This is the second in a 3-part series on the question of same-sex marriage, which is currently being ‘debated’ in Australia ahead of a non-compulsory public vote that is not binding on the government (and if you’re wondering “if it’s non-compulsory and non-binding, why have it?” – please join the massive queue forming on the left).
Part 1 of this series discussed the backstory to this issue.
Onwards and upwards, then….
This is the question on the postal survey form sent out to Australian voters in the last few weeks.
It’s pretty simple. Or it should be.
Advocates for same-sex marriage feared the idea of a plebiscite – a compulsory vote that’s non-binding – because it would be pre-empted by a campaign during which they’d have to justify their existence to the rest of the country.
They feared the idea of a non-compulsory postal survey even more.
Of course, the Prime Ministers (both former and current) went to great pains to talk about the need for respectful debate on the issue. The current PM will stick to that. He’s a centrist and has been outspoken on his support for same-sex marriage for some time. He’s also sitting on a razor-thin majority with hard-right conservatives holding him to the party line.
The former PM – the man who first set the plebiscite (that we’re not having) in motion – has already broadened the issue to be about free speech, religious liberty, and the stamping out of political correctness. As we all knew he would.
The ‘No’ campaign is made up primarily of two groups of people.
First, there are those who oppose the idea on religious grounds. They believe that God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Any change to the law, which currently describes marriage as being between a man and a woman, would be contrary to God’s will. They are here to see that God’s will is adhered to. They have come up with a whole grab-bag of issues, which I’ll discuss later.
Second, there are the garden variety homophobes, who don’t think anything should be done to advance the rights of homosexuals at all. They’re not necessarily religious. They just don’t like poofters and lezos.
The remainder on the ‘No’ side is a mixed bag of people who don’t like change of any type and probably think it’s too much, too soon.
The ‘Yes’ campaign is, according to all recent surveys, the most popular and will hopefully be the side popping champagne corks on November 15. The question of same-sex marriage has enjoyed popular support for many years and most recent polls have support sitting at around 60%. The remaining 40% is divided between ‘No’ and ‘Unsure’ so there’s a reasonable chance of support being more than 60%.
The vast majority of the ‘Yes’ vote will come from city-dwellers, who are typically more progressive than their country counterparts. The ABC’s Vote Compass has a great breakdown of the support for both sides, mapped according to each electorate in the country.
The Yes Campaign In a Nutshell
The Yes side, in line with the question on the survey, is keeping things simple. The survey paper has one question only, and you tick either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ as a response. The question at hand is:
Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?
The Yes side say that this is all about marriage equality. Australia is an egalitarian society and within such a society, a couple should be able to access marriage, regardless of whether that couple is mixed-gender or same-sex.
That’s a pretty simple answer to a pretty simple question and I think it resonates with most fair-minded people. It certainly does with me.
Perhaps I should add a little more perspective here.
My Personal View
I grew up going to Sunday school as a child and later in my youth, attending a Pentecostal church. I was no model young Christian – very few of the young people at our church were at that time were – but I tried. We tried. We were a tight-knit group and we rose, fell and grew together. I even spent a year at a bible college, in 1991. I was a music/worship leader at both of the churches where I spent the majority of my time until age 30 and the Music Director at one of those churches.
All that’s to say that I grew up in an environment that didn’t encourage much tolerance for ‘sin’ (which is an irony, given a lot of the things I experienced and saw at the time).
We preached love and tolerance for all people but we rarely had to demonstrate any of that because, by and large, we moved in our own circle of like-minded people. If we’d have run into a gay person back then we would have 1. crapped our pants, then 2. tried to pray the gay away (hoping for either interpretation of the phrase to take effect).
I have since walked away from the church and no longer consider myself a believer. That’s a path I have walked over a long period of time, from around 2001 or so until now.
I’ve lost a few friends over that, which is sad, but it’s been for the best. I’m super-thankful for those friends that have stuck with me and I cherish the time I get with them. They’re great people of real substance.
I don’t regret my time in the church, though I’m still angry at certain people and a number of things I experienced. Overall, though, it taught me a lot and it gave me a solid moral grounding around which the rest of my life has been based.
That background, then, forms part of the prism through which I view this issue.
I’m not a gay man and I can’t say I understand the attraction that gay men or women have for one another. It’s a mystery to me.
I have had, and continue to have, gay family members, friends, and colleagues. None of them have judged me. None of them have hurt me. None of them have tried to hit on me. None of them ever tried to convert my stepkids. None of them have done anything other than live their lives, do their jobs, and enjoy themselves.
Perhaps the most poignant thing I can say about the gay people I know is that they’re basically unremarkable in many ways. They have issues that they’re passionate about, hobbies that they indulge in, they’re sports fans, political wonks, artists, creators, and from every observance I’ve made, they’re extremely productive. They’re…. people.
None of my gay family or friends have ever infringed upon my life in any way. In fact, many of them have shown me more acceptance than maybe I deserved, and definitely more than some of the so-called friends from my churchy past.
Who am I, then, to deny these most ordinary of people the right to marry?
In fact, it’s not even a question.
If two people are in love with one another and want to get married, they should. If we are to pose restrictions on that, let’s keep it to age and (maybe) crack addiction.
This issue is being debated very passionately in Australia right now. You’ve got my perspective, above, but that’s just me and my thoughts. There is a whole range of issues being thrown about.
In the next (and final) instalment in this series, I’m going to take a look at the major issues being talked about and how those issues are, in many cases, being manipulated and how the facts relating to those issues are, in my considered opinion, nothing to be scared about.