In October, I will celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary. At the same time, Australia will most likely be in the midst of a national voluntary postal vote to potentially decide* whether same sex couples should be recognised in the Australian Marriage Act.
There has been a lot of debate about the topic, for a good many years now. And it’s true, Australia is “behind the trend” when it comes to comparing our laws around marriage equality with other countries.
Seven years ago I was married in a Catholic Church. Not because I am a practicing Catholic, but because I liked the idea of tradition. My parents were married in that same church. I was baptised there too. I was quite young and had a very naïve view of the world. If we’d had a vote back then, I honestly don’t know how I would have responded.
On both sides of the debate, people claim to be ridiculed and to feel too intimidated to share their opinions. In the media, it seems to be skewed to people who say they will vote against allowing same sex marriage into our Marriage Act; they feel that they are being ostracised for this choice. It must feel like a slap in the face for those people who identify as LGBTI+ who have been ostracised for their sexuality since, well, forever.
For the record, I don’t believe that all people who choose to vote “no” must hate gay people. Many of them argue for the traditional values of marriage, which by default excludes same sex couples. But in reality, they are not arguing for traditional marriage as it stands, they are arguing for the idea of traditional marriage. That man and woman will remain loyal to one another until death parts them.
But let’s be honest, the rate of divorce continues to increase in Australia, and the rates of marriage are actually decreasing. More people are choosing to bypass the expensive wedding ceremony and head straight to having mortgages and children together. Because we don’t need to be married for such things to occur. I’m aware that this is an incredibly privileged position to be in, and I’m in no way trying to downplay or trivialise marriage equality. I’m simply trying to point out that the majority of conservative arguments that I’ve heard are redundant.
Some will argue that marriage gives children the best chance at life, to be able to have access to both a mother and father. Who says that same sex couples would disallow that? At the moment, men can donate their sperm and women can buy it to impregnate themselves. Children as a result will be denied their father. I’m not saying that Team No agree with this loophole, just that it exists and nobody had to vote about whether it could or not.
There’s also an assumption that people who marry automatically want children. Again, times are changing and more people are consciously deciding not to have children. Arguing ‘parenting’ in relation to the Marriage Act is far too simplistic and not at all helpful.
Someone on my Facebook posted a video recently with a status that questioned whether anyone who was voting yes had actually read the proposed changes? She questioned whether it would open the gates to allowing paedophilia and incest. Thankfully, she was very quickly shut down. The article she had shared was from Pauline Hanson’s people and was clearly scare mongering. What baffled me more was that this is the same person who once criticised me for sharing a video showing slaughtered calves on a dairy farm, claiming that “most Farmers don’t undertake this practice.” Her argument at the time is no different to my argument now (except that the slaughtering of calves is a common practice in most commercial dairy farms – but that’s an argument for another day).
It’s disappointing to see these sorts of posts floating around, because it influences people, or at the very least, gives them fuel for their already biased arguments. Being gay does not equate, nor open the doors to, incest, paedophilia, or any other extreme and rare case of the like. Nothing else in our existing Marriage Act is set to change except for allowing two people of the same sex to wed. They can’t be underage; they can’t be related. And the assumption that they would want to is downright offensive.
At the end of this voting period, I hope that Australia proves to be an overall forward-thinking and progressive country. I hope that my children and the generations to come will inherit a more open, caring, considerate, compassionate and respectful country in which all people – no matter their race, gender or sexuality – are not only accepted, but welcomed.
I’m voting yes, and I hope you do too.
*In order for the laws to change the Bill has to pass in the Senate. The public vote is being used to gauge the Australian public’s opinion of whether the law should change. Some conservative politicians have said that if the results are overwhelming yes, they will change their vote to yes in the Senate.