhaps even conscious, prejudice in the position.. must follow from the rest.
    There was also the element of social conservatism in the approach to Assange, to refugee asylum seekers, concerning aborigines and with single parents.
    Not totally pathological, but as I look deep into my own heart too, I know the accusation to have some merit.. to assert other is delusional, especially considering some of the tendentious responses to events arising, also.
    Not Klan stuff, not the vile psychosis of a Bernardi, but stuff from childhood and the schoolyard sticks, more likely a snicker and reflex recoil.
    Humanity and culture are not going to change overnight.

  13. @paul walter

    In a certain sense Gillard and Abbot were each other’s creations. They certainly shared a ‘visceral’ approach to some welfare and security issues. That is not saying that Gillard’s overall politics were anywhere faintly near as reactionary as Abbot’s.

    It’s instructive for instance, to think about how Gillard would have dealt with the SBY spying revelations. On the other hand I’m certain she would not have casually declared Japan an ally and joined the US and japan in confronting China in the South China Sea.

  14. J-D :@QuentinR Anybody who is in favour of marriage playing a religious role (and no other) should be in favour of completely removing it from secular law. The involvement of the state in a religious practice is bad for the state and bad for religion.

    Thanks. I agree, and I think Julia Gillard does too. As I said, she makes two points; the first is that “I think that marriage in our society should play its traditional role …” and “traditional” = “religious”, in my opinion. And secondly: “… we could come up with other institutions which value partnerships, value love, value lifetime commitment.” I think this is where your reference to secular law applies.

    The problem we have at present is that our (Australian) secular law uses the term “marriage” based on centuries/millennia(?) old Christian ideologies. Our MARRIAGE ACT 1961 needs to be updated to cover “… other institutions which value partnerships, value love, value lifetime commitment.” – Julia’s second coherent point.

  15. First paragraph was quote from J-D, in relation to my #47 post. Next two paragraphs are my further comment.

  16. QuentinR:

    Possibly you are in favour of amending Australian secular law so that it contains no references of any kind to marriage but does deal with secular institutions designed to value partnerships, love, and lifetime commitment. But if that’s what Julia Gillard has in mind, she’s not making it clear.

  17. And even if the parliament were to engage in the rather pointless legislative exercise of secularising what is already a secular institution, Gillard still has to answer whether everyone is allowed to form secular unions or whether she would continue to exclude anyone from secular unions in terms of their sexual orientation. perhaps heterosexuals could have secular unions and LGBT people could have very secular unions.

    it is probably a good thing, in both the US and Australia, that when bans on interracial marriage were abolished, no-one was around to propose either the secularisation of marriage or the introduction of transracial unions.

  18. BTW, the word “marriage” is prior to any Christian religion’s existence, by a long shot. Marriage, therefore, as a definition, was not in any way the exclusive construct of the Christian religions. To interpret the meaning of marriage so narrowly as to associate it only with Christian religions, or religion in general, is a serious mistake, albeit one that is easy to make. The Christian religions, and many others, simply exploit their societal position to frame the discussion as if they own the term—they most emphatically do not.

    If, on the other hand, we take the position that Christian religions own the term “marriage”, then it is also fair to say that they own the term “divorce”, and all the restrictions upon when divorce is moral/admitted. And yet, we have no trouble allowing divorce and associating a whole stack of legal remedies, etc, few of which are admissible within the Christian religions’s parameters around divorce. An asymmetry between the way we as a society treat marriage and divorce, conceptually and religiously, certainly exists. Where is the mirror argument over the modifications to the religious meaning of divorce, and of its legal consequences/remedies, etc? Deafening silence.

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