Right now Australians are caught up in an emotional, divisive debate over the question; ‘should we allow gay people to get married.’
It’s disappointing that we have to demonstrate our ethical timidity to the world like this. It’s sad that our political ‘leaders’ haven’t had the courage to do what’s right, but here we are.
Australians love to talk up our ‘fair go’ ethos, but this public debate over marriage equality has revealed that we are still a nation contaminated with prejudice and bigotry.
I’m a straight guy, but I am passionately in support of marriage equality, not just in Australia, but everywhere. For me, marriage equality is the only ethical, sensible stance we, as a community, can take.
This should be a no brainer, people.
Even if you think that gay people shouldn’t be able to marry, are you really so naive as to think that you can stop them?
Gay people are as proud, passionate and committed to their relationships as anyone else. Do you really imagine that all this time gay people have been remaining single because they weren’t given legal permission to get married?
Wake up and smell the coffee, Bruce.
Gay people are getting together and creating families; that’s a fact and you can’t stop it by denying them a piece of paper. But this issue is about more than a marriage certificate.
Marriage equality is a proposition to make the law fairer and give gay people the same legal protections as other people, but it’s about dignity, as much as anything else.
Context matters. The way our culture frames people changes the way they are perceived and treated.
Denying gay people the right to marry says; ‘yes, we tolerate them, but they’re not really as good as us.’ It casts gay people in the role of outsiders; it makes them ‘the other.’ When you are perceived this way by the law, by your culture, by your community, it makes you vulnerable. Denying gay people equal rights under the law makes them a target, it makes it OK for people to say ‘they’re sick’, ‘they’re weird’, ‘they’re not like us’ because the law is sanctioning that judgment.
Denying equal rights to a minority, to any minority is always wrong because it paints a target on their backs. Look at the sort of fear-fuelled vilification rhetoric we’re seeing coming from the ‘no’ campaign, and splattering across our Facebook feeds right now. This sort of legally sanctioned vilification has got to stop in Australia, and the only way to stop it is to fix our unfair laws.
Perceptions are important.
People my age – gen X’ers – grew up in an extremely homophobic Australia. Homosexuality was still treated as a crime in many parts of this country until the 1990s.
I was a straight guy but I was beaten up by yobbos* when I was a teenager just because they thought I was gay.
(*For my non-Aussie readers; yobbo is an Australian slang word describing an aggressive lout or hoodlum.)
A certain small proportion of Australians have a complete contempt for gay people. They fear what they don’t understand, and they hate what they fear. That climate of fear and contempt is fuelled by the fact that our government, our legal system, has always said that gay people are not as good as the rest of us. It’s a vicious cycle that we inherited from our bigoted, racist, homophobic colonial forebears; society distrusts gay people, so we exclude them from legal protection, and because they are not treated equally by the law, the ignorant and violent amongst us feel emboldened to harass and intimidate them.
We should all care about marriage equality.
I care about this because I have gay friends and family who deserve to enjoy the same sense of belonging in this society that I do.
I care because in the future I may have gay children, and I never want to find myself in the position of having to explain to my gay son or daughter why they can’t get married if they want to.
I care about this issue because perception matters. Dignity matters. People are tribal, so if you are cast as an outsider, if you are deemed by your government, by your culture to be ‘less than’, that makes you a target.
I care about marriage equality because I want my gay friends and family to be able to walk down the street and feel that they are viewed by this society with the same degree of respect as anybody else.
We are not a nation of bigots anymore.
A lot has changed since I was a kid. The statistics are conclusive: the majority of Australians approve of gay marriage. We will have reform in this country and it can’t come soon enough.
The majority of us want our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, friends and co-workers to be treated equally. It’s time for our governments to listen to us and do what they should have done a long time ago: make marriage equality the law. We want a clear message sent to Australia and the world that people are people and that there is no room in this society for prejudice.
Gay people are not the outsiders in the Australia of 2017. The outsiders now are the bigots, the homophobes, the misogynists, the racists, the haters, the yobbos, the zealots, the trolls; these prejudiced people are the ‘other’ in today’s Australia.
We’ll still let the yobbos get married – because we don’t want them to be treated unfairly – but let’s not let them define Australia’s cultural identity anymore.