Australia’s Marriage equality vote

So come February 11th, Australia is set to vote on the social issue of marriage equality. So what’s all the fuss?

Lets start at the beginning. In August 2004, the marriage act was changed to be defined as:

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.[213]

Fast forward to 2016 and despite not deciding to just vote by parliament to change the act, our current Prime Minister of the season, Malcolm Turnbull, has decided that we need to spend AU$15 million to campaign for and against arguments on if we should allow marriage equality (or if you like “gay marriage”) in Australia. Keeping in mind that this is a plebiscite. Which is just a national vote, and is completely non binding legally, which means that even if we vote unanimously for marriage equality, the law might not even be passed to allow it.

So why has this issue struck a chord with me? Well firstly, I want to point out how silly “gay marriage” sounds. Despite the definition in most communities of the word “gay” which most people only associate this with 2 guys, moving forward in this opinion piece, rather than referring to it as “gay marriage” or “lesbian marriage” I’m going to be referring to it as “marriage equality”.

Why else is it an important social issue? Well where do I start? Growing up in the 80's was a difficult time being confused by advertisements on TV about the AIDS epidemic and the stigma it was to be a homosexual. This clearly meant “different” and it felt like having a target painted on your back worrying about being bullied physically or mentally.

10 years later into the 90s, and I first experienced the televised famous “Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras”, and remember in my teens knowing that I was gay, but having no one to discuss this with apart from my closest childhood friends. I first came out and identified as gay at 14, and was very quickly thrown back into the closet as the bullying started and was alienated by my peers. It wasn’t until I was 21 before I had the courage to tell my parents and decide that living in the closet was more harmful than good for my self esteem.

So what’s all this got to do with marriage equality?

Well firstly, it’s 30 years on. I’ve spent each decade watching the tolerance and acceptance of homosexual people and I think it’s great, and I honestly wish that my first experience at 14 of telling my peers weren’t met with hatred and loathing for the “different”. In this case, anyone who’s 14 who lives in today’s world has a lot more acceptance than before. It’s hard to talk about but homosexual people are at a greater risk of committing suicide than hetrosexual people. If you’re interested in the study that an Australian Mental Health organisation has done, feel free to click/tap the underlined portion of the sentence above. The more we accept, the easier it is to break down the stigma of being “different” and “wrong”.

Secondly, “Won’t someone please think of the children?”. Well lets think about this for a moment. The act of Marriage is an adult act. How does it affect children directly? It doesn’t. Regardless of marriage at this point in Australia’s timeline almost all Australian states allow adoption for same sex couples, and bar South Australia and the Northern Territory, I understand that it’s legal, being a single queer man, to adopt a child and become a single father who just also happens to be homosexual.

So where to from here? Well it looks like this vote is most likely going ahead despite this writer thinking that we can better spend AU$15 million on things like Education, or Health Care, but what would I know. So rather than telling me that changing the marriage act of Australia is going to kill the sanctity of marriage, you may want to look at how well Canada, USA, New Zealand, England, Denmark, Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, and other countries have dealt with marriage equality and wonder if we are progressive enough to join the rest of the world in recognising that marriage isn’t all about a religious act, but the recognition of 2 people (regardless of gender) who love each other under the eyes of the law.

If I had my way, we wouldn’t have to vote and fight for something that most people take for granted quite a fair bit (I mean look at TV shows such as the bachelor, or married at first sight – please don’t argue the sanctity of marriage when those shows exist). But sadly, that is the case, and I can only hope that Australia does the right thing by recognising same sex marriages as equal as opposite sex marriages. And I do hope something good comes out of the plebiscite, rather than just a vote which the government sit on and use it as a disguise to mask other issues they want to pass while everyone is so focused on the definition of marriage.