In postboxes across Australia, a question is being posed to the public “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. A question posed to 16 million Australians on the electoral rolls – But this isn’t a vote, it isn’t a referendum nor is it a plebiscite.
It’s a postal survey.A non-compulsory postal survey run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
That’s a strange thing for Australians because we are so used to compulsory voting at a polling place (usually a local school or community hall) on a weekend for people we barely hear from. From local and state to federal it is lawful to be on the electoral roll and compulsory to vote on Election Day – even if you’re overseas or just feeling lazy. Minimum reasons are accepted, usually serious illness, disability or age and mental capacity. This isn’t much of a problem since most votes take place on a Saturday and the temptation of a Democracy Sausage is usually enough to make the effort to take part in our democratic process.
But again this is no normal vote, it’s a postal survey. Usually Australians deal with postal surveys and the ABS as part of the National Census – the most recent becoming famous for being the first online for Australia, crashing almost immediately when IBM servers had a false positive reading for a non-existing system breach.
That and because our bloody internet is slow as.
The most peculiar thing however is that the postal survey itself doesn’t need to happen. In Australia, marriage isn’t part of the constitution – we don’t need a referendum or national vote like in Ireland which required it. This is a matter that could be dealt within parliament, much like New Zealand, by the members representing Australia’s 150 electorates (one being the Head of Government the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull); moving on to 76 Senators representing Australia’s 6 states and 2 territories; finally to be signed off by the Governor-General, the representative of the head of state, Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II – Queen of Australia.
This could be all done and dusted in under a fortnight. Kind of like it did in 2003.
The then Prime Minister John Howard changed the Marriage Act from “two people” to “one man and one woman”. All done without public voting – without surveys – in a matter of two sitting weeks. This was done specifically to block same sex marriage. Fourteen years later the same man is backing the No vote and also advocating for people to have a say in the matter.
The irony was not lost on me.
So if it can be done in Parliament for the same price as usual parliamentary movements, why are we paying $122 million (AUD) for this? Well that part depends on who you ask.
Ask the centre-right wing Liberal-National Coalition government and they will tell you it’s because it was an election promise that this would go to a plebiscite for Australians to “have a say on the definition of marriage”.
Ask the Government opposition, the centre-left Australian Labor Party, and they’ll say the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is indebt to the far right wing of his party after rolling former Prime Minister Tony Abbott for leadership of the Liberal Party (and thus becoming Prime Minister of the country).
Ask the public and it varies from “the government is too spineless to hold a parliamentary vote” to “we should have a say on the definition of marriage” to “I really don’t care”.
Basically it’s an absolute carnival.
It gets more complicated with the support when you look further. The Greens Party and Labor are both unified with full support on same-sex marriage – the Greens actually have a very long history on the matter – while the Liberal/National Party Coalition (LNP) is divided with some supporting SSM and some opposed. The LNP however are somewhat united that the question should be posed to the public with a handful threatening to cross the floor if the matter isn’t dealt with soon enough.
To make things more confusing the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have both actively stated they will be voting yes to the change in law. So we know the Government is divided and the Opposition is united on the issue. What about the rest of the country?
The public polls have varying results. The last major poll was by the ABC Vote Compass which had over a million respondents and showed those in favour at around 70%. There are other polls being posted which skew between 57-70% for those in favour from the usual suspects – Essential, Newspoll, Galaxy, ect.
Interestingly the same polls are showing that only 66% have decided they will participate regardless if they are voting Yes or No. So the future of the Marriage Act falls in the hands of at least 10.5 million Australians despite the 16 million eligible to vote.
– Essential Poll (Australia), September 2017
Now let me tell you why I voted Yes.
Before even mentioning the benefits that come with holding a Marriage Certificate – kinship, financial benefits and entitlements – let’s just look at it at the absolute basic level.
Marriage in modern times is an act of love. It’s about declaring to the world “This one here? He/She goes alright. I’d be chuffed to grow old with this person”. This is actually a relatively new concept – marrying for love – but that arguably is the main intention.
Extraordinary though is the fact two consenting male and female Australian adults who met 5 minutes ago can go into the Ministry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, grab a Marriage Certificate and have the advantage of many assumptions given to them by banks, welfare and other public services.Just like that.
On the flip side two consenting adults of the same sex who actually love each other can’t. Instead they have to go through hoops and hurdles to prove they are a legitimate couple in a very long and enduring process. Imagine being asked to bring receipts to prove your love? Ridiculous? You’re right.
That’s simply unfair.
They have bonded together, they have grown together, they have intwined their lives together. But they can’t overpay for a cake, and celebrate with friends and family because of this assumption by opponents to change; that marriage is somehow this ancient concept that has never changed ever.
Which is untrue, the Marriage Act has actually changed 22 times since the mid-1960’s just in this country alone.
Right now the main argument against same-sex marriage doesn’t have anything to do with marriage at all. In some parts of Australia there’s been an optional new school program called Safe Schools – it’s an anti-bullying program designed to teach respect and dignity for LGBTQIA+ students.
Apparently the content of the program has been a big concern for hard Christian groups, locals will know about the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) and Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) backed commercial where “real regular Australian mums” (actually very active members of the ACL) claims their child was told by the school that boys could wear a dress to school if they felt like it. There was no proof of this statement other than the recount of a Year 7 kid… the principal of the school denied such a thing was said and no teacher has backed up the parents story.Another “real mum” says their son was forced into role playing a same sex relationship. Again, this is a distortion of facts – the content of the program at the time which has since been altered showed only evidence of roleplaying from the point of empathy and how one can express it respectfully. The details available show no instance where kids have to pretend to be gay and in a relationship with another same sex person.
A school curriculum debate is all the “No” campaign seems to talk about… that and the “right for all children to have access to their biological mum and dad”. So even if the biological parents are not fit for parenting they apparently go better than loving foster parents or adoptive parents – heterosexual or homosexual.
This was one of the claims sourced from a now completely debunked study which was also the source for the recent anti-gay posters plastered in a Melbourne street.
Does this seem stupid? Does a school curriculum content discussion and hypotheticals on adoption laws (same sex couples can actually adopt kids in most States and Territories already) seem to be completely off topic. It seems like that because it’s exactly what this has become. Yelling at shadows.
I’ve yet to hear a sound and reasonable argument for LGBTQIA+ citizens to be denied the right to marry like other consenting adults in heterosexual relationships. It’s all been waffle about kids and biology… never a word about love.This whole postal survey, which I stress could of been done in 8 sitting days and not cost us $122 Million, is now two months in and still going on. All surveys have been sent out and many returned but we won’t have a final decision for some time.
I feel awful for my friends and family who have to have this shoved in their faces – to hear nonsensical garbage about how their rights are valued less than others who are too cowardly to embrace that Australia is made up of more walks of life than you might imagine.
I hate the fact that peoples love is under a microscope by people that don’t even know them, people they won’t ever meet. A man and a woman getting married next door will affect you as much as a man and a man or woman and a woman will affect you from across the state. Do you even know your neighbours? Do you know their story?
And how about the actual children affected by this – not the hypothetical lies of the C4M – but the actual teens who are coming to terms with their identity, children of loving gay parents who had to ask what that “Vote No” in the sky was about a few weekends ago, people being beaten up over wanting equality or their property damaged with swastikas. Even our public transport isn’t safe from the slurs of homophobic supporters.
This debate isn’t about kids, it’s not about school curriculum, it’s not about religious freedom, it’s not even about parenting. It’s about two consenting adults being able to marry regardless of the gender they are.
Sounds simple? It is.The “No” side will remain adamant that it is indeed about the welfare of the kids and that they somehow will be healthier with a Mum and a Dad no matter the circumstances. A real slap in the face not only to gay couples but to the single parents, dedicated foster carers, widows and survivors of domestic violence.
Kids need care and love. That’s all. Biology is not key to devotion, it’s something greater.
The “No” side will remain adamant that legalising Same Sex marriage will lead to “radical Sex education”.
By “radical” they mean gay.
There’s a discussion that homosexuality will be added in to sexual education – something taught to students in Year 5 and 6 just before they head into High School.
Um… okay? Is that even a big deal?
Sex Education is a vital part of growing up so why not make sure everyone is properly educated? The “No” side reckons it’s because we are teaching homosexuality to children thus “teaching them to be gay”.
Sorry, but that’s just nuts… by Year 5 and 6 you don’t have to be “taught” if you like boys or girls. By this stage, notes are already being passed in class, “Tina has a crush on you!” Is already being revealed despite pinky promises being made to keep it a secret, people have a decent idea how they feel. This argument of course means nothing to someone who thinks sexuality is a choice so why I bother to explain this very simple concept I question myself even now.
High School bound students have a decent idea of who they are digging and even if they don’t (some people discover themselves much later – and that’s okay) you can’t teach someone that spark you feel when you meet someone you start crushing on. You can’t teach someone how to feel when an explosion of chemistry occurs in the mind and while you think you are about to be smooth you end up blaming like a moron. You’re born with an orientation and you discover it through life. It’s natural.
Either way teaching them safe sexual practices isn’t hurting them – we already know the stats of proper education with emphasis on contraception compared to the “traditional” abstinence view and why not make everyone aware of the variety of sexuality that does exist… ignorance fuels hate, why not stop that by having an actual education aspect.
All of that however is still irrelevant to the question being posed by the ABS. Want to dictate the school curriculum? Contact the Board of Studies (BoS), don’t deny a couple getting married because you’re too uncomfortable to talk about reality with your kid.
From the beginning Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this should be a ‘respectful debate’. How is that possible when the question is “do we give our fellow Australian’s equal rights?” – the whole process is insulting and just outlines the cowardice of government leadership. We don’t go to the public when we decide to declare war, nor do we go to the public when taxes are raised or refugees are kept in illegal detention camps. Turnbull says it’s about keeping election promises while he continues a track record of breaking them for other areas.
Let’s be real, religion is not threatened by this. They aren’t even obliged to perform ceremonies and considering that 70% of Australian Marriage are non-religious I doubt this will even be an issue. They’ll still be free to express their view of marriage in the confines of their sacred places.
Having said this not all religious institutions are against the change of law. The Anglican Church for instance, one of Australia’s largest churches, is in favour of the change. The loudest noise for “No” appears to be from the archdiocese leaderships of the Roman Catholic diocese and fundamentalist fringe groups.But in the public space we can’t allow people to be denied rights because of religious beliefs of one sect. We are secular by law to ensure religious freedom for everyone. Marriage in this country is controlled by law. It’s not hard to see the conflict of interest when religious lobby try to dictate the law. In 2013 the High Court ruled that the definition of Marriage in law includes same-sex couples. It’s about time our legislation reflected that decision of our countries highest word on the constitution.
To my friend and family of the LGBT+ community I stand with you and wish this campaign on your rights ends as soon as possible with a result that reflects an Australia that embraces you rather than treats you as second class citizens. You are the doctors, nurses, teachers, police, fire fighters, soldiers, cleaners, mechanics, artists, tradies and public servants that put in despite being denied rights I feel you should be as entitled to as myself.
More importantly you are people, human beings, and bloody hell should you start being treated that way.
I love you all.
Say Yes and post your survey back as soon as possible.