Senate Submission on Marriage Equality

Earlier this year, I made a lengthy submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. I – and 79,200 other Australians. The majority of these (approximately 46,400 submissions) were in favour of marriage equality, although we all know that our parliamentarians ultimately ignored them, and many other public policy arguments, as they voted to entrench discrimination against LGBTI Australians.

Unfortunately, given the volume of submissions received, the Committee chose to only publish 360 submissions in total, and mine was not one of the select few. As the year draws to a close I thought I might publish what I submitted to the Committee. On reflection, it does tend toward the ‘ranty’ at times, but I think this simply reflects the passion which I felt (and still feel) on the issue. Which also helps to explain the length. Fortunately, I will be able to reuse much of this submission as the NSW Parliament has its own inquiry into marriage equality in the first half of 2013.

Anyway, here is the full text of my submission:

Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Marriage Equality

Please note that this submission reflects my personal views only and does not reflect the views of any other person or organisation.

Introduction

I am writing to strongly support the urgent introduction of marriage equality, and to call for the federal parliament to remove one of the final major pieces of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.

It is somewhat frustrating to have to go through this process in 2012. To have to, once again, ask for the rights which should be granted as a matter of course, to demand action to remove a form of discrimination which should have been erased from the law books long ago. Of course, this frustration has been shared in the past by campaigners for gender and racial equality, who were forced to continue to protest and take action to gain equality, long after it should have been introduced. But just because this frustration is shared, doesn’t mean it is any less disheartening.

And it is also disheartening to have to engage in the same debate, to have to listen to the same so-called arguments against marriage equality, which are generally based on either prejudice (on a bad day) or ignorance (on a good one). The arguments for equality, which include the recognition of love, the introduction of genuine equality irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the symbolism of acceptance, are so compelling that the debate on this issue has already been won, amongst the family and friends of LGBTI Australians, in the wider community, and in the public sphere. The majority of Australians have come to recognise that marriage equality is something that should have already happened.

In fact, the only place where support for marriage equality seems to be in the minority is in the federal parliament. Well, later this year, our 226 elected representatives have the opportunity to finally redress this injustice. Our federal parliamentarians have the chance to treat love equally, to show that all Australians should be treated fairly no matter who they are attracted to, in short, to bring Australia into the 21st century.

But it is more than simply a chance to do what is right, it is an obligation. Our 226 elected representatives have an obligation to represent all of their constituents, not just the heterosexual ones. They have a responsibility to respect the rights of a minority, even when other groups demand that the law be used as a weapon to discriminate against that minority. Our elected representatives should be striving to eliminate homophobia, in the same way that our society continues to strive to overcome sexism or racism.

I hope that, later this year, our federal parliamentarians will seize this historic opportunity, and fulfil their obligations, to support the passage of marriage equality.

The major arguments against same-sex marriage

To begin the substantive part of this submission, I would like to rebut the main arguments which our opponents use to deny marriage equality, namely, that marriage is about religion, that marriage is about children, and that marriage is about tradition. Each of these is fundamentally wrong, as I will explain:

i)                    Marriage is a religious institution which cannot accommodate same-sex couples

There are so many things wrong with this statement it is difficult to know where to start. It is completely inaccurate and inappropriate in contemporary Australia. There is no religious test for people who wish to get married – anyone is welcome (christian, muslim, jew, hindu, buddhist, atheist and agnostic alike). And it goes without saying that, despite historical restrictions on religious ‘intermarriage’, people can also marry outside their religious affiliation, so it therefore cannot be considered a sacrament to a particular god. Marriage ceremonies also do not need to be religious – indeed, the vast majority of ceremonies are performed civilly (65% in 2008). Above all, a marriage in modern Australia is more likely to be simply a celebration of the love between two people, shared by their family and friends, than a solemn vow in front of their god or gods.

More fundamentally, the federal Marriage Act, which defines marriage and from which its legal rights and obligations flow, is a secular law, passed by a secular parliament, within an entirely secular system of government. Or to put it another way, because of the separation of church and state, Australia is not legally or formally a christian country, and its laws are not the exclusive plaything of christians. This is the only fair approach in a modern society – surely it is unjust to impose religious laws on those who are not ‘believers’, or deny citizens equal rights on the basis of their religion, or their lack of religion.

The most extreme example of the ‘gay marriage should be banned because of religion argument’ is a convoluted one, which goes something like: for some people, marriage is religious, and they would not accept same-sex marriage, so the granting of same-sex marriages to others would somehow be an infringement of their religious freedom. This has absolutely no weight, confusing as it does the freedom of religion (for religious people to conduct a wedding in the manner of their choosing) with a supposed freedom to impose their religious views on others (and thereby infringing on the equally important freedom from religion).

It also conveniently ignores the fact that several religious organisations would themselves like the right to perform same-sex marriages, so a same-sex marriage ban would infringe on their freedom of religion. Finally, I believe that religious differences can easily be accommodated by the current exemptions within the Marriage Act, which mean that no religious celebrant can be compelled to officiate over any ceremony which they do not support. Nothing in any current proposal for marriage equality would compel a church to allow same-sex ceremonies where they do not wish.

All in all, there is absolutely no religious reason why marriage should remain exclusively between men and women.

ii)                   Marriage is about children and therefore gay men and lesbians need not apply

The regularly-raised Simpsons-esque ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ argument also has no substance whatsoever. Apparently, marriage is about children and only those opposite-sex couples who intend to have children, and indeed who are capable of having children, should get married. I say apparently, because it seems a lot of married couples didn’t get that memo. Think of the people who get married beyond their natural reproductive age. Or who get married and have absolutely no intention of having children. Or who get married and are incapable of having children.

It also seems to have escaped the marriage vows ‘industry’. I can’t recall anyone getting married and promising to have the other person’s children. Instead, marriage vows, quite understandably, seem to focus on the love between two people. In fact, the book of common prayer vows state “to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.” There is no mention of children, and after all, wouldn’t it be included here if bearing children were so central to the rite of marriage?

The next variation of ‘won’t somebody think of the children’, claims that the best way to raise children is within heterosexual married families, as only opposite sex couples can reproduce naturally and only marriage provides a stable family environment. Once again, this proposition is full of holes. It ignores the reality that many gay and lesbian couples are having children, whether through surrogacy, artificial insemination or adoption. These rainbow families are real, and they are increasing. They are also good parents – independent studies by reputable psychologists have found that children raised by rainbow families are doing fine. In 2007, the Australian Psychological Society found that “parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents, despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.” If people genuinely cared about the children of these families, surely we should be arguing for the right of their parents to get married, if they so desire.

The ‘straight married families are best’ argument is also incredibly disrespectful to the diverse range of families in contemporary Australia. There are many wonderful married opposite sex parents, just as there are awful married opposite sex ones. That split applies equally to unmarried opposite couples too. There are amazing single parents, just as there are terrible ones. There are couples who stay together for the sake of their children, but probably shouldn’t. And there are all kinds of families who do the best they can for their child or children, no matter what the situation. In short, family structure does not guarantee anything, but the love of a good parent or parents counts for so much more.

So, that leaves just one of the most commonly used troika of arguments against equal marriage to rebut.

iii)                 Marriage is about tradition and it should remain ‘just the way it is’

This is the weakest argument of the three. Tradition as an argument only works where it meets one necessary pre-condition: that the tradition involved is an inherently good one. This is because tradition alone is never enough to justify the retention of a fundamentally flawed institution. Australia, and indeed the western world, has done away with many social policies over time that were once deemed traditional: slavery was traditional, terra nullius was a long-held custom, and yet both have been quite rightly swept away because they were abhorrent.

To argue against changing something, solely because of tradition, to unquestioningly state that what is now, is what automatically should be, forever more, is quite plainly a ridiculous position to adopt.

Many of the features of modern Australia would not exist if our predecessors had blindly worshipped at the altar of tradition – women would not have the right to vote, let alone be Prime Minister, and indigenous Australians would still be third class citizens. Many of Australia’s major social reforms were achievements because they removed outdated and inappropriate social traditions, and not in spite of this.

In terms of marriage, it is a well-respected tradition within the community (at least in concept, if not reflected in divorce rates), and one that arguably can perform a valuable social function in terms of organising social relationships. However, one must be careful to distinguish between the feature that gives it value – that marriage is the union of two people in a loving relationship – and other traditions which are associated with it, but not a core element. That is why the essential meaning of marriage has survived, despite the significant changes that have been made to the institution over time. For example, marriage is now seen as the union of two equals, rather than simply a man taking possession of a woman. As we have seen, marriage has gone from most being performed religiously, to most being civil. Marriage between races was once prohibited, now miscegenation laws are (thankfully) a distant memory. The introduction of divorce laws, in the first instance, and then later of no-fault divorce, have both been welcome improvements to the operation of marriage, but have not fundamentally altered its underlying meaning.

That is why, although marriage itself may be traditional, and the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has a long history, support for the former does not mean hanging desperately onto the latter. The exclusion of lesbians and gay men from marriage is not an inherently good tradition, worthy of continuation, especially when we have finally reached a point as a society where we understand that all citizens should be treated equally, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. At least a dozen other countries have shown that you can amend marriage laws, removing the homophobic exclusion of same-sex couples, and yet retain its core meaning (of recognising the love between two people). The tradition of marriage does not mean that it cannot or should not ever change. To the contrary, the tradition of social progress within Australia means that we must change the marriage law to be inclusive, to reflect the 21st century. That act will not weaken the institution of marriage, it will instead make it more relevant to a new generation of Australians.

Other arguments against same-sex marriage

There are a range of other arguments which are occasionally raised in ‘defending’ the institution of marriage from the homosexual invaders. They range from the ridiculous, to what are essentially distractions, to the downright homophobic, so I will only touch on them rather than delve into too much detail.

i)                    Same-sex marriage will devalue the marriages of opposite sex couples who are already married.

This argument goes something like: marriage has a particular meaning for some people, which appears to derive value from excluding same-sex couples, and so they will feel their relationship is lessened or cheapened if same-sex couples have access to it. It is hard to engage with people who hold this view. If your marriage relies on other people being discriminated against for it to survive, then you need to focus on your relationship more and what other people do less. After all, what will it matter if Sue and Sandra down the road get married? And where do you have room in your heart for the love of your spouse, when it is already full of intolerance for people who are different to you? Your marriage will not change if my fiancé and I get married. If you want to prefer to think of marriage as being between a man and a woman, then you are free to do so in the comfort of your own relationship. But don’t deny other people their rights because of your insecurity.

The apotheosis of this argument was recently put forward, in its most ridiculous form, by Frank Brennan. He stated that “[t]he Commonwealth Parliament should not legislate to change the paradigm of marriage unless and until the majority of persons living that paradigm seek a change.” This is a novel point of view. I would love to know whether this means women should have waited for the majority of men to eventually figure out that the sexes were equal before they demanded change, or for indigenous people to be satisfied with their second-class status while white folk decided whether they were good enough or not. All citizens have the right to hold an opinion about a law, and not just those people who currently have access to a particular institution. To say otherwise denies the democratic process, and the agency of people who are discriminated against to advocate for reform.

ii)                   There will be unintended, unspecified consequences of allowing equal marriage

This argument is always vague, because its proponents can never spell out what any of these consequences might be. Because they are scared of this particular change, they suspect that the sky might fall in. In practice, the only negative consequence of gay people getting married will be gay people eventually getting divorced – in just the same way as heterosexual couples already do. No one else would be affected.

iii)                 Other issues are more important that equal marriage

It is incredibly difficult to argue against this proposition because it is basically true. There are indeed many other more important issues in the world. But, this argument ignores the fact that as a society and as a parliament we are capable of concentrating on multiple issues at the same time. And it also underestimates how easy it would be to fix this particular problem – all it would take is one bill, amending the Marriage Act and instantly, equality achieved. It is difficult to say that about many other social issues (and, in a best case scenario, could be done by the middle of the year). It is incorrect to say same-sex marriage is a distraction if it is one so readily resolved.

iv)                 The slippery slope argument

This argument starts our descent into the territory of outright homophobia. It was the one raised recently by fundamentalist christians in the Great Hall of Parliament House, when they hysterically asserted that equal marriage for LGBTI citizens will lead to men marrying children or humans marrying animals (or even inanimate objects). Not only does it raise the utterly grotesque and offensive stereotype of ‘gay men as paedophile’ (when we know that most child sexual abuse happens within the heterosexual family unit), it also completely devalues the institution of marriage itself, as the union of two equals, based on love and consent. Those conditions cannot exist in the ridiculous examples listed. The people involved in making such arguments should be laughed at when they spout such nonsense.

v)                  Equal marriage will ‘promote’ homosexuality

This argument is often followed by ‘and will lead to homosexuality being taught in schools’. Again, this argument is fundamentally based on homophobia. Apparently, if we treat lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people as equal citizens, then this will result in other, ‘normal’ people catching one of these infectious letters of the alphabet, much like catching the flu. Leaving aside the fact that being any one of these things is a perfectly natural thing (in the same way that being heterosexual is natural), it also does not reflect the reality of my experience, or anyone else I know from the LGBTI community. Saying that being gay is normal, or teaching kids that society is incredibly diverse and includes people with different sexual orientations and genders, will not mean people ‘catch’ gay or transgender. But it might just mean that a kid who is questioning his or her sexuality or gender identity will find acceptance rather than bullying, and might ultimately be spared from becoming one of the sad statistics in our epidemic of sexuality-related youth suicide.

vi)                 Gay people are not equal and do not deserve equal rights

In one sense, the people who make this argument should be respected for at least being honest, and not trying to dress their homophobia up as defending religion, children or tradition. On the other hand, if you are alive in 2012 and genuinely believe that you deserve more rights than me because you are attracted to someone of the opposite sex and I am attracted to someone of the same sex, then I feel sorry for you – the modern world must be a truly scary place to live in when you hold those bigoted views. But guess what, it is only going to get worse for you from here on – society will keep on marching towards equality, and your views will look worse and worse as time goes by.

In summary, we have seen that there are no strong arguments against the recognition of equal marriage – in fact, there are no substantive arguments at all. And even more importantly, the introduction of equality will cause no harm whatsoever. The churches will not be harmed because they will be free to not celebrate same-sex weddings. It will not make any difference to couples who are already married, or opposite-sex couples who plan to get married (well, other than some more competition for wedding venues). It will not harm children to know that there are gay people in the world – indeed, it will help some as they themselves will be same-sex attracted and it may make their coming out much easier.

The only groups who claim they will be ‘harmed’ are bigots and homophobes, as if the granting of legal rights to others compromises their own rights. This is of course not true – they are free to continue to disagree with same-sex marriage, but they should not be free to impose their prejudice on others, nor abuse the legal system in order to do so.

Arguments in favour of same sex marriage

Of course, logically, the absence of a negative does not mean a positive. While there is no reason to oppose same-sex marriage, there needs to be a positive reason for the parliament to adopt a legislative change. From my perspective, there are four main reasons: love, equality, symbolism and health benefits.

i)                    Recognition of love

The main argument for the recognition of same-sex marriage is the same reason why we have marriage at all – to celebrate the love between two people. I have attended the weddings of my sister, of my brother, of other relatives and of friends. Each ceremony has been wonderful (well, with the exception of the mandatory ‘Ruddock clause’, where the current definition of opposite sex marriage is read out, presumably to rub in the noses of gays and lesbians in attendance – this offensive piece of hateful propaganda is unnecessary in a ceremony which is essentially about love). Each ceremony also involves the warm embrace of the couple, both literally and figuratively, by their family and friends.

The love between gay couples is no different to the love between opposite sex couples, and deserves to be recognised in exactly the same way. On a more personal level, I see no reason why the love which I share with my wonderful fiancé Steve, should not be celebrated by my family and friends too. Or why we cannot stand in front of our 100 nearest and dearest and say ‘I do’. In fact, I am conscious of the fact that my parents have already reached their mid-60s. If marriage equality is lost this year, then we may have lost the opportunity for reform for 10 or 15 years.

I would be absolutely devastated if either one of my parents were not able to be here to celebrate my legal marriage simply because some people within the federal parliament now are hard of heart and mean of spirit, and want to perpetuate the ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples within our marriage law. I know that Steve feels exactly the same way – he would be gutted if either of his parents, or his grandma, were not alive when we finally had the legal right to get married in our own country. I do not understand the mentality of any parliamentarian who believes they have the right to deny that to us.

ii)                   Equality

The second argument in favour of same-sex marriage is an even simpler one. That is, people should not be treated differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex and transgender people all deserve the same human rights. We have reached the point in public debate when even most of the opponents of same-sex marriage (except the truly homophobic) concede that same-sex relationships deserve all the same ‘legal rights’ as opposite sex couples. They then go into complete logic meltdown when they try and justify why they actually mean ‘all the same legal rights – except marriage’ because there is no justification to restrict the fundamental principle of equality from applying to this right as well. If gay and straight are truly equal, then same-sex marriage is not only inevitable it is also essential.

iii)                 Symbolism

No-one should underestimate the strength of this argument. It is why the gay and lesbian community is arguing so passionately, and it is also why our homophobic opponents are so upset at the possibility. If as a society we say gay people can get married, then we are saying once and for all that ‘gay is okay’. Full stop. No exceptions. Our current level of acceptance of gay people is inherently qualified – you are okay but, you are equal except, you have most of the same rights, just not all. It has led to many LGBTI Australians, myself included, feeling permanently like second-class citizens. It is also one of the reasons why I believe the internet ‘It Gets Better’ project has been so powerful and so popular. Because our parliament refuses to tell young gay and lesbian people that they are full citizens, just as worthy as their straight counterparts, it has been up to private citizens to communicate that message to their younger counterparts. I can imagine a large and incredibly diverse range of the LGBTI community collectively shedding a tear when the federal parliament delivers equal marriage, a legislative equivalent of ‘It Gets Better’, to its citizens.

iv)                 Health benefits

I touched on this earlier, in responding to those who say same-sex marriage will promote homosexuality. I suspect they mean it will ‘convert’ people or make people ‘catch gay’ (which is patently ludicrous). But, if they mean it in the sense it will encourage people who are actually lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex to accept themselves and live a happier life, then I say “Damn right!”

As most people would know, LGBTI youth are far more likely to suffer from depression, to attempt suicide or most tragically to take their own life. And as most people would know, many of these mental health problems stem from their lack of acceptance by friends, family and society at large. Being denied full equality is surely a part of this. As eloquently put by psychologist Paul Martin in the GetUp! ad on 19 November, “until we end institutionalised discrimination, same-sex attracted young people in particular will continue to suffer as a result of the message [of inequality] we are sending them”.

From personal experience, I know the pain of living in an environment which does not accept you. Growing up gay on a farm outside a small town in Queensland, with very conservative parents, and then attending a religious boarding school which made no secret of its disdain for homosexuals, I almost became one of the statistics – it is only through a combination of luck and strong will that I did not take my own life, where so many others have and sadly continue to do so. So I know that, while it would not change the world completely, introducing same-sex marriage would make things just that little bit brighter for young gays and lesbians around the country. And that can only be a positive thing.

You will note that I have excluded some of the other arguments which are commonly employed by some people. For example, I do not have a lot of time for the argument that introducing same-sex marriage will lead to an economic bonanza (that a pink wave of weddings will lead to a boom in related industries) because I think that this trivialises what is fundamentally a question of human rights.

I also do not include the growing acceptance of gay marriage, as evidenced through opinion polls, as a stand-alone justification for its introduction. I think the arguments for the introduction of same-sex marriage described above are so powerful, and the arguments against so weak, that it should be introduced irrespective of its level of community support, whether that be 20, 50 or even 80%. Human rights are human rights, and remain rights even if there is popular opposition to them.

So, we have seen that there are no substantive arguments against equal marriage, and strong arguments for its urgent introduction. Which means that the result should be straight-forward, shouldn’t it?

Civil unions are not the answer and would only be a distraction

I am growing concerned that, later this year, some parliamentarians may try and take the focus away from genuine marriage equality, and instead aim for ‘civil unions’. This worry derives from the fact that civil unions are a red herring which can easily distract otherwise sensible people from the goal of full equality. Superficially, the argument that some people have concerns about the term marriage, so why don’t we give same-sex relationships the same legal rights but call it something else (ie civil unions), is attractive. Everyone wins, right?

Wrong. Civil unions are a compromise that would satisfy no-one. Setting up an entirely new system of relationship recognition for LGBTI Australians would not end discrimination, instead it would perpetuate and entrench it. If we are trying to overcome the treatment of people as second-class citizens we would not give them a second-class relationship category. The principle of ‘separate but equal’ has been comprehensively debunked from Brown v Board of Education of Topeka 1954 onwards. Separate but equal can never be equal.

Civil unions would also only ever be a half-way house. Even in countries which have introduced civil unions as an attempted compromise, the movement for full marriage equality continues – and will likely ultimately succeed. Therefore, the introduction of civil unions here should not be countenanced, whether by people who see it is a useful stepping stone or others who see it as a useful tool to suppress or delay equality. I cannot put it any more bluntly than this – in 2012 nothing short of full equality will do. Other groups do not accept separate but equal status, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians will not accept second-class status either.

Conclusion

So, as has become clear through-out this submission, there are no strong public policy arguments against equal marriage, and several strong arguments in favour. No-one would be harmed by its introduction, and there are no other valid options except for full equality. So now is the time for our 226 elected representatives to live up to their collective responsibility and just get it done already.

One of the best aspects of this issue is just how easy it is to redress. It would take just one Act of parliament to achieve. There would be no cost involved to the government, and none to the citizen – with the exception of those couples who could then chose to enter into a marriage (a choice which should be theirs alone and not the choice of their parliamentarians to make on their behalf). There are very few times when parliament can do such a purely positive thing, to immeasurably increase the human happiness of their constituents, without any negative or cost. I implore you to take advantage of this opportunity now and not let it wait another 10 or 15 years.

I ask you that, because, on a personal level, I am engaged to a wonderful man and would dearly love to be able to get married in my own country, and to have as many of my family and friends to be there as possible. I met my fiancé Steve 2 weeks after my 30th birthday. I had begun to doubt that I might ever meet the one, and then suddenly there he was, right in front of me. He is the most wonderful partner I could ever imagine, and I love him with all my heart. We have been together for almost four amazing years, through thick and thin, and I hope that other couples, same-sex and opposite sex, have relationships as good as ours.

Steve and I got engaged over two years ago. At some point in the next year or two, we will have our wedding. Obviously, we are both looking forward to the celebration that entails. We have delayed naming the date in the hope that we might be able to do so in Australia, depending on what happens in federal parliament later this year. If marriage equality is passed, then we will be able to have around 100 of our nearest and dearest present with us for our special day.

But, in the event the legislation fails, then we do not see any way that it will be passed in the next five years (at least – and more likely 10). We would obviously not wait for the next Bill, and be engaged for potentially close to a decade, if not longer, but would be forced instead to go overseas and get married in a different country. While some people may think that this is romantic or an adventure, I think that it is profoundly disappointing.

It would mean that many of our friends, and at least some of our family members, will not be able to be there with us (whether that be because they have small children, it costs too much, they cannot take time off work, it is too far etc). Because Steve and I are a ‘normal’ engaged couple – in the sense that we both plan on only having one wedding in our lifetimes – this means that parliamentarians who vote no on marriage equality this year are effectively taking those people away from our ceremony, limiting the amount of people who can be there for our wedding day. I am acutely aware that those lost memories will never, ever be given back.

I hope that this is something which parliamentarians who are considering voting no think about before they cast their vote later this year. In fact, I would welcome the opportunity to be able to discuss the issue of marriage equality, face to face, because I am confident in the power of the arguments for, and in the weakness of the arguments against. However, given I will likely not be able to speak directly with those parliamentarians before the Bill, I would like to conclude my submission with a personal message, and a series of questions, just to them.

A message to the parliamentarians considering voting against marriage equality

To those MPs and Senators who are considering voting against legislation which would introduce marriage equality, I would like to make the following points:

  • Of all the bills which you will vote on in your entire parliamentary career, there will always be a group of people in the community who will judge you according to this particular vote, and whether you stood up for equality and love, or for discrimination and prejudice.
  • If you do not appreciate the characterisation of the issue in that way, then I am sorry, but you are going to have to get used to it. This vote is that simple – either you vote for equality or against, either you believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians are first-class citizens, or you think they are inherently second-class.
  • Further, if you vote no on marriage equality, then please do not ever again say that you stand up for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians, or believe that they deserve equal rights. If you do so, we will rightly point out your hypocrisy.
  • Down the track, if your views change and you come to regret your vote, then please do not say that you did not understand what you were doing at the time – the arguments have all been made, and you must be aware by now of the consequences of your actions.

And finally, I would like to leave you with the following questions to contemplate before you vote no:

  1. Have you told all of your gay and lesbian colleagues, staff, friends and family members that you think they are second-class citizens and deserve less legal rights than you?
  2. Have you considered how you are likely to reflect upon this vote in 20 years’ time – will you be proud of your actions in parliament, or will you try and disown them?
  3. Are you comfortable being remembered as someone who stood against the tide of progress, in the same way that we now consider someone who supported apartheid, or who supports discrimination against women or indigenous people?
  4. Will party allegiance or political considerations be enough to make you feel better for having voted against the human rights of your fellow citizens?
  5. Given we all know that marriage equality will eventually be achieved, at some point in the next two decades, what will voting against it this year actually achieve, other than simply delaying the inevitable?
  6. What would you say to an elderly lesbian, whose partner dies between now and when equal marriage is ultimately legalised, but who was never able to legally marry the person they love, at least in part because of your actions?
  7. How would you explain your vote to a mother or father, who simply wants to celebrate their gay son’s wedding, in exactly the same way they have celebrated the wedding of their heterosexual son and/or daughter?
  8. What message do you want to send to a same-sex attracted youth , growing up in a country town and having trouble accepting their sexuality in a society which does not value them as much as their straight peers?
  9. How will you feel, waking up the day after the vote, knowing that your actions have helped to break gay and lesbian hearts rights across the country?
  10. Finally, and most importantly, if you had a gay child or grandchild (or your best friend had a gay child or grandchild) could you honestly explain to them why you thought you were better than them, and that you deserved to have a legal right that they did not, just because you were straight and they were not?

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