Features Australia

Love is a many-gendered thing

19 August 2017

9:00 AM

19 August 2017

9:00 AM

Dateline anywhere in Australia, three or four years from now. Spring is around the corner and love is in the air. What better time for a plebiscite on marriage? Not that there’s much love among the proponents of change towards upholders of the status quo, or between those who want a plebiscite and those who want parliament to legislate the change in marriage law.

The latter subdivision in the pro-change lobby are showing themselves characteristically civilised in debate. A plebiscite, they say, is ‘a state-sanctioned opportunity for vile haters to spew their vitriol under the guise of “hearing both sides”’ and “a fail-proof way of provoking suicides on a scale that would make a defeated Japanese army blush.” Nothing new in that, of course. We heard it all before, in 2017, in the war against the same-sex marriage plebiscite. The only difference is that in 2021 the ‘marriage reform’ LGBQTIXYZ High Command and its lackeys in the media are fighting over is polygamy.

They don’t call it polygamy. That name was discarded as ‘too anthropological’. ‘Polyamory’ too, a term which has gained some traction in the United States, was ruled out by the advertising agency advising on the campaign as ‘sounding like something for cleaning the car’. ‘Marriage multiplicity’ was toyed with. Finally polygamy proponents endorsed ‘multiple marriage’ – MM – as the official brand of the campaign to achieve this ‘second major redefinition of marriage for a fairer, more caring society’.

It’s amazing how quickly the demand for MM has spread, from a prospect that wasn’t even on the fringes at the time of the same-sex campaign. Indeed it was constantly dismissed. Christians and other eccentrics who maintained that legalisation of gay nuptials would lead inevitably to a demand for legal polygamy were sneered at by politicians and the massed sages of social media as ‘alarmists’, ‘fascists’, ‘nutters’, etc. Yet no sooner was gay marriage in the bag than, lo and behold, up popped MM as the next ‘must have’. Far from being, as it was described in 2017, ‘not linked, legally, socially or culturally’ to same-sex marriage, polygamy in 2021 is only a plebiscite away.

If, that is, a plebiscite is held. The MM activists who want a parliamentary vote are challenging the plebiscite in court, as they did with the last one. The financially profligate Left has suddenly discovered thrift, and declares itself horrified at the millions of dollars a plebiscite will cost, when MPs could decide the matter for zilch. What they mean, of course, is that it’s easier to browbeat spineless parliamentarians into giving them what they want than to convince the public at large, which just conceivably might say no.

The government intends the 2021 plebiscite, if it goes ahead, to be conducted through polling booths. The experiment four years ago of postal polling was not wholly successful. With characteristic efficiency Australia Post managed to lose whole sackloads of votes and deliver others after counting had stopped. A few still turn up at the electoral office each day.

The pro-MM movement has powerful allies, the legal profession for one. With the first same-sex marriages among rich gays and public-service lesbians now ending in divorces and expensive wrangles over who gets the schnauzer, lawyers stand to gain even more from MM bust-ups. ‘Instead of one divorce per marriage there’s the potential for several,’ said Family Court barrister Gail Finkelstein SC, ‘not to mention all those extra pre-nups lawyers will get to draw up.’

The question of who can marry whom is causing some dissension in pro-MM ranks. Most activists want MM available to ‘people of all gender identities and none’. For traditional polygamists, such as Mormons and Muslims, one man can marry more than one woman, but not the other way around, and strict acknowledgment must be made of the ‘headship’ of the male. Muslims go further, as was made clear, or as clear as the interpreter could manage, by the Grand Mufti, speaking to the media in Arabic (as a newcomer to our shores – he has been here only two decades – the Grand Mufti’s English is still less than fluent). For Muslims, he pronounced, MM should be celebrated only in sharia rites and the husband must issue a ‘receipt’ to the bride’s father and brothers to demonstrate her transfer to, as the interpreter put it, ‘his unchallenged and absolute proprietorialship’ and to recognise ‘his possessiveness over her person and full enjoyment of the right to impose condign discipline for transgressions.’

Feminist MM campaigners, while rejecting any accusation of ‘Islamophobia’, disagree with the Grand Mufti’s ‘culturally conditioned understanding’ of MM and insist instead that legislation ‘recognise the entitlement of women to be senior spouse’ in a marriage with multiple male ‘wives’. To suggestions that seniority sits uneasily with gender equality, feminist journalist Calamity Badass said, ‘That’s balls. Female seniority in marriage is payback for the generations of powerless women chained to the kitchen sink, trapped in marriages with male abusers by a misogynist society.’

Our socially aware international airline has thrown its weight behind MM. Noting that Australian Muslims, who were opposed to gay marriage, are enthusiastically in favour of MM, it has decided to ‘reward’ them by offering generous discount fares (husbands 25 per cent, first three wives ten per cent the lot, other wives free) for their overseas-resident ‘family members’ who might wish to travel here for fast-track registration as voters. ‘Faith and begob,’ says the CEO, ‘if us dinky-di Aussies can’t be giving a helping hand in the exercise of democracy to our extended Aussie family in the Middle East, what kind of spalpeens are we?’

Without doubt, then, community attitudes are changing. The Herald Age, in which a columnist once derided wives of polygamists as ‘sheikhs’ sheilas’, has editorialised that ‘a fair go for everyone matrimonially, like mateship, is part of what it means to be an Australian’. Church moderator Rev. Nan Featherhead declared that ‘theologically, there are no valid objections to MM’. Indeed, she added, ‘it might even have been at a multiple marriage that Our Lord changed the water into wine, since Scripture mentions only a bridegroom and does not state how many blushing brides were being wed that happy day at Cana.’

All have dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘fake news spread by anti-MM bigots’ a claim on a US ‘zoophile’ website that once polygamy is enshrined in law, pet-lovers will launch a demand for CAM – ‘companion animals marriage’. Said one MM campaigner: ‘There is no way such a caricature of marriage can be linked to MM, legally, socially or culturally.’

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments