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Senator Penny Wong on SBS’s Insight.

By MAMAMIA TEAM

Now here’s a debate we can get excited about.

On SBS ONE this evening at 8.30pm, Senator Penny Wong, Finance Minister, lesbian and all around awesome lady, will taker on religious leaders about marriage equality.

Awesome.

Penny Wong is a Labor senator, and strong advocate for marriage equality. She and her partner Sophie Allouache have a daughter named Alexandra who is one-and-a-half years old. And tonight, Penny Wong comes out hitting hard for same sex marriage. She is joined in discussion by religious leaders, Liberal party supporters and members of the community for an emotional debate about marriage equality.

The debate is a mixture of the logical and the theological, as Senator Wong talks to leaders from Catholic, Jewish and Muslims faiths, who argue that marriage between two people of the same sex is incompatible with their religious beliefs.

What’s most interesting is the diversity of opinions and interpretations of religious texts that emerge.

Monsignor John Woods is the Acting Archbishop of Canberra, and he appears on the program defending his interpretation of the Catholic definition of marriage: as a union between a man and a woman with the possibility of them bearing children. He says, “The procreative aspect of marriage requires not sameness but difference.” (Of course, this is fairly insulting to heterosexual couples who are, for whatever reason, unable to have children.)

On the other hand, Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit Catholic Priest, says that while he personally believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, he sees same-sex marriage as inevitable in a society that is secular and democratic.

Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio performs same-sex ceremonies for couples in Sydney, while Rabbi Moshe Gutnick says that the Torah explicity prohibits homosexual sex.

Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem says that Islam could never allow same-sex marriage. Conversely, Imam Daayiee Abdullah interprets the Koran to allow same-sex marriage, and has been performing same-sex Muslim ceremonies in America for the past thirteen years. 

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The audience also has an opportunity to share their point of view – and it’s just as varied.

What emerges most strongly from these comments – and indeed, what statistics indicate – is a feeling that the vast majority of Australians are not anti-marriage equality. Even individuals who have at some point in their lives thought that homosexuality is wrong, have softened their stance over time. Equality is becoming increasingly accepted as something that should be the status quo.

This begs the question, that if many people – including those who subscribe to faiths that traditionally oppose homosexuality – do not have strong feelings about stopping same-sex marriage, why are the leaders of religious institutions and lobby groups so determined to do so? When the everyday people who follow the faith would rather promote a culture of acceptance?

Some religious leaders argue that legalising same-sex marriage, would destroy marriage as an institution. In the following clip, Penny Wong responds to that idea that gay marriage somehow undermines heterosexual marriage. She says:

“I think someone used the term ‘destroy the institution’. I’ve always found it really interesting that there would be people who actually suggest that somehow because this relationship would be legally recognised, that that somehow is destructive of any else’s. I mean well, it’s a pretty fragile institution if you really think that having these two young men be able to be married is somehow going to delegitimise in any way the relationship that you have.”

Ultimately, Australian law does continue to discriminate against gay people on the issue of marriage. And beyond the basic fact that it must be incredibly upsetting to have your relationship go unrecognised, and classed as different – and somehow lesser – than every heterosexual relationship in Australia, our laws also institutionalise and legalise discrimination. They send a message that prejudice is okay.

If the Australian courts don’t have to recognise homosexual couples as legitimate, why should the Australian people? If our governments do not want to support gay couples, why should the public support them?

In April, New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage. In February, UK politicians voted ‘yes’ in favour of marriage equality. Within the same month as NZ, France became the 14th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

It’s time for Australia to do the same.

You can show your support for marriage equality by sharing this post on social media and telling your local member of parliament that this is an issue that matters to you.

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