Marriage: Love and Law exhibition catalogue - Page 6



INTRODUCTION
MADE FOR LOVE, GOVERNED BY LAW
‘What’s love got to do with it?’ pop superstar Tina Turner asks in her hit song
of the same name. Is it a ‘second hand emotion’ as she suggests? Absent at first
lust? Vacant in coupledom? If Turner had asked the same question more than
300 years ago, then romantic love would have had little to do with it, especially
for those who married. Marriages were not made for love, but to forge strategic
alliances, secure property and to produce heirs among society’s elite. For those
outside the upper classes who had no property or entitlements, the institution
of marriage was an irrelevant concept. Generally, such couples came together
in cohabitation for practical, pragmatic reasons. Today, however, the answer
to Turner’s question would be different. Love has everything to do with it.
Love lies at the heart of marriage.
In 2017 Australians overwhelmingly voted to change the law for ‘Love’.
Indeed, this was the position that proponents of marriage equality took
in celebrating the success of the ‘yes’ campaign, which drove legislative change
to extend marriage in Australia to same-sex couples. While this reform was
a very significant recent development, it is part of a story in which the laws
and meaning of marriage have shifted and changed over many years.
This publication, which has been produced to accompany the exhibition,
Marriage: Love and Law, charts and explores the history of marriage
as a social and legal construct over three centuries extending back to a time
when Euro-centric societies were at the cusp of leaving behind a long held
understanding of marriage as an institution that was solely concerned with
property and provenance. Over time, from then to now, love has gradually
emerged to become the central motif of marriage.
Marriage is a big story with a long and complex history. The focus here concerns
the institution of marriage in the context of Australia post-1788. It is not
situated in jurisdictions outside Australia and does not encompass the tribal
and kinship laws that have governed relationships among the continent’s
Indigenous people for over 60,000 years. Given that Marriage: Love and Law
has been generated from within the State Archives Collection—one of New
South Wales’ (NSW) most significant cultural holdings—this story is pursued
through a unique lens: the State or Government’s responsibilities towards,
and interventions into, the institution of marriage.

1
1 Raymond de Berquelle
Marriage ceremony,
The Domain, Sydney, 1970
Black and white photograph
1970
National Library of Australia,
PIC/7918/12 LOC Drawer PIC/7918
7

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