Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Marriage Equality Plebiscite

$160 million will achieve nothing. And for many will be a negative.

$160 million. That's the estimated cost of the marriage equality plebiscite the Australian government is planning for February 11th next year. The thing to keep in mind here is that the plebiscite is *non-binding*. To state it clearly, unlike a referendum, parliament can legally ignore the result of a plebiscite.

We can't have a referendum for this issue, because the marriage act is an act of parliament. Referenda change the constitution, not acts of parliament. And it's very rare to have a plebiscite to get opinion on changing an act of parliament. Because normally changing acts of parliament are done in parliament. By parliamentarians. This is, in fact, their job.

Australia has had 3 previous plebiscites.
·         1916: military service conscription (defeated)
·         1917: reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force overseas (defeated)
·         1977: choice of Australia’s national anthem ('Advance Australia Fair' preferred.)

Two were defeated. It’s important to note that despite the choice of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ being our national anthem in 1977, it wasn’t made our national anthem until 1984. If marriage equality is voted ‘for’ in the plebiscite next year, it may not be until 2024 that it is adopted as policy. Adding further weight to the pointlessness of a marriage-equality plebiscite.

Further, when the marriage act was last changed, there was no plebiscite, no public consultation. The John Howard government introduced the Marriage Act Amendment, 2004. It included into the Marriage Act 1961 a definition of marriage. In summary, the Marriage Act Amendment, 2004 was to: define marriage as a union of a man and a woman; and clarify that same-sex marriages entered into under the law of another country will not be recognised in Australia.

It is an amendment of pure bigotry and discrimination. It exists to tell same sex couples that their partnership isn’t worthy of being recognised officially, like a heterosexual partnership is. It is a horrible and bizarre thing for a government to say to a country’s citizens.

To reverse this bigotry and discrimination, all that is needed is a further act of parliament. IE: Politicians doing their job. However, the right wing conservatives (Lead be former Prime Minister Tony Abbott) have decided that they are not for equality, and are for discrimination so there will be no government lead parliamentary vote under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball. Instead, the expensive and unnecessary plebiscite is planned.

The government has committed $15 Million to ‘both sides’ of the debate, to be shared evenly. Yes, the government is giving the pro-discrimination group $7.5 Million. It’s simply outrageous.

If this goes ahead (Bill Shorten has introduced a private member’s bill, but this is unlikely to succeed) then we will have 5 months of hate, discrimination, and bigotry aimed at a section of our community which has already spent enough time being poorly treated.

We will have one side of the ‘debate’ saying “these people don’t deserve to have the rights I have” and people being told continually that they aren’t good enough, that they aren’t worth of being treated equally. And the government is going to fund this.

Are we, as a country that values the ‘fair go’ and a country that has a long tradition of supporting the underdog, and looking after our mates, really okay with funding a group of people that are *pro*-discrimination and *pro*-bigotry?

There are two sides of this debate. One is fuelled by fairness and equality. It’s the side that wants to see people being treated the same as everyone else, regardless of their sexual orientation. No employer in Australia is allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation, some of us think the marriage act shouldn’t be allowed to either.

The other side is fuelled by ignorance and bigotry. It’s the side that wants to tell a part of our community they are not good enough, that they are flawed, and that they don’t deserve to have equal rights because of who they love. How anyone could be on this side of the debate is beyond me.

This side of the debate will use terms like ‘my religious beliefs’ and ‘the tradition of one man and one woman’. They’ll claim that somehow what they think their god wants should somehow influence whether or not two *other people* should get married. They’ll say that marriage has ‘always been between one man and one woman’. Something which simply isn’t true – but that’s irrelevant. In the past interracial-marriage wasn’t allowed. ‘Keeping the tradition’ was used as an argument against it. Are these really the kinds of people we want to be associated with?

It’s a simple and obvious fact that some people are born to grow up to love and desire as their partner in life, a person of the same gender. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be treated equally. Some might say ‘but marriage is religious’. No, it’s not. The concept predates religion and people who are not religious in any way are allowed to be married. Religion doesn’t own marriage, therefore religious leaders (and followers) don’t get to decide who can and can’t be married.

Others might say that a same-sex couple can’t have children, and marriage is about ‘family’ and ‘children’. Neither of these points are true. Same-sex couples can indeed have children. Sure, it’s not possible in the traditional way, but it’s definitely possible. But again, this point is irrelevant because heterosexual couples who don’t want to have children or are incapable of having children are allowed to marry. The lack of children is not an argument against why two people can’t get married for hetero couples, it shouldn’t be one for same sex couples either.

Many jurisdictions around the world, including the highly religious Ireland and the USA have marriage equality and none are worse off for it. Canada has had it for over 10 years and is doing just fine, thank you.

What it comes down to is respecting and valuing the love between two people.  Two people who want to commit to each other and want this commitment to take place in front of their family and friends and to have it officially recognised by the government of the country in which they live.

You’d have to be a very cold-hearted, hateful person to say a same-sex couple doesn’t deserve this right. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Agree with what you are saying. Politicians are elected to make decisions (rightly or wrongly) and to have a plebiscite is a failure to govern, a failure to do their job.

    Their pays should be docked the $160M it costs the tax payers because if they did the job they were elected to do, we wouldn't be paying it.

    PS. It's a given, same sex marriage should already be in place.