Thursday, 14 September 2017

Let’s win the Australian Marriage Postal Law Survey!

In the past when I have been asked whether we will ever have equal marriage laws in Australia, I usually said that I lived in hope.  I am old enough to remember what Ronald Reagan coined “the Evil Empire” namely the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.  It was a certainty of life.  As Churchill said in 1947: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended on Europe”.  Despite that certainty of life, the Iron Curtain fell as did the Berlin Wall.  What seemed immovable and impermanent was in fact movable and transitory.

Much discrimination has been removed against LGBTI Australians.  There is still some discrimination there.  The pressing example was only introduced in 2004 – namely amendments to the Marriage Act at the behest of John Howard so that, for the first time, gay or lesbian people could not get married and nor could their overseas marriages be recognised.  Comments by John Howard about the survey have to be seen in the context of a consistent position by him in being opposed to marriage equality.

In 2015 my husband-to-be, Mitchell, and I contemplated getting married.  When I was awarded LGBTIQ Activist of the Year in 2015, the horizon looked bright. At that stage it looked as though in August 2015 there was every chance that equal marriage laws might pass.  Instead, we saw a joint party meeting engineered by Tony Abbott designed to obscure, obfuscate and delay the transition to equal marriage.

Our own journey was that we were not prepared to wait however many months or years it might take for us to be lawfully married in Australia.  Three weeks out from a planned business trip to the United States, we were going to spend a couple of days in Las Vegas seeing friends who lived there.  Mitch suggested to me that while we were there we should get married, which we did.  We were blessed to be surrounded by ten friends from the United States.  Our marriage was blessed by God.  We were surrounded by love.  The law in the United States recognised our marriage, as it does now in many other countries.  The chapel had internet streaming.  We were amazed to discover that 250 people watched our wedding live via streaming in four countries.

It was surreal to see even before our reception had been held, that friends of ours in Australia were madly posting online about our wedding – showing pictures and videos of our wedding and their excitement about the fact that we got married.

Sadly, since then our marriage is still not recognised in Australia.  

Hopefully the new anti-vilification laws will stop some of the terrible, bigoted comments that have been made.  Quite frankly, although I am an optimist, these comments have made me feel quite sad and down.  There are truly people who hate LGBTI people and wish to deny them any happiness.  I feel sorrow for these people and their children.  It seems that the age of enlightenment, which was as long ago as the 18th century, has passed these people by. 

I am not having a go at those who are opposed to the vote.  Each of us have to look into our hearts and make a decision based on our conscience.  There are some who have done so and feel that the only option for them is to vote no.  While I disagree with that decision, that is their right.  What I am oppose to are the bigoted, hateful and frankly at times evil statements that have been made.
Voting is not compulsory.  I urge everyone to vote, to vote yes, to send your papers back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics as quickly as possible, not to add any extra material like letter or comments (as you don’t want to invalidate the vote) and to encourage every family member and friend you know to also vote. 

Don’t assume that this vote is won.  Every vote counts.  Voting, as it is not compulsory, means that it may still be lost.  Even if it is won, it is best won by a very large participation rate and a very large majority.  We still have to get votes through both Houses of Parliament.  MPs such as Kevin Andrews and Senator Eric Abetz have said in effect that they will oppose any vote.  For those who are wavering as to which way they should vote in Parliament, politicians listen to one thing and that is numbers.  If a large number of people tell them firmly and clearly that this is the message – they will listen to that message and likely vote in our favour.  

Finally, there have been people who have criticised the Coalition and members and supporters of the LNP.  While I am highly critical of the process in which we have been forced to engage, the simple fact is that engaging in petty point scoring and anger towards the LNP, its members and supporters at this time, is extremely unhelpful.  There are many members of the LNP who support the yes vote not least people such as Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne, the old campaigner Warren Entsch and my local member Trevor Evans.  If LNP members and supporters feel vilified by this process and they decide to stay away from the vote or even worse vote no, the survey will be lost and the cause will be put back for years.  LGBTI Australians deserve better than that.

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