In 2014 a Crosby Textor poll found that 72% of Australians support marriage equality. A clear majority on an issue for which Australia has fallen embarrassingly behind the rest of the world. In a little over a month, a bill will be introduced to parliament that essentially legalises same sex marriage and the nation will watch on as our politicians determine which of us have the right to marry the person we love.
No doubt, there will be some detractors and they will give a variety of reasons for their position on the subject. But I don’t think that Cory Bernardi really believes that marriage equality will result in polygamy or bestial marriages becoming legal. I don’t think that Joe Hockey really believes that his ‘traditional marriage’ will be devalued in any way by a successful marriage equality act. I don’t think Christopher Pyne really believes that this bill is being brought simply to distract from other things.
The problem is, opposition by politicians to this bill is not really about their beliefs, its about politics. I do understand the politics that go on behind the scenes. I get that many politicians are responding to what they believe is the stance of their constituents. I even get that party members have particular brands to uphold that will follow them through their careers, and that the greater branding package may be more important to them than the desires of the voting public. I understand that some politicians have strong ties to religious organisations and may lose a significant amount of political capital by voting against the interests of these groups.
The thing is, none of that matters. Because right now in Australia we are denying the basic right to formalise a loving relationship to a significant proportion of the population. We are allowing some people to have rights that others don’t. We are discriminating on a national legislative level against a large number of people. And the majority of Australians think that we should no longer be doing so. The majority of Australians want their elected members to vote in support of this bill.
I am not gay. I have no desire to marry a person of the same sex. I have no desire to have children with a person of the same sex. But it really doesn’t matter to me who other people choose to marry or who they have children with. I don’t care what their beliefs are or how they live their lives. It’s just none of my business, nor is it any of the government’s.
It is time to pass this bill. It is time to show some social progression. In fact, it is well overdue. To the politicians of this country I would say this; don’t vote your conscience. Don’t even vote on behalf of your constituents. Vote to ensure that equal rights are at least partly achieved in this country. Vote to allow all Australians to love whomever it is they choose to. Vote to eradicate discrimination.
You may have a different opinion on marriage equality to me. 28% of Australians do. You may have a belief in a God or a particular set of values that says that homosexuality is bad or wrong*. I don’t understand your point of view but as a resident of this free country I must celebrate your right to say it. And I do. Just as every person should have the right to choose a lifestyle you don’t agree with. So vote for those rights. They should trump your own opinions. They should even trump your own belief systems, whatever they are.
We used to be a beacon of egalitarianism. One of the leaders in social change. We were amongst the first countries in the world to grant suffrage to women, to award a minimum wage. And yet, there are people in this country right now facing the same level of discrimination as many were presented with a hundred years ago by lack of suffrage or non existent workers rights.
It must end. We are so much better than that. The people of this country want more from our leaders. We want our members of parliament to direct change, and not to drag behind public opinion. We want politicians with the courage to embrace change, and to embrace true and complete equality. Don’t let us down.
*There are many people of all religions that support marriage equality. This article is not about attacking anyone of any religious persuasion or set of beliefs. Many politicians have referenced their religion as a reason for opposing this bill, hence the reference to religion in this article.