Do you remember the words in your marriage ceremony? "I do." No, not those two - everybody knows those.
Do you remember the Minister or the Priest saying that in the presence of God and all these witnesses, you and your mate had promised - pledged even - to love each other; to look after each other; and to care for children if so blessed with them? And do you remember the Minister or the Priest asking those in the congregation, those witnesses, whether they would support and encourage this newly married couple to fulfil their pledges? And the witnesses respond "We will".
That is a religious marriage: a commitment by two people to each other and any eventual children AND a commitment by the community to support and encourage them.
I never asked my Minister what would happen if the witnesses did not say "we will". Would my marriage be declared null and void if the witnesses said "we won't"? Did we no longer have to love and care for each other? I suppose the same goes for that angst-ridden question asked at this time in all those movies - "does anyone have a just reason as to why these two should not be joined in matrimony?" In the movies at least, the just reason turns out to be one of the couple is already married! But what if the "reason" was that someone might feel uncomfortable watching us hold hands or kiss? What if the "reason" was that the congregation who said "we will" was not "big enough" ...whatever big enough means? Should the marriage, the promises and pledges, cease to exist? Is this what the "marriage" debate is all about at heart - what is a just reason for refusing a promise by two people to each other? Or what is the threshold minimum community who can support a couple in their pledges - is it enough if 51% of Australians say they will support a couple?
The legal issues are resolved already: two people, living together with joint commitments, are already in a de facto relationship and share joint legal responsibilities for each other. But without marriage, they miss out on the public acceptance and support of their promises to each other.
At this time our community needs to say "yes, we will".