SOMETIME this week, we will all start to receive our postal survey forms, asking if we think the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.
It is a very simple question about a fair go for everyone, and is asking each of us only to consider whether we think it is time Australia stopped discriminating against homosexual people by denying them the ability to marry under the law of the land. Just as heterosexual couples do, every day of the week.
Those who are arguing the No case are now claiming the debate we are having is about changing the nature of marriage, rather than simply extending it to the people who are currently excluded. The reality is the nature of marriage has evolved over the course of hundreds of years, most recently in Australia in 1975 with the introduction of no-fault divorce. Would the No campaigners now have us undo that reform?
And since we are talking only about extending marriage to two adults who choose to be publicly, legally bound to each other for life in a loving, monogamous, intimate relationship which also unites their existing families as a community, how does that differ from heterosexual marriage?
Plainly, it doesn’t, but it is still a lesser relationship to those who hold marriage up as an exclusive club that only opposite-sex couples can access.
In Australia today family units are the basis of family, and they come in all shapes and sizes: de facto families, single-parent families, blended second-marriage families, and yes, families that are built around same-sex couples. All of them are bound together by love, commitment and care-giving to both younger and older generations. The differentiation is that only the same-sex couples in those family units cannot marry under the law.
The No campaigners are also now ramping up their assertions that the supporters of reform have been “responsible for bullying and hate speech.” Yet it is those very same No advocates who have wilfully engineered the community into the plebiscite process that has facilitated the divisive debate.
And as someone on the Yes side who respects and acknowledges the No campaign daily and carefully refrains from pointing the finger at those who question our capacity to parent and right to express our view, or worse the very nature of our existence, it is sobering to see how quickly the opponents of change accuse us of bad behaviour, while feigning innocence from their own side.
But it’s the spurious claims from the No campaign about the impacts on religious freedoms, “gender fluidity” and our children’s education that are most obviously designed to muddy the waters in this discussion.
The freedom of religious ministers and practitioners to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages was comprehensively addressed in Senator Dean Smith’s proposed private member’s bill, and can readily be ensured by the government in any final legislation.
Furthermore changes in the law, such as those which allowed divorce more than 40 years ago, have not impacted the right or capacity of religious institutions to teach their longstanding beliefs about the nature of marriage. Nor will changes to the Marriage Act have any impact on the influence of parents over what is taught to their children in schools. And it should be obvious that allowing same-sex marriage will not change the gender of a single person in Australia.
As for the bakers and florists who might choose not to serve a homosexual couple who would like them to cater for a wedding, their actions would already be illegal under existing state anti-discrimination laws, which are completely unaffected by changes to federal marriage legislation.
So in actuality, it is the No side that is seeking to hoodwink voters. It is the No advocates that purport to be victims, while being the only ones who are seeking to deny their fellow Australians the basic rights they themselves enjoy.