Two kinds of marriage
No two marriages are equal to each other in all aspects if only because no two married couples, a man and a woman, are the same as each other. Each man is different to other men, each woman is different to other women, each couple is different to other couples.
If two men were to marry their relationship cannot be anything but different, and not equal to, the relationship and marriage of a man and woman. If two women were to marry their relationship cannot be anything but different to the relationship and the marriage between two men or between a man and a women.
Some may argue that the defining matter which allows marriage and makes marriages equal is that the people love each other, however
- the Australian Marriage Act and its requirements for marriage celebrants do not mention love. What is instituted under this Act and by the ceremony is a civil, contractual relationship between two people who meet certain criteria – love is not a criterion and is not mentioned in the required wording;
- and in any case raises the question, “what is understood by, defined by and lived out of as being love?” Each couple will have their own and often personal, individual meaning of love meaning that marriages defined aus two people in love will be different from one couple to another – and not equal.
What people want and mean by marriage equality is that the word marriage should not be limited to the marriage of a man and woman as currently defined by the Marriage Act of Australia but also apply to a marriage between two men or two women.
There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.
CS Lewis (Mere Christianity)
It is standard practice in some countries, especially in Europe, for a couple to enter into a civil marriage before a civil celebrant, often in a registry office and that this is the process required by the law of those countries. Then many couples proceed to a church for a ceremony in which they enter a Christian or some form of religious marriage; many do not and thus have only the one, civil marriage.
The Australian Marriage Act covers the civil requirements of the Act and prescribes certain forms of words without which the marriage is not legal and also already allows for religious ceremonies. The ceremony, wording and vows for religious marriages are determined and approved by recognized religious bodies and those bodies determine the eligibility of applicants to have the religious ceremony.
The Act already allows for marriages to be both civil and religious.
There may be one marriage or there may be two marriages in two ceremonies.
In my case the celebrant was the minister of the church who was licensed to ensure the requirements of my civil marriage ceremony were fulfilled and that the documentation of the contracts was correctly completed, witnessed and registered with the state. In the same ceremony our promises to God were made and we were committed as husband and wife in prayers that were part of the Christian ceremony.
For me there were two marriages in the one ceremony, though not often thought of in that way.
I have two marriages; a civil marriage and a Christian marriage.
I contracted to my civil marriage to my wife under the terms of the Marriage Act of the Commonwealth of Australia. This marriage gives me rights and responsibilities as governed by the laws of Australia. It impacts on other contracts made under Australian law such as those I entered into to take out a mortgage and to purchase our home and on inheritance, taxes, pensions etc.
Any proposals to change the Act that governs my civil marriage need careful consideration. We should be concerned that these changes do not change the rights and responsibilities of citizens already married under the Act in a negative way.
I entered into my Christian marriage by making promises before God and in the company of a Christian congregation. This marriage has had and continues to have the major impact on my relationship with my wife and children. My ethics, morals, emotions, purposes, actions and reactions are almost all set by my Christian marriage.
Any change to the law redefining marriage to allow it to be between two people, not restricted to a man and a woman, could, but should not, change the meaning of my civil marriage.
However, this cannot change the meaning and definition of my Christian marriage but will almost certainly clarify the difference between civil and religious marriages. A result of this could mean the various marriages are less like equal.