Marriage: Love and Law exhibition catalogue - Page 113



TO BELIEVE IN MARRIAGE – AND DIVORCE
TARA MOSS
It is midnight in the town of my birth, and in one minute (tick, tick)
… right now, it is my ninth wedding anniversary. The pottery one,
or is it leather? The Internet can’t decide. I’m happily married and
nearly a decade into making my love ‘official’, as they say, but the
thing is, there have been times I was sure I would never get here.
As de facto couples were gradually awarded the same rights as married
couples the primacy that married people enjoyed in a post-war society was
well in descent. De facto partnering grew in popularity as an alternative living
arrangement following separation, divorce or widowhood. Many couples were
choosing to raise children outside of the institution of marriage.
I’m twice divorced, you see. I’m one of ‘those women’. And despite more
than a third of marriages ending in divorce, there is still a stigma to being
a ‘divorcee’. If you doubt it, a recent study by Slater and Gordon found that
46 per cent of divorced persons surveyed felt they faced daily judgement from
people because their marriage had failed. In fact, the tag once held so much
stigma that King Edward VIII famously had to give up the throne in 1936
to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson (and most remember that, but hardly recall
the arguably more scandalous Nazi associations of the pair), so suffice it to
say, being twice divorced by my mid-30s did not feel particularly good. It felt
like failure. I didn’t know what to think of my past choices or the institution of
marriage itself. I felt the weight of my past mistakes, as judgement from myself
as well as others, even if my choice to end those partnerships had proved wise.
84

84 William Yang
The wedding of Felix and
Lannie, [Sydney], 1987
Black and white photograph
1987
National Library of Australia,
PIC/6567/2 LOC Drawer PIC/6567
112
I’m no expert on marriage, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that being able to
access divorce is a valuable privilege. Divorce is now legal in all countries except
the Philippines and Vatican City, but for centuries was outlawed, and later
only accessible to males and to the rich. Unequal access to divorce and family
law remain widespread, and in many countries, barriers to marriage between
consenting adults remain, both socially and legally. Until recently, same-sex
partnerships were not legally recognised (and alarmingly, research by ILGA
in 2016 found that in 74 countries same-sex sexual contact is still a criminal
offence) and for some time interracial marriage was outlawed. For example,
the Aboriginals Ordinance of 1918 restricted marriage between Indigenous
women and non-Indigenous men in the Northern Territory, and as recently
as 1959 Gladys Namagu was denied permission to marry her white fiancé,
Mick Daly. In the United States it famously took until Loving v. Virginia in 1967
for race-based restrictions to be lifted. Any same-sex couple, no matter the
endurance of their partnership, did not have the opportunity to get married,
let alone make mistakes I have, until very recently. In fact, although I call
Australia home, I am currently in my birth country of Canada where same-sex
marriage was legalised in 2005 (late enough, one would argue), while the ink
is practically still drying on the Australian legislation of December 2017.
I am relieved the institution of marriage, in some places at least, is becoming
113

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