I would hope most of you are aware of the current same-sex marriage (SSM) postal vote; to be more specific, a plebiscite. A non-binding survey, used to gauge the position of the Australian electorate. The last national plebiscite was in 1977 to determine what our national song would be. The only other national plebiscites were in 1916, and 1917 regarding military service. Considering our current level of technology, the fact that this is neither mandatory, nor binding, as well as costing roughly $122 million, the question of why ‘bother with a plebiscite?’ is a reaction many have had.
The answer, by the way, is because it was an election promise – because out of all the election promises that have been broken by every single leader, this is the one that must remain intact.
Regardless of cost, inconvenience, and lack of actual power, the subsequent predicted ‘respectful debate’, advertising, and violence should have been enough to choose a different path. The immeasurable consequences of even posing the notion that there is grounds to debate the legitimacy of our fellow citizens, their families, children, relationships, capacities, identities, and existence as equals is a defining, stubborn mistake.
Despite all of this, it’s happening – the vote, the debate, the advertising, the violence – and so our attention must be drawn to the vote itself.
It’s quite simple. You receive a letter in the mail with one question:
“Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
All you need to do is tick either yes, or no, and then put it in the enclosed pre-paid envelope, and post it.
Over 60% of the vote has been sent in, with a seeming majority for the yes vote. Despite this, there is still a week to go, and hurtful as well as damaging conversations are still being shared. Due to the unbinding nature of this plebiscite, there is a concern that these conversations will still be had publically for quite some time.
I, like many of us, have spent the last few months listening to the arguments for, and against. Whether they be comments online, articles written, interviews, Q & A panels, ‘news’ shows, from family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers. Whether I have wanted to or not, I have experienced both sides.
The reality is both sides have been using the similar tactics for opposing positions. Whether it is for, or against, the arguments generally aim for your heart, and how you feel. They try to target, and evoke your empathy, your guilt, your conscience even.
Both sides agree this is a moral issue, an issue about people’s rights, and freedoms. What seems to be forgotten is that morality (especially in modern times), human rights, and our freedoms, do not come from how we feel. How we feel may have been a good starting point, yet what gave us our modern human rights, what lead to our freedoms of speech, was reason. Additionally, what gives our modern democracies, laws, and our many institutions legitimacy as well as longevity, is that they are founded firmly in reason, and logic. Not how we feel.
Reason allows us to explain, and justify why things are the way they are, why we ought to do some things and not others. It makes the intangible, tangible and allows us to pass it onto others, it’s something that can be discussed, debated, changed, and improved upon.
The answer to SSM comes from reason, not how you feel. In fact reason is the strongest tool you have in changing someone else’s opinion.
Here’s the thing, how you feel is powerful, and empathy is a strong way to connect with people, to try and get someone to understand your experience; an experience they may have never been exposed to. However, not everyone is empathetic.
You don’t need to look far to see this.
How could anyone listen to Magda Szubanski’s words on the Project and not have that override any opposing feelings? How can anyone listen to Penny Wong, and not be convinced to vote yes? These are only 2 of a very long list of people sharing their impassioned, insightful words of their experience. Yet, people remain unconvinced. Tony Abbott continues to be one of the strongest advocates to vote no, yet his sister, Christine Forster, is openly in a same-sex relationship.
When you say imagine your child going through this, your siblings, your friends, and loved ones; we see time and time again, this isn’t strong enough.
Whoever’s opinion that is changed by an emotional argument, would struggle to further pass on that same argument to others. Emotions may convince some, but it isn’t enough, and the power it initially carries can fade.
Despite all of this, how you feel about anything is not enough for it to directly affect the freedoms of another, especially if the effect is detrimental. Let how you feel govern your own life, it does, it should, it is of no consequence to others. As soon as it becomes a direct consequence to others, how you feel no longer carries valuable weight.
Why did you eat the entire block of chocolate? Because I felt like it! – Cool…
Why did you buy that top? Because why not? – Great.
Why are you dating them? Because I like them. Good for you!
These and so many more seemingly insignificant examples show that when your actions, and decisions directly affect you, and you alone the only person that really needs to be convinced is you.
Why did you punch them? Because I felt like it.
Why did you steal? Because why not?
Why did you …? Because
These and many more show that when an action directly affects another, we expect more of a reason why they occurred. How you felt at any point in time, is never enough justification to act in a way that impedes another person’s capacity to act in equal manner. There is a reason so many of our laws exist to ensure this.
I know from all the work I have done, that there is usually a reason why we feel how we do. The problem is it can sometimes be quite deep in our sub-conscious. Our environment, experiences, education, and our history all affects how we feel, and in turn, how we act.
The reason why there has been such a public shift towards SSM isn’t because of some recent event. It is because of the decades spent by people both in and out of the LBTIQA+ community that have shed blood, sweat, tears, and have literally lost their lives fighting for their equal rights. To be protected from violence, to be able to work freely, to be parents, to be citizens, to exist without being charged for simply existing as they are; to be open without the fear of persecution, judgement, or being ostracised from their friends, family, and community. A fight that I can take no credit being a part of.
We take for granted how far we have come, and we sometimes fail to realise how far we still need to go. Despite the deep personal feelings of which this necessary fight came from, what made it stick, what kept it going was the logic that drove it. That logic, understanding, and acceptance has permeated throughout society. Similar logic and arguments were used against slavery, against segregation, that lead to women being able to vote, to work. These foundational social shifts as well as too many more to list, have been repeated over and over. Why? Because they’re right; not just morally right, but logically and rationally, they are correct.
This isn’t a new argument, the simple fact that it is being able to be discussed at a national level highlights the decades of hard work. The fact that many countries which have similar social structures and values as Australia, have already, successfully passed laws for SSM also highlights this work. None of these countries went backwards, there was no immediate, nor long term detriment.
In fact the opposite occurred, not only did it have the expected increase in quality of life, wellbeing, and self-esteem of the LGBTIQA+ community, but it increased over all wellbeing throughout the wider communities as well. Additionally, it also had a noticeable impact on the economy.
None of these countries have any inclination of reverting their equal SSM laws. The conversation stops and they move onto the next social, political, economic challenge they face. They keep all the good that came from it, and remove so much of the bad that existed before it.
Who would have thought creating a more equal society would have such a wide felt positive impact? History. So much of human history tells us this. When a society increases equality amongst its citizens, especially social equality, that society has a noticeable increase in prosperity at all levels.
So how do you move forward when you have two people who feel equally as strongly about opposing positions on one topic? You look at the arguments.
The argument against SSM has a variety of different positions that are used as a foundation which justifies their position, or at least is a contributing, if not a deciding factor in voting no. They range from the affects it will have on children, to changes in education, to religious and traditional beliefs, to leading to laws allowing people to marry animals. Some may seem more extreme and ridiculous than others, nonetheless all are hurtful, and all are wrong.
If you’re voting no because someone you trust, and admire told you to.
We, as people are susceptible to everything around us, and we have different people we turn to for advice, some more so than others.
I will go to a doctor for medical advice, but any legal advice given would be worthless. Similarly, I would go to a lawyer for legal advice, but any medical advice given would be pointless. Even in their area of specialty we go and get second opinions, ask for another quote, seek out other opinions, and other advice.
I think it’s important to know that people, despite their position and authority in some areas, can be wrong. We intuitively know this, it’s why we get second opinions, it’s why we ask for more than one quote; we can seek a multitude of people’s advice before making a decision. The more significant a decision, the more advice we sometimes seek.
The person who told you to vote no, may have used some of the reasons I’ve listed below. I ask you to expect more of yourself, have higher standards. Just because someone is right about one thing, does not make them right about everything. Own your decision. Do not let someone influence you without giving them the scrutiny it deserves. You are smarter than that.
If you’re voting no because of religion and religious freedoms.
In Australia, and many other westernised democracies, there is something along the lines of Separation of Church and State. It is a pretty descriptive title. It basically surmises that the state shall not create a law that imposes any religious observance; that a religious ‘law’ shall not be made a nation state law, nor should it have any effects on the implementation or creation of state laws. This is because there are a multitude of religions, beliefs and interpretations of God, and it would be unjust and unreasonable to take one religious position as ‘true’ over others, and force it upon an entire populous that does not necessarily have the same belief structure. Your religion may guide your actions, and motivate much of what you do, however, if it is all that you are relying upon to affect that law of the nation – a law that affects others – you need to have more than just religion. I may not believe in the same religious ideology as you, so in a free country why should I be affected by it?
Additionally, there are many people concerned that they will now have to provide marital services to same-sex couples, something they feel violates their religious freedoms. The government has made it abundantly clear, that people will legally be allowed to deny marital services based upon a conscience decision. No church or religious, catering, venue, or other institution will be legally forced to provide any service for SSM if it goes against their beliefs.
I personally believe this is wrong as it is legally allowing and justifying discrimination. As it stands, any and all religions in this nation are free, if and only if they adhere to, and do not violate the law of the land. There is some irony that the politicians who valiantly argue religious freedom is more important than whatever law may be created, seem to be the same politicians who are wanting to ‘ban the burqa’ – a traditionally religious garment. Why is one religion deserving of protection than others? Regardless, law of the land is first, every other institution, religious or otherwise, necessarily needs to follow. Your religious beliefs are not a justification to violate Australian law, nor should you expect them to be.
You are free in this nation insofar as your actions (motivated by religion or otherwise) do not violate Australian law. If the laws change, so too ought your freedoms. This has, is, and will continue to be the way anyone’s freedoms work.
Nonetheless, in this case, the Government will continue to allow discrimination based upon one’s conscience beliefs.
It’s also really important to consider that many religious people have come out in support of SSM across the world, acknowledging that SSM aligns with the core aspects of their religious views. If religion is anything, it’s open to interpretation, maybe it’s time to take another look on how you chose to interpret it.
If you’re voting no because of traditional marriage.
You need to ask yourself what traditional marriages looks like to you, and why. Is it an arranged marriage? Do the people involved have a choice? Is it about love? Are they allowed to have had sex before marriage? What about divorce? Is there an age too young?
If you are basing your decision on the traditional marriage idea, I implore you to do some research about the history of marriage. It has changed a significant amount since its conception, and depending on your background, your ideas of what that tradition looks like, will continue to vary. Marriage at one point was about uniting empires, and reserved for only the societal elite. It has been about keeping resources within the family. It has been about keeping bloodlines ‘pure’. It has been used as a way to reduce the prevalence of ‘lesser’ groups within society. It has, and in some cultures still is arranged, in others age doesn’t seem to be a major factor. Marriage being about pre-existing love between two people is a relatively modern concept.
Beyond what marriage used to be, the requirements have changed, even with the modern idea of traditional marriage. Sex was not allowed before marriage, divorce was unheard of. Both significant, unquestionable aspect of marriage, yet here we are. Why are breaking some traditions permissible, but others not?
The reality is that tradition is never a strong reason to maintain doing anything. It’s basically the argument that things are the way they are, because that’s the way they have always been; and because they have always been that way, that’s the way they should therefore be. We intuitively know this isn’t true, everything around us changes constantly. Society has always changed, if it hadn’t, things would be the same as they were a millennia ago. Tradition can be a nice, nostalgic thing to maintain, but it cannot be a reason to impede our progress to a more equal society.
If you’re voting no because of how it will affect the children in same-sex relationships.
This is about marriage, not children. Many people have children before marriage, many people have children and have zero desire to ever get married, many people get married and have zero desire to ever have children, and many people are single parents. The idea that marriage and children are necessarily aligned is wrong; they are two different paths. For many people marriage and children go together, but this definitely isn’t the situation for everyone.
For those that aren’t aware, same-sex couples can already legally have children in every state in Australia, and have been able to for some time; whether it is though adoption, surrogacy, sperm donation, or any other means.
There is no evidence anywhere that this has any detrimental impact on the child of the relationship. What studies have suggested is that the children may be at a higher risk of abuse within schools from other children, as the abusing children have received harmful opinions from external sources, and in-turn projects them onto others. It has literally nothing to do with the same-sex parents.
Remember, the vote is about marriage, not about having children.
If you’re voting no because heterosexual couples are the only good examples of parenting.
Again, this is about marriage, not children, and again same-sex couples have this right to be parents across the country already. If there was actual evidence to even suggest that same-sex parents were not good at parenting, the law wouldn’t justifiably be upheld.
This view also implies that all single parents out there, simply are not, nor can ever be a good example of parenting.
The unfortunate reality is that there have always, and still are horrific parents, and traditionally, they have been from a heterosexual marriage. Rape, abuse, neglect, malnutrition, deaths, all have happened to children of traditional marriage.
The simple fact is there are many amazing single parents out there, there are also many phenomenal same-sex couple parents, and there are many great heterosexual couple parents too.
Having a man and a woman married is not a guarantee of good parenting, nor is it a prevention of terrible parenting.
If you’re voting no because same-sex parents will raise gay children.
Who cares? Seriously, why does it matter whether or not a child identifies anywhere within LGBTQIA+? Every single parent I have ever spoken with and asked what they want for their kids, they all say the relatively same thing: happy, healthy, and successful. None have added the additional clause of being straight. If you would love your child, or want any less for your child, or grandchild if they were gay, genuinely says more about you, than anything else.
I suppose this belief comes down to a nature versus nurture debate, and there is no time for that. Although I think it is important to consider that same-sex couple parents are relatively new, and there have been same-sex attracted people for thousands of years, logic dictates they must have come from heterosexual couples, or single parents; raised in a traditional hetero or single sex home.
Same-sex parents will not necessarily have gay children, much like heterosexual parents will not necessarily have straight children. It’s that simple.
If you’re voting no because it will affect your child’s education.
It has been made very clear that this vote will have zero effect on any education reforms. For those that are concerned with the Safe Schools initiative, that was implemented well before SSM laws came into place, because we’re still literally arguing about it.
Look to every country that has legalised SSM; education reform specifically associated with the change, did not occur.
If you’re voting no because it will affect the wellbeing of children by making them question their gender, orientation, and identity.
Children naturally question everything as it stands. Anyone that has been around kids knows the period where all they ask is “why?”. Questioning, and curiosity are good things, they make us thrive, grow, progress, as well as give us a better understanding of ourselves, happiness, and our place in the universe. The people who don’t like to be questioned generally don’t have any of the answers themselves.
Additionally, there is actually no evidence of this. In fact there is evidence of the complete opposite. In countries that have legalised SSM, is has been shown that children across the board report an increase in emotional wellbeing, and happiness. This is due to the fact that the majority of young people know, and are good friends with people in the LGBTIQA+ community, and as any good friend knows, seeing the people you care about have a more equal position in your society, feel more accepted, and less fearful, will naturally increase your own wellbeing.
If you’re voting no because it will open the ‘flood-gates’ and lead to laws allowing people to marry animals, children, inanimate objects, etc. – i.e. leading to bestiality, and paedophilia.
This really does come down to consent. If marriage is anything, it’s a contract, and what is essential for any contract is that the parties involved consent to said contract. For an individual to be able to give consent they must have the capacity to both be aware of, as well as have an understanding of what they are consenting to.
The level of awareness, and understanding required to give consent is found within informed adult sentient beings. Animals, and children both lack the capacity to give consent as they simply are not able to be fully aware, or have a true enough understanding of what they are agreeing to.
This is equally applied to sex, they both lack the capacity to give consent.
This will never, ever change as they lack the physiological requirements necessary to develop a minimum level of understanding and awareness to form the basic foundations for giving consent.
Additionally, it is irresponsible, and illogical to make such a bewildering leap from two rational, consenting adults, attracted to each other, coming together for whatever activities they choose, affecting themselves alone, to adults wanting to rape animals, and children. Some women are attracted to men, and some women are attracted to women. Much like some men are attracted to women, and some men are attracted to men. How children or animals get thrown in the mix is so grotesquely offensive, and defies even basic logical scrutiny. Despite hearing this several times, no one has been able to even explain how they get there.
By the way, if you are genuinely concerned about ways of life leading to paedophilia, you ought to turn your attention to major religious institutions. There is a vast amount of historical evidence which points to paedophiles being found, and protected within religious organisations. Furthermore, there is zero evidence to suggest any connection between being same-sex attracted and paedophilia.
How anyone considers this as a genuine thing to be concerned about, is well beyond me.
If you’re voting no because it upholds Australian values.
Ask yourself, “what are Australian values?” or more importantly, “what do you value about being an Australian?”
I’ve always been proud to be Australian; we really are a lucky country. Whenever I have travelled, everyone wants to know about Australia, our beaches, people, lifestyle, and so much more. This pride has somewhat waned in recent times; with learning our history with the first people, the Indigenous people of this land, with our attitudes towards vaccinations, education, global warming, mental-health, and so much more. To top it off, our politicians have been, and continue to be a frustrating joke.
I realised I had a false sense of pride. I was proud of our ideals, of our potential, even of our rhetoric; I’m proud of what I believe we can be, not necessarily of what we are. What underpins this pride of our potential is our values. Our democracy, our freedoms, our justice system, our healthcare, our education, our quality of life, our gun laws; all which can be improved, but are all there nonetheless.
Our core value and intricate part of our national identity is that everyone deserves a fair go; a fair go to live a full and free life. A fair go with work opportunities, a fair go with education, a fair go with housing, a fair go with business. Does this fair go ideal end with civil liberties? If you believe it should, then the expectation is on you to justify why. Why does a fair go end with marriage? It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t.
Despite all of this, my pride gets reignited when I see how we, as a nation, respond to tragedy. Not how our government responds, but how everyday Australians respond when the worst happens. Whether it be widespread natural disasters with bushfires, or floods; or individual acts of organised terrorism; or simply seeing another living creature suffering; we respond like nowhere else. We do not hide, we do not run, we do not think of ourselves; we give, we defend, we are kind, we think of others and we help.
Our Australianness, and our potential to be the Australia I know we can be is most evident in the face of adversity. I look to how we act in times of need to know that it is embedded within us as Australians to do the right thing, to give help when it’s needed, to look at the bigger picture and think of others.
We have an opportunity to take a step closer to reaching our nation’s potential. We have an opportunity to uphold the fundamental core ideal of Australianness; to give everyone a fair go. We have the opportunity to do the right thing, to save a life, to increase the quality of life for so many of our fellow Australians. We’ve done it before, let’s keep doing what makes our nation great.
Voting yes upholds, and reinforces what it means to be Australian.
If you’re voting no because giving same-sex couples equal rights as married couples would be enough.
Many people who are voting no think that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights to be together, have a family, share income, and all the legal rights that automatically come with marriage – as long as it’s not called marriage; hence why they vote no.
It should be obvious that having the same legal protections and securities that married couples have is clearly a practical and necessary aspect that any long term couple would want. This cover things like finances, guardianship over children, health and medical care, control if a tragedy and loss of life occurs, and so much more.
Having the same practical legal rights as married couples do would be significant, however it still wouldn’t be enough; it still wouldn’t be equal.
There is a practical legal aspect of being married, sure, but there is a social value aspect too. Society has decided that marriage is the ultimate goal and aim for a couple to reach. It is a couple telling the world that they are so completely in love that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. They want to share their love with the world. They are proud of their partner, that there is no one else that compares. It is the ultimate sign of love, and commitment.
Don’t get me wrong, a married couple isn’t any more in love or committed than a non-married couple. Marriage doesn’t hold some mystical value that intertwines two people for eternity; after all, marriage more often than not, leads to divorce. Marriage is an act that many people choose to do as a sign of their love.
Yes there are unquestionable practical legal benefits of marriage, but that’s not all that marriage allows. It allows the full expression of a relationship, and currently, many of us do not have the right to choose whether or not we express this.
Giving equal rights as marriage would, but still not allowing the act of marriage, continues to maintain a level of inequality.
If you’re not voting because you think the postal vote is a waste, of a political protest, you don’t want to get involved, or you simply don’t care.
How nice it must be to be able to choose to do or not do something, much like every other eligible voter – without consequence to yourself. It is ironic that you are exercising your freedom to choose, by not promoting your fellow citizens freedoms to choose how to live out their lives – without consequences to you.
Nonetheless you have this right, and whether you like it or not, this vote is already happening, it will cost $122 million dollars whether or not you participate. If that bothers you, vote so we won’t have to go through this entire convoluted process again.
Voting doesn’t mean you are all of a sudden involved in people’s marriages, nor does it mean you are telling people who and how they should love. It simply means everyone will have the same rights as everyone else; to choose.
WHY I'M VOTING YES.
I wish I could say I’m voting yes because of how I feel. My compassion, empathy, and basic decency compel me to vote yes. I want to vote yes because of my friends who bring so much value to my life. I want to vote yes because of all the doctors, nurses, and mental-health professionals that supported me through my darkest days. I want to vote yes because of all the teachers that mould our future generations. I want to vote yes because of our first responders, and emergency workers that protect us day in and day out, the people who we call when we are most at need. I want to vote yes because of the brave soldiers who fight for our way of life, and defend our nation, and our right to be free, to choose, to live our lives fully.
I honestly don’t know how many this vote would affect, and that’s the point. I didn’t need to know. You still do what you do, you still bring as equal value to this world, to our country, our society as anyone else. You still fight, defend, protect, and uphold our nation. You are, in every way that matters, the same as everyone else. You deserve the rights to reflect this.
I believe Australia is a free and equal country; at least that is what we continue to aim for. This vote came out of a fundamental inequality of civil rights and freedoms. By voting yes, I acknowledge this inequality, and aim to use my democratic power to help rectify it. It will not make our nation fully equal or free, however it takes us one step closer.
If you are voting no, that’s okay; but you need to know what that actually means. On the surface, this may seem only about marriage, but it is about how we want our fellow citizens to be treated. A vote no means you do not want Australia to be an equal nation, and you do not believe that Australia should be an equal nation either.
A vote no, goes against everything I believe we as a nation stand for. A vote no is un-Australian.
I want to vote yes because I believe, and feel it is the right thing to do; but I know how I feel isn’t enough, and this isn’t why I’m voting yes. I’m voting yes because logic, and reason tell me to. I’m voting yes, because there is no logical reason to vote no. I’m voting yes, because voting no goes against everything we are taught Australia stands for. I’m voting yes, not because of how I feel, but because I know it is the right thing to do.
Despite how I feel, and despite all the people I want to vote for, the reality is none of it matters. Even if I had no friends that identify with being LGBTIQA+, even if none of the doctors or nurses that kept me alive identified as LGBTIQA+, even if we have no emergency responders, or people in our armed forces identifying as LGBTIQA+, even if I never met nor knew any person that identifies as LGBTIQA+; my vote would remain the same.
As long as I believe our nation is one that values freedoms, and equality, a vote yes will stand the test of time.
Let’s hope this $122 million survey gets passed, let’s not have to repeat this process again the next election cycle. We are here because of the decades of sacrifice that came before us. Social justice issues never simply fall to the wayside, they continue to be pushed, and fought for until they are rightfully acknowledged, and real change occurs.
We have an opportunity to make this nation better than it currently is today. Do not let this pass you by.
Vote; not because of how you feel, but because of what you know.
Vote for equality, for freedom, for everyone’s right to a fair go.