Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by David Cade (MB 66)

From a specialist in the field of education

I have taught in primary schools, secondary schools, and in universities. My partner and I are both 58-year-old males, we have been together for 20 years, and we have a Civil Partnership. We are currently refused the right to marry.

The relevance of my educational experience to this legislation

As a primary school teacher I many times observed frightening homophobia issuing from pupils who were just 7 and 8 years old. Such homophobia ranged from what could be classified as "mild homophobia" involving pejorative taunts and name-calling, such as "You’re a queer, you are!", and "Your mother’s a lesbian!", to homophobia of a deeply-instilled and profoundly hateful nature. For example, I recall one 7 year-old sincerely and quietly sharing with the class her sincere and innocent understanding of what a gay person is: "They’re awful, filthy people, who do evil things with each other". Instances such as this demonstrated to me that by the age of 7 children’s attitudes on such serious matters as the dignity (or not) of homosexual people have been firmly fixed and set in place. Interaction with my pupils’ parents revealed to me that their children’s hatred of homosexual people had been nurtured within the home. The children had faithfully absorbed their parents’ prejudices. My careful attempts to reverse those prejudices often seemed impossible and futile.

At secondary schools I observed that very small number of youngsters who slowly begin to recognise that their natural sexual attraction is not for the opposite sex but for their own. I observed how painfully difficult daily life is for such pupils when the whole curriculum is based upon the false notion that everyone in the world’s populations has been and is heterosexual. Too keenly they perceive that there is no, or very little, affirmation for people of their own sexual orientation and they receive the message that they are sub-standard.

At universities I observed how most homosexual students have by this stage learnt to keep their sexual orientation, or their sexual lives, quiet if not hidden. While heterosexual students happily, freely, and openly engage in romantic relationships with each other, I observed that homosexual students often find it safest to seek refuge in their studies, willingly allowing peers to perceive them as "swots".

So my experience at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education revealed to me the profound effects that homophobia or, at best, a heterosexist view of existence, have upon the developing child, the teenager, and the young adult. This Bill has the power to help make a change to this situation: to remove the negativity of hatred towards homosexual people from the hearts and minds of heterosexual youngsters, and also to let homosexual youngsters see and know that their nation, their state, and their government, values them absolutely equally - even if certain religious groups do not.

Regarding Teachers

I urge the committee to require all teachers in all schools to demonstrate respect to the Act’s granting of equal Civil Marriage to homosexual couples. If the Act allows teachers not to recognise the new equality of Civil Marriage, then the Act will, in effect, be a new form of the infamous and deliberately prejudicial "Section 28".

Such a provision would enable teachers to indicate, at the very least, disrespect for homosexual couples, and thereby disrespect for homosexual people, including those teachers’ own homosexual students. At worst, such a provision would legalise the homophobia of certain teachers, regardless of whether that homophobia is motivated by personal preferences or religious beliefs. Furthermore, such a provision would result in the absurd situation of the government continuing to support programmes to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools while at the same legally entitling teachers to besmirch marriage between two loving and committed homosexual citizens.

Considerations beyond Education

Equal "Civil Marriage", not separate "Same-Sex Marriage"

I urge the committee to ensure that the Act will absolutely share the institution of civil marriage with people who are homosexual, that the Act will not allow homosexual people just another second-rate form of union.

I agree with Maria Miller that marriage is "the gold standard". I believe that it is that form of marriage which must now be shared with people who are homosexual. If justice is to be done, then Equal Marriage must be granted, and not "Partly Equal Marriage".

Regarding "Civil Partnerships"

There have been suggestions that the Act could result in the "unfairness" of homosexual people having a choice of Civil Marriage or Civil Partnership and possibly even Religious Marriage (if their religious group is willing), while heterosexual people will not be granted Civil Partnership. I urge the committee to phase out Civil Partnerships by automatically upgrading all Civil Partnerships to Civil Marriages as part of the Act. Both heterosexual and homosexual people will then have the same choices: (1) Civil Marriage, (2) Religious Marriage, or (3) the option of not formally committing to another person. The only injustice that will then exist is that the Act will allow ministers of religious groups to legally deny Religious Marriage to homosexual people, if such ministers choose.

Regarding "Adultery"

I urge the committee to ensure the absolute equality of Civil Marriage for homosexual and heterosexual couples by ensuring that in the case of homosexual couples who seek divorce adultery may be cited, just as a member of a heterosexual couple may cite it. "Adultery" should be understood to simply mean unfaithfulness to one’s married spouse by having had sexual relations with another person, regardless of the exact nature of those intimate physical relations.

A form of Civil Marriage that does not acknowledge the possibility of "adultery" will not be perceived by society as a whole as truly Equal Marriage. Homosexual people must be granted exactly the same form of Civil Marriage to which heterosexual people have access.

Registrars

I urge the committee to require all public servants to carry out all of their duties on behalf of the state regardless of whatever personal or religious beliefs those public servants may hold. I urge the committee to ensure that no individual is employed as a registrar if he or she is not happy and willing to carry out the duties of a public servant with respect to all of the state’s citizens, regardless of citizens’ sexual orientations. Registrars currently employed who are not willing to respect all citizens equally in this manner should be required to forfeit their positions as public servants or to accept alternative positions if such positions are available.

February 2013

Prepared 4th March 2013