Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Separate, Less Equal

Despite the passing of marriage laws in South Africa in 2006, true marriage equality is still elusive in South Africa. Yes, gay and transgender people can and do marry, but how many people are aware that marriage for gay people is still codified under a separate act?

Ministers, even those willing to officiate at gay marriages, have to apply for SEPARATE registration to do so. Thus, while a heterosexual couple can freely marry unhindered at virtually any church, Home Affairs office, court of law, or before any ship's captain - same gender couples very often are left with just the Home Affairs option.

Even as recently as last year there were reports of certain Home Affairs offices refusing to facilitate gay marriages and passing the buck to others. Gay couples who want to make their faith a part of their marriage ceremony often have to travel to other cities to get married, or have to pay for a willing minister's travel and accommodation. Some ministers who are willing to officiate cannot, because if they were to do so - they would risk dismissal by their church.

Yes, I can see how equal marriage is in South Africa - very equal indeed. SEPARATE but equal, it seems, is still applicable in our country where divisions still loom at every turn.

If there was true marriage equality in this country, the Marriage Act itself would reflect this - ONE ACT allowing any one person to marry any other person - regardless of what gender or sex or sexual orientation or gender identity they are. Likewise, I believe that as highlighted by the recent case in the UK where a heterosexual couple objected to HAVING to marry when they wanted to have a civil partnership instead - and are taking the matter to court - that civil unions should be an option for those who wish to have them. Apparently in the UK civil partnerships are reserved for gay people and marriage for heterosexuals. While they do this, they maintain with a straight face, that this is of course, SEPARATE, but equal. Of course it is.

After all, not everybody is religious, and not everybody wants to actually use the word "marriage". I often find a bitter taste in my mouth these days when I say it, reflecting on the people who begrudge us the use of that simple little word, and the things they accuse my community of - just for expecting to be treated equal to them.

Separate but equal is not equal, but it sure is separate. It separates gay people from marriage. It reserves that word for straight couples. How is that in any way "equal"?

Aside from the marriage issue, gay men and transsexuals are still discriminated against, being prevented by the national blood service - as with such services around the world - from becoming blood donors because of unfair and unreasonable policy - and our natures are still insulted with improvable and bigoted terms such as "risky behavior" and "unhealthy lifestyles" - allegations they often try to back up with senseless propaganda borrowed from the religious right quarter and mythical rubbish originating from the likes of Paul Cameron, who once advocated the extermination of gay people, and facial tattoos for HIV sufferers to "curb" the AIDS epidemic in the USA.

As a liberal democrat - and a human rights campaigner, this is all totally unacceptable to me. It is immoral, corrupt, despotic and reeks of tyranny.

It is like calling a knuckle-sandwich "foreplay".

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