Well, no, he didn't actually ruin it. But the former Prime Minister of Australia, three years after he was ousted from office, made a spiteful little interjection at my wedding, and the weddings of hundreds of thousands of other couples, just to rub it in that he's really, really into the traditional marriage of a man and a woman.
Allow me to explain. In 2004, when the first governments around the world were beginning to allow for same sex couples to marry, John Howard, then Prime Minister of Australia and the moral custodian of all that's conservative and true, wanted to make damn sure that couldn't happen here. So he changed our marriage laws, which had previously relied on the English common law definition of marriage, and expressly spelled it out: marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Same sex marriages performed overseas were meanwhile expressly forbidden from being recognised as legal marriages in Australia.But the fun wasn't done there! The change to the law meant that from 2004 onwards, at every civil wedding in Australia, the celebrant is legally required to say the words: Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
If those words are not said during the ceremony, the marriage is not valid. It's like a little up yours from John Howard at every non-religious wedding in Australia. For if the marriage is performed by a minister of religion, they are not required to say the man and woman bit. Religious people can be trusted to understand how important marriage is to John Howard, apparently, whilst the rest of us heathens cannot.
And I was forced to stand squirming and embarrassed as those words were read out at my wedding, as the law required. I mean honestly, I don't mind people having a traditional view of marriage, but do they have to rub our noses in it?
When Australia legalises marriage equality, and we will, one of the minor benefits will be to remove this pointless little intrusion from a political era we all need to put behind us.
And my marriage wasn't for life anyway; we separated after five years, so my family's pain goes to show just how stupid and pointless the whole thing is. (Howard's law or marriage itself? That's for another day).