Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Same for Thousands of Years...

Marriage, Australian style - Rear Vision - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Keri Phillips: Today on Rear Vision, we’ll take a look at the story of marriage in Australia since white settlement. It’s a story of ever-increasing state regulation in what was once a more private affair and one that shows how the law and society interact with each other to bring about social change. Our marriage laws have their roots in English common law, as Professor Rebecca Probert, an expert in the history of marriage law from the University of Warwick, explains.
Rebecca Probert: The origins of modern marriage go back to the eleventh century, which is when the Christian Church acquired authority over marriage. We don’t know that much about marriage practices before that. There are some hints that Anglo-Saxon marriage practices were not the same as the Christian Church; for example, in divorce being permitted. But we do also know that there were Christian marriage services being carried out even in the Anglo-Saxon period. How popular they were, we have no means of telling. We don’t have much information on what people actually did in this period, apart from at the very highest levels of society, which we can’t take as representative. So our knowledge of marriage really only dates from the Christian period, from the eleventh century onwards.
Keri Phillips: What do we know about it at this very early period?
Rebecca Probert: The basic idea was that marriage was entered into by the free consent of the parties and it was for life. Now, a marriage could be annulled on the basis there was some impediment to it coming into being; for example, if the parties were too closely related, or didn’t have capacity to consent. But other than that, it was for life. Whether you had marriage being entered into solely on the basis of consent is something of a debated issue, because the church also had legislation on banns and publicity and marriages being celebrated in church, even at this early period.
Keri Phillips: What do we know about how it evolved over the years, centuries, following the earliest evidence that you’ve just told us about?
Rebecca Probert: It really is a matter of evolution. Obviously you have the Reformation in the sixteenth century, so the Catholic Church becomes the Church of England, but not very much changes with that. It’s really only when you get into the seventeenth century you have a brief flirtation with civil marriage under the commonwealth. And then in the 1690s you start to get legislation beginning to define where marriages should take place and fining those that aren’t celebrated in the right place, so that the state is reinforcing the church’s prescriptions.
Unchanging? The last time the Marriage Act was radically changed in Australia was in 2004.


Jennifer said...

In the US at least, the history really shows how far off base the debate really is. You have to either be for gay marriage or against it, but nobody is asking the more fundamental question of whether government should be involved in the matter at all.

Same is true for many topics of political conversation, the basic underlying assumptions that everybody assumes to be a matter of eternal truth, when actually researched (and by research I mean Google) turn out to be quite ephemeral.

Anonymous said...

Ms/Mr. Brain: what insensitive and idiotic remarks you left on the NY times article on Dr. Ride. How stupid do you have to be, to politicized her death for your own, warped agenda? Dr. O has been very well taken care of, but what do you care? Pancreatic cancer would be too good for you, you backwards freak. Feck off.

Zoe Brain said...

For the record, here's what I wrote in the NYT comment:

"Don't you DARE say she's a National Hero.
Don't you DARE say she's an Inspiration.

Not when you have a Federal Act that prevents her partner from getting a widow's benefits, ostensibly "to protect marriage". That explicitly makes her and her partner pariahs.

The hypocrisy would be too much.

Yes, she's an inspiration, and a national heroine, but you don't have the right to say so, not when you treat her widow like that."

That seems to have touched a nerve. The truth hurts.

I'll quote the Terms of Service, as some obviously either can't read, or think they're above sich things:

Anonymous commenters - please add a signature (doesn't have to be your real name) on each post of yours. Anne O'Namus, Norm D. Ploom, Angry from Kent, Demosthenes, or even your real initials, it doesn't matter.
Commenters are expected to be polite to each other, but the same standard doesn't apply to comments regarding me.

Please add a monicker next time, so I can sort you out from all the others who wish me ill. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just because I object to it doesn't make it the truth.

Dr. Ride was a person with an alternative sexuality who lived it with grace; no need for shouting in the streets, or dedicating her life to blogs on how she isn't being treated fairly. I would recommend her as a role model to all you self-victimizing do-nothings.


Anonymous said...

It is not hard to contract your belongings in life to anyone. It is not the government's job to give benifits to anyone over time. If a person is an asset pay them then and now and forget tying benifits to conditions.
It is also not the government's business to be into anyones gender or sex life. End government marriage and government reconizeing gender as a form of identfication.


Anonymous said...

Agree with hsst!


Jennifer said...

I think what Zoe is getting at is that the actions of US government are speaking so loudly, the nice words are getting drowned out.

People are what they do, not what they say.