Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Same, same...once again!

Once again the question of committed same-sex relationships is bubbling up all over the place.
Here in South Australia the Attorney General, Michael Atkinson, claims that legislation to remove inequalities for same sex couples will begin its progression through the Parliament this week. I will believe it when it happens. Though falling far short of "marriage" it will attempt to remove some discriminations. One I heard yesterday was the transfer of ownership of vehicles from one partner to another. Presently if you are married and, say, husband transfers ownership to his wife then you pay a fee (about $45) to cover the administrative costs. I have actually done this on one occasion.
However if you are not married then you have to treat this transaction as though it was the sale of the vehicle and thus you are liable to pay stamp duty....depending on the value of the vehicle this could be $750 or more. Thus a same-sex couple, even though their relationship continues on exactly the same footing, are arbitrarily prejudiced against. This is only one of these sort of anomalies, when you consider the issue to do with the tranmsfer of real estate it is even more horrendous.
I do not begin to unravel some of the graver complexities involved with the custody of children.
Meanwhile in Massachusets some clergy are saying that the churech should get out of the marriage business completely (see here) this isn't quite as straight forward as some imagine, but it is an interesting idea. Throughout many countries in continental Europe for example, it is necessary for those who wish to be married to be married before a civil registrar in order to be legally married.
They may subsequently go to church ( and many do) and have a religious marriage; this however is not a legal requirement.
But the strategy outlined above (getting out of the wedding business) begs the question of what clergy might say and/or do at non-legally official celebrations. Would they for example receive the vows of life commitment which in the Western tradition are the core of the marriage bond? Though this might not be legally required (a couple having already been married) Christians regard these most seriously. And indeed binding. In my experience many people, maybe even many non-church people, regard taking vows before God as something much more important than signing a legal form. (Which is why they often want a church wedding).
I came across, too, the other day the beginnings of a discussion (here) of what "same-sex divorce" might imply. This is of course a serious issue, even though most of us can't get out heads around same-sex marriage yet.
While it is all indeed same, same (here)and then again (here) there is an awful lot of different happening too these days!


Trevor said...

Although the Sydney Diocese will raise the [homo]sexuality issue *again* at Synod, the good Archbishop has chosen to focus in his Presidential Address on outreach and on church growth.

I found that many of his points could equally apply to the Uniting Church in Australia.

The sexuality issue will be with us (and will continue to divide us) for a long time to come, sadly, as will the question of womens' roles in the church (albeit a much lesser issue in the Uniting Church).

But the biggie is growth (or rather shrinkage reduction), and reaching out.

Dr Jensen made the comment "Church can become merely a religious club for people who still like the Rolling Stones." I wish the Uniting Church congregations which I know had people who liked the Rolling Stones. The congregations which I know are more like religious clubs for people who still like Bing Crosby!


stephen clark said...

Don't knock the old Bing!