On the 16 September 2015 the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee reported on an inquiry into “The matter of a popular vote, in the form of a plebiscite or referendum, on the matter of marriage in Australia”. The committee took submissions from the public and received 77 submissions that complied with the terms of reference. The Committee issued one recommendation:
“…that a bill to amend the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to allow for the marriage between two people regardless of their sex is introduced into the Parliament as a matter of urgency, with all parliamentarians being allowed a conscience vote.”
This recommendation was released two days after the deposal of former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Given Abbott’s demonstrated contempt for Senate committee recommendations in the past, it was sure to be ignored had he remained leader. However there was hope that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, being previously a vocal supporter of a conscience vote for marriage equality, would act on the recommendation and put the matter to an end.
It seems like Turnbull is determined to go down the same path as Abbott. The Coalition is still committed to a plebiscite, wasting millions of dollars in the process, and running the real risk of igniting anti-gay sentiment in the community.
It is disappointing but not surprising the lengths the Coalition Government is going to, to ensure that same-sex couples and families continue to be discriminated against. It seems absurd that a Senate inquiry was required to begin with, to decide on something as basic as ensuring equal rights for all Australians.
It is also disappointing that despite the findings of an unnecessary Senate References Committee, a plebiscite is still being pursued for marriage equality. It seems absurd that an expensive opinion poll, involving the entire voting population of Australia is required to determine whether a consenting, adult couple may have the same rights as every other couple in their own personal business – that of whether or not they may marry, simply because of the gender of their partner.
It also seems absurd that Constitutional changes are still being considered. The High Court has already determined that ‘marriage’ may include same sex marriage. The only possible desired result is to institutionally embed discrimination into the governing document of our nation.
People do not choose to be gay, no more than they choose to be left handed. Some of the loud opponents of equality state that the nation should not change the definition of marriage based on a minority. This is a particularly cruel way to view the debate and demonstrates a clear intention to maintain discrimination and inequality based on a narrow, unfair definition of what is ‘normal’.
Left handed people are a minority. At one point in time, left handed people were forced in school to write with their right hand.
Imagine for the moment if the parliament passed laws to ban left handed people from driving cars, working in certain industries or from adopting children? Imagine if the laws extended to red heads?
It would be ridiculously absurd. There would be righteous outrage. It is equally absurd that adult Australian couples cannot marry simply because they are attracted to the same sex.
Society – or at least most of society – has moved on from the wife being the possession of the husband. The basis of marriage is no longer about property rights or biological reproduction – if it ever was. Society has also moved on from writing with ink and feather quill, thus removing the only possible legitimate reason for discouraging the left handed among the population. Yet while left handed people are now largely free from prejudice (left handed scissors are a rarity), free from attempts to change their biology and free from personal slurs, gay people suffer some of the highest rates of discrimination, have been subjected to bizarre ‘conversion therapy’ in an attempt to ‘un-gay’ them, and are over-represented in suicide.
Legalising same sex marriage will not have the slightest impact on the value of heterosexual relationships, in the same way as a child will not be the slightest bit affected by sitting next to a left handed student in school. The arguments against same sex marriage are ideologically driven – there is simply no valid reason why same sex couples should not have the right to marry.
There should be no need for public endorsement of ‘marriage equality’ for it to be legalised; just as no public opinion poll was considered necessary for schools to stop caning students who wrote with their left hand – and no plebiscite considered necessary for former Prime Minister, John Howard to change the definition of ‘marriage’ in 2004 to expressly exclude same-sex couples. The government should stop pandering to the bigots and to ideologically driven prejudice.
Gay people are considered equal in every other area of society. The government considers gay people equal enough to pay taxes. Gay people have to pay exactly the same for parking and public transport as every other person. Gay people have to pay the same for water, electricity and other household amenities. Council’s consider gay people equal enough to pay rates on property at the same value as straight people.
Are gay people only equal when the governing bodies can make money from them?
Gay people are obliged to obey every Australian law yet are not afforded equality at law. There are no gay exemptions from paying income tax, no gay exemptions for obeying traffic regulations, no gay exemptions from exercising a duty of care to other people, and no gay exemptions from compulsory voting.
On the 23 September 2015 the Western Australian Government joined a long list of critics of the Federal Government, and questioned the need for a plebiscite, recommending instead that a conscience vote in parliament be supported. This is the simplest, easiest and most cost effective path to marriage equality and acceptance for all couples and families, no matter their sexual orientation.
It is unacceptable in 2015 that all adult Australians, no matter their sexual orientation, are not afforded the same rights at law, yet they are expected to meet all legal obligations. The question for every adult Australian in a loving committed relationship should be “Will you marry me?” not “Can you marry me?”