It’s been two years since I wrote ‘All the Colours Of Love’. I wrote it in a moment of euphoria after the majority Catholic nation of Ireland made marriage equality legal, bubbling with hope that it would not be long until our country, Australia, would follow suit.
How could we not? How could we, a multi-cultural, multi-faith nation, with separation between church and state, and a democratically elected parliament, not follow the example of a traditionally conservative country to granting equal marriage rights to all of our citizens, regardless of gender or sexuality?
I watched, and waited, as countries around the world much like ours also made this change to their marriage laws. These were countries that pride themselves on freedom of religion, speech and expression, countries that are democratic and hold themselves up as examples of egalitarian and diverse societies to the rest of the world. They were countries we would count as our fellows, often our allies and trade partners, and places we would happily travel to for a holiday.
According to Australian Marriage Equality, the following countries allow same-sex couples to marry:
- Netherlands 2001
- Belgium 2003
- Canada (provincially in 2003, nationally in 2005)
- Spain 2005
- South Africa 2006
- Norway 2009
- Sweden 2009
- Mexico City (Mex) 2010
- Portugal 2010
- Iceland 2010
- Argentina 2010
- Quintana Roo (Mexico) 2011
- Uruguay 2013
- New Zealand 2013
- France 2013
- Brazil 2013
- England 2014
- Wales 2014
- Scotland 2014
- Luxembourg 2015
- Guam 2015
- Pitcairn Islands 2015
- Chihuahua 2015
- United States 2015
- Greenland 2015
- Guerrero 2015
- Ireland 2015
There are very liberal and very conservative countries in the list above. There are countries, like Germany, who have passed parliamentary votes on same-sex marriage, even when their leader or governing party is conservative. The point is, other countries, just like ours, have legalised same-sex marriage and the sky has not fallen in. Religious freedoms have been preserved, equality established, and people who love each other have gotten married.
I watched, and I waited. I posted on Facebook and I tweeted on Twitter and I heard politicians of many persuasions advocate that we too should make this change, but it never came.
Finally, the pressure that advocates exerted on the Australian government (currently conservative) cracked their discriminatory resolve. They claim however, that they cannot allow a free conscience vote in the parliament, as this would break an election promise. They don’t seem to have the same attachment to all their promises (like not cutting funding to the ABC), but have faithfully welded themselves to their commitment to hold a non-binding national plebiscite.
We don’t need to hold a referendum on the issue, which would bind the Government to act on the will of the people, because the marriage act isn’t part of the constitution. In fact, the marriage act has already been changed many, many times in the history of the Australian federation, and not once did the government of the day seek the opinion of the people with a plebiscite.
Unfortunately for the Government, the Senate smacked down their push to pass a plebiscite and have been left with the option of a postal survey. Yes. A postal SURVEY! It’s non-compulsory, hosted by the Bureau of Statistics, and completely non-binding on the Government. But, in order to avoid a conscience vote in the parliament, the Government have chosen to survey the nation on the human rights of other people.
So I’m left thinking, why people would vote no? I know lots of people have lots of reasons that they feel are legitimate, but unless you are a member of the LGBTI community, a community that has been beaten, murdered, criminalised and excluded for hundreds of years, this proposed change to the marriage act doesn’t directly effect you.
If the marriage act is changed, it will only effect LGBTI people. You won’t be forced to stop worshiping your chosen god, or forced to marry someone who is the same sex as you. You won’t be forced to go to same-sex wedding ceremonies, nor will ministers of faith be forced to perform these marriage ceremonies unless they wish to. Your straight, hetero marriage will not be invalidated or annulled.
Your life, as a straight person, literally will not change.
But if the marriage act is changed to allow LGBTI people to marry another consenting adult that they love, it will effect their lives.
It will give them and their relationships the same legal rights and protections that straight married people enjoy. It will mean they can be legally recognised as a spouse in hospitals, when their husband or wife is ill or dying, or in emergency situations. It also affords them rights and responsibilities in terms of taxation, wills, and in the eyes of Government agencies. It will also mean their marriage is recognised all over Australia and in many countries around the world. As it stands, a same-sex civil union in Queensland isn’t recognised in other states of Australia. Could you imagine what it would feel like to have you relationship considered invalid as soon as you cross a border?
You might feel like you have legitimate reasons to vote no, but please, think on this: How would voting YES effect me?
Voting yes will cost you nothing, but it would mean the world to those LGBTI citizens of our country who just want the same rights heterosexual people enjoy.
I implore you, as a married straight woman with many, many LGBTI friends, to vote YES in the coming postal survey, and to send an undeniable message to the Australian Government that the time has come for marriage equality.