Local News

Marriage equality: why continuing to live in the dark ages is an embarrassment to our great nation

So much bickering, so little action...

By Lorna Gray
Last week, one of Australia’s most senior politicians said something that made my heart leap (an anomaly, I’m sure you’ll agree). I woke up to the glorious dulcet tones of Christopher Pyne on my radio (again, something I didn’t expect to be typing!), as he boldly proclaimed, via leaked audio, that the Turnbull government was working on making marriage equality a reality in Australia.
“We are working on it. We’re going to get it and it might be sooner than everyone thinks. We’re working on that outcome,” declared an obviously tipsy (and therefore infinitely more relatable) Christopher Pyne to raucous applause.
It’s finally happening, I dared to dream, a newfound spring in my step as I headed to work. Where it all began to unravel pretty darn quickly.
Because, of course, it was short-lived. Instead of opening up the real possibility of the thus-far elusive ‘Marriage Equality Bill’, the Liberal Party basically ate itself from within as the sort of bickering you’d expect from a Real Housewives episode ensued.
OJP1zZAAqkUcU.gifPowered by GIPHY
^ Rare footage of Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott
The focus was pretty much all on “Liberal party infighting”, pitting the conservative faction against the moderate faction, instead of concentrating on the matter in hand – equal marriage in Australia.
Pyne’s comments particularly incensed this guy:
B9M3G2uGeZFle.gifPowered by GIPHY
Tony Abbott cried foul play, saying any change to the Liberal’s policy would be a “breach” of trust.
“To dump the plebiscite, to do anything without a plebiscite, would be a breach of faith with the people,” the former-PM said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed Labor for the delay, believing his plebiscite to be the solution to achieving marriage equality (more on this later).
“We took a very straightforward policy to the election, which was there would be a vote on gay marriage in the parliament after the Australian people had voted to support it in a plebiscite,” he said.
“I believe if a plebiscite had been held it would have been carried but the reason the plebiscite has not been hold is because Bill Shorten blocked it.”
Anyways, the comments succeeded in causing SUCH a media furore – including calls for his resignation - that Pyneo (can I call him Pyneo?) was forced to issue a public apology with his tail well and truly between his legs, the poor lamb.
But this latest instalment in the long-running saga of ‘Why the heck can’t we follow suit with the rest of the world?’ was particularly frustrating.
We’re part of a small club now, Australia. Along with our equally slow-off-the-mark chums Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic. But the list of countries where same-sex marriage is not legal is getting smaller each year.
Last week, Germany made the leap , despite the fact chancellor Angela Merkel is the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and said she had a “hard time” with same-sex marriage.
But, in a beautiful display of German efficiency, Merkel allowed a conscience vote and what do you know? Germany legalised same-sex marriage within a week.
What most of the countries that have passed gay marriage have in common is that the majority did this through parliamentary votes and court rulings, no expensive plebiscite in sight.
Which, by the way, could cost the Australian economy more than half a billion dollars. How's about we pump it into helping charities support LGBTQI people driven to depression by feeling excluded within everyday society? LGBTQI teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts. Or anti-bullying programs for schools and educating teens in acceptance? Or even pumping it into the wedding industry itself would be a better use of public money than this polarising idea. Side note: Not every gay person wants to get married - but they at least want the option!
Here's why I agree with the Opposition that a plebiscite would be a horrible move:
You’re basically telling gay people that their getting married could be an issue. That they're different. That they're not entitled to the same legal framework as other members of society.
“The idea of young people, perhaps yet to come out, seeing the legitimacy of their identity debated on the national stage, that is not an ideal which we should inflict on any citizen when we have a better path,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said in September last year.
“Let me be as blunt as possible: a No campaign would be an emotional torment for gay teenagers and if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite, then that is one too many. Mr Speaker, achieving marriage equality should be an occasion for joy, a unifying moment of celebration.”
History won’t be kind to us if we keep dragging our heels on the inevitable. This is pollies being out of touch with public opinion at a catastrophic level.
I’m going to leave you with a personally poignant moment from this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations in Sydney.
My friend, who was marching in the parade, was called back by a father with his little girl on his shoulders. He made his way over to the spectators, as the dad explained his little girl wanted to wish him a happy Mardi Gras, which she did, by giving him a high-five.
He was so touched by this display of sheer acceptance – from the dad and the little girl - but didn’t that one tiny gesture just encapsulate what the whole event was about? Love IS love, after all.
Let’s lobby this message of acceptance and love, and get it done.
It's been a long time coming...