Dan Andrews, Allow Melbournians to Marry! #letmelbournemarry
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Victoria's newly unveiled roadmap for reopening currently forbids weddings until October 26 at the earliest. This ban lacks a reasonable public health justification, trivialises the significance of marriage in our society, and is insensitive to the needs and beliefs of many religious and cultural communities that call Melbourne home.
Sadly, it imposes excessive and unnecessary hardship and uncertainty on many couples who are preparing to marry in these already uncertain times, at a moment when we should rather be supporting them as they seek to commence one of the most significant journeys of their lives.
We are therefore petitioning Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Government to do the following:
1. Amend the metropolitan 'roadmap for reopening' to allow weddings to be held as a component of the Second Step (from September 28) rather than delaying until the Third Step.
2. Recognise the serious nature and impact of an unrestricted ban on marriage, and as far as possible, seek to provide dignity and certainty to those seeking to marry.
The current version of the Victorian state government's "roadmap for reopening" can be accessed from this twitter link by Daniel Andrews, as well as from the Vic Gov website here.
Under current stage four lockdown conditions, weddings are only permitted for 'compassionate grounds' - an exemption that only covers such drastic situations as a partner being deported or receiving end of life care (source). The recently unveiled roadmap for Metropolitan Melbourne does not relax this ban until we reach the Third Step - October 26 at the earliest. But even this date is uncertain, as this Third Step will only be triggered "if we reach < 5 new cases" per day over the previous two weeks (source). Those who have already delayed their weddings because of the arrival of Stage Four lockdowns now face a further six-week extension to late October, and the possibility of even longer delays after that.
This ban, in our opinion, is inappropriate as it (a) lacks a convincing public health foundation, (b) trivialises the meaning and significance of marriage for our society, and (c) is insensitive to the needs and beliefs of many religious and cultural communities that call Melbourne home.
The ban lacks a convincing public health basis
The same Second Step restrictions that forbid weddings allow outdoor public gatherings of up to five people (from two households) and outdoor religious gatherings of five people plus a faith leader (proximate to a place of worship). These would also be sufficient numbers to hold a basic wedding with a celebrant, the couple and two witnesses. There is no reason why such an event would pose a greater infection risk than either of these other activities.
The ban trivialises the significance of marriage
Allowing religious and household gatherings but not weddings implies that the needs driving the former (religion, mental health) are seen as important, whereas those driving the latter (love and marriage) are deemed unimportant. Yet, paradoxically, romantic relationships are actively valued and supported by current restrictions - the first significant concession in Lockdown 1 was to allow intimate partners to continue to visit and remain a part of each others' lives. This important and celebrated exemption has been maintained throughout all subsequent incarnations of lockdown rules, including the strictures of Stage Four.
How to reconcile this contradiction? Romance is celebrated and encouraged, yet what for many in our community is its joyful and ultimate expression - the lifelong commitment that marriage involves - is forbidden. This is a travesty! The beautiful and meaningful picture held by many in our community of weddings as signifying something new and precious - the beginning of a new life together, with all that that entails, "in sickness and in health" as the words go - this picture has been swapped by the government's regulations for one that sees weddings as an expensive, glorified party. Something to put off until a post-pandemic world when it can be turned into a picture-perfect spectacle and followed up with a tropical honeymoon once the borders have reopened. The simple fact is that these regulations have lost touch with what our society always aspired to with its close involvement with marriage.
The ban is insensitive to the needs and beliefs of religious and cultural communities
The vision of love and marriage that is now encoded into these regulations is radically different from those held to sincerely and passionately by many religious and culturally diverse communities within our city - and indeed, to those held by many other Melbournians! To not have guidelines such as these make a real effort to take into account their distinctive and deeply felt convictions around the value and centrality of marriage as an expression of love is deeply hurtful, indeed, a slap in the face. If we are truly to be 'all in this together', we must as much as possible enable people from a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences to flourish on their own terms. With all its symbolism of love and togetherness, marriage is a great place to start.
Daniel Andrews, it is not too late to remove this restriction, and to continue to build a Victoria where we really are 'all in this together'!
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