It’s something that’s defining our generation, for better or worse. Same sex marriage. As of August 1st 2017, 22 countries allow same sex marriage – none of these countries include Australia; a country that prides itself on mateship and giving everyone a fair go. That is, unless, you’re in love with someone of the same gender. Current Australian law bans the recognition of same sex marriage, and while Queensland and the ACT offer civil unions as a poor consolation prize, other states and territories merely offer registered domestic partnerships (NSW, SA, Tasmania and Victoria) or de facto unions (NT and WA). A solid effort from the ACT Government saw same sex marriage legalised in the nation’s capital for a brief window in 2013, but it was later ruled that the new law could not act alongside the federal Marriage Act. And from there, the cries for equality have grown louder; the push for equality has grown stronger and the push behind equality has grown bigger. A poll conducted by EqualityCampaign.org indicates two-in-three Australians believe everyone should be treated equally under the nation’s marriage laws. While it’s clear the societal definition of marriage is changing, uber conservative and religious groups around Australia are ramping up their efforts to block any progress on this front. The Australian Marriage Forum,
an archaic a traditional group that rallies against same sex marriage, makes bold claims about the history of marriage, the impact same sex marriage can potentially have on children and society more broadly. All of these claims are unsubstantiated, by the way, but hey, that’s just me nitpicking. Same sex marriage has reared its powerful head in 2017, after Australian Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne was recorded at a Liberal Party function claiming the item would be back on the agenda sooner that thought by the media and public. Politicians and journalists alike have spiralled into a frenzy – will same sex marriage be taken to the next election? Will members be able to cross the floor in a Senate vote? Will Australians need to lodge their votes in a presumably expensive and potentially redundant election?
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australian Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann held a joint press conference on the 8th August 2017 confirming media speculation that they would be recycling their bill for a plebiscite on same sex marriage, and as an alternative, would be rolling out a non-compulsory postal vote spanning two months to determine the outcome. This follows the failed government push in 2016 which saw Labor partner up with The Greens and minor parties to block the bill in something of a self-righteous push to force Turnbull’s hand and allow a conscience vote in the Senate, which failed and left the plebiscite bill in a stalemate. The reasoning behind the bill-block is more strategic than tit for tat politics – some in the pro-same sex marriage camp have voiced concerns that a nationwide vote could do more harm than good. Bible bashers and homophobics would be free spearhead a campaign to delegitimise the LGBTIQ community and run a scare tactic style campaign against same sex marriage, and in turn create a divide in the community – the haves and the can’t haves. There’s also the possibility that while social commentators have referenced polls indicating a strong hold in favour of same sex marriage, we are perhaps not as progressive as we like to imagine and that, if taken to the people, the bill would not pass. However, a conscience vote in the Senate means our federal politicians are free to vote as they please rather than in unity with their own party and substantiated polls and interviews have indicated there would be a MAJOR swing towards same sex marriage. And, in the event that the bill didn’t pass then, the issue could be readdressed under a new parliament. A no vote by the people, however, would mean it could be decades before same sex marriage could be formally readdressed. Now, while I can appreciate some good stubborn action (or inaction, rather) in a bid to prove a point (I am a crazy Polish girl who went to an all girls school – vindication is my bread and butter), it is plainly obvious that we have lost sight of what the issue at hand is – should the definition of marriage in the Australian Constitution be amended to include same sex couples?
My issue currently stands with the way same sex marriage has become a political bargaining chip between the major Australian parties. If you pay attention to the way pollies in Canberra are talking, you’ll notice no one is actually talking about same sex marriage – for, against or neutral. Not even in the most politician kind of way by linking it to the economy. No one is saying anything of value. Old mate Bill Shorten is more interested in what the Prime Minister did or didn’t say in 2013 versus what he is or isn’t saying now. Tony Abbott is popping his head (and thankfully not his Speedos) up to whinge about Christopher ‘Fixer’ Pyne bringing the issue out of the closet at a Liberal Party function last month. And Cormann is contributing very little but sucking the oxygen out of the room as per fucking usual. But amid all this dribble, no one is actually debating, discussing or analysing the benefits of same sex marriage. Ladies and gents, when Warren Entsch, a long standing member of the conservative Liberal National Party, is our voice of reason, we are doing something wrong. By having no clear focus or guidance in this discussion, it allows for religious lobby groups to launch smear campaigns, demonising same sex marriage and ideals in the lead up to the plebiscite or postal vote. It allows for ill-informed to pray on the neutral and manipulate their indecisiveness into fear and rally against something they were never offended by before. The discussion needs to be brought back to the core issue, rather than the politics surrounding it. By focussing on which politician said this last week, but that this week, we’re exhausting the public and making the grow tired of the term ‘same sex marriage’ even though marriage equality at its core is, in reality, sparsely talked about.
I have always tried to see every possible angle in an argument so I can form a well rounded opinion. Quite frankly I’m happy to be ruthless once I’ve been fair. But I cannot see any reason for a person, particularly in this day and age, to stand on anti same sex marriage ground. Worried about the sanctity of marriage? Outlaw divorce. The bible wrote “Adam and Eve” not “Adam and Steve”? Yeah, it didn’t write Adam and little Adam either, but here we are watching the Catholic Church cover up decades of child sex abuse and protect paedophile priests. “It’s just not natural”? Neither’s your hair Susan! If I’m being 100% honest, I don’t believe that same sex marriage is something we should have to ‘accept’ – as though it’s different or ‘the other’. I’ve been raised in a pretty forward thinking household where marrying someone of the same sex is absolutely no different to marrying someone of the opposite sex. Yes, this is a very inner-city latte sipping leftie school of thought (no smashed avo though, I’d like to afford a house!), but it is so often our upbringings and early life lessons that are referenced for the way we conduct ourselves or the beliefs we hold as adults. So many people I know refer to their country upbringings as a reason for not accepting gay people as though it excuses them from liberal ideas and values. My Grandfather, Stanislav, is a devout 93 year old Catholic man, born and raised in a small rural village in Poland. He attends service every Sunday morning at the church around the corner from his humble home and has a number of photos and tributes to Catholic icons throughout the house. He has a stern face and naturally formidable tone of voice through his still thick Polish accent. He has everything working against him in terms of progressive thinking. He is pro-same-sex marriage and unashamedly so. He is a firm believer in living a free and equal life, so long as you are healthy and happy. He is not senile; he is liberated by his views and progressive way of thinking. You cannot cite being raised in a remote town with traditional values or lack of exposure to different walks of life as a reason for outcasting a valuable societal group. We do not live in an old school country or culture – we promote new social values, equality and freedom, but we need to practise what we preach and extend these basic rights to the entire community.
Same sex marriage shouldn’t be an issue in 2017. It shouldn’t be something we still need to discuss, debate or pick apart. The right to marry the person you’re in love with should be, should have been, and should always be, something afforded to every person. I’m not looking forward to this vote. I’m not looking forward to telling kids in the future (not mine, someone else’s!) that I was around when we had to mail in our vote on same-sex marriage. But I am looking forward to celebrating love with so many more of my loved ones. This plebiscite or postal vote is not how this should have come about, but do the right thing – vote yes to same-sex marriage. Vote yes to equality. Vote yes to love.