THE 4-1-1 // Civil Unions vs Marriage by Alana Salm

THE 4-1-1 // Civil Unions vs Marriage by Alana Salm

for Groom + Guy Magazine

We are living in a culture and a county where there are more of those in favour of marriage equality than those against it. I see evidence of it every day. Like when my daughter comes home from school where they have been learning about families. She’s desperate to tell me about her friend’s family that’s different to ours – the thing that stands out to her is not that her friend has two mums, but two little brothers! My heart glows that she doesn’t blink an eye over same sex parents.

During a wedding ceremony I am legally required to say ‘the Monitum’ – a passage about how the definition of marriage in Australia is a union of a man and a woman. I am often asked by the bride and groom to add a ‘disclaimer’ that it’s a sentiment they (and myself) do not support.

After one wedding like this, a guest approached to thank me for sharing support for marriage equality. We shook hands, exchanged names and he told me about his job. He worked in Queensland Government and he knew for certain that a big change going to be announced in the New Year. He was certain it would be to my liking.

In March this year the announcement was made. Civil Union Partnership Ceremonies could be declared in Queensland. It was said to be a move to ‘restore the right of couples, regardless of gender, to celebrate their relationship with a civil partnership ceremony’.

I like the idea of Civil Partnership Ceremonies and they are available to anyone – gay, straight or otherwise. If it’s a good fit for the couple, they should go nuts. I also like the idea of Commitment Ceremonies too. Personally I don’t think that a legal document makes a couple (or a family) any less bonded to each other. It’s a choice I support if it feels right to all parties.

I don’t like that civil union partnerships are the only legal option for LGBTG people. Let me explain why..

Civil partnerships in QLD are unions between any two people regardless of gender who are not in a prohibited relationship. A marriage according to the Australian Marriage Act of 1961 is the union of a man and a woman who are not in a prohibited relationship.

With a Civil partnership, both parties submit a notice of intention to enter into a civil partnership application form to a civil partnership notary or registry office a minimum of 10 days before the declaration ceremony. For a marriage, both parties must lodge their intention to get married 30 days before the wedding date with their chosen registry office, celebrant or religious minister

Up to this point, there’s not much difference between the two, but it’s what can happen after the honeymoon that I can’t swallow. Say things don’t work out with a couple who have a civil partnership. (Roughly 1 in 3 marriages don’t stick and there’s no data yet to prove civil partnerships will be any better or worse.)

To end a marriage, a couple must go through lengthy and expensive divorce proceedings. There are three ways to end a civil partnership. The first, both parties can fill in and lodge an application to end a civil partnership with the registry office and pay the fee. There is a 90 day termination process and then they are no longer partners.

The second way is almost identical except for where only one partner fills in, signs and lodges the application form. They are required to provide the other partner with a copy or to at least say that they tried to.

Now thirdly is my fav option! A civil union partnership can be ended by either partner GETTING MARRIED TO SOMEONE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX. Yep, they can just get married and by default the civil union partnership is terminated. To me, that’s like being told gay people can only eat carob, while straight couples get given Lindt Balls. It’s not the same, and it’s not nearly as good.

If a same sex couple feel a civil partnership appeals to them, I’d be over the moon to officiate for them. But for those whoe believe in marriage, who have the right to choose Lindt balls over crappy carob, I urge you not to settle for a legal act that will allow your partnership to be terminated potentially a whim and without your consent.

These are the opinions of a legally married mother and full time civil celebrant living in Queensland. I joyfully perform weddings and support same sex relationships, marriages and families. If there are any same sex couples who don’t want to wait for the legal system to pull their socks up and book me to perform a meaningful commitment ceremony, I will commit to officiate their legal marriage for free once the marriage act is amended. It is high time our country finally gets on board with marriage equality, not some half-arsed substitute measure that doesn’t hold the same legal ramifications.

 

Photo credit to Callie Marshall Florido Weddings Make up credit to Khesan Brock The Beauty Case