politics

"Penny Wong is right. A plebiscite on same sex marriage is a stupid idea."

Penny Wong is absolutely right. We should not have a plebiscite on same sex marriage.

Whether or not Australians vote to allow same sex couples to marry in a plebiscite (and I believe they will) the damage will already be done.

Here’s why.

Emotions are never far from the surface when it come to politics. When people feel passionately about an issue it is usually because they are emotionally connected. They have found a way to feel something — and those feelings have driven them to take action.

That’s why, as more and more people put up their hand and said “this is me”, in turn their family and friends were faced with the reality that these issues are not about other people. They are about all people, all families, all friendship groups.

They are about the fundamental building blocks of our daily lives: The people we love (not just romantically) are all unique, valuable and whole, no matter who else they might love. When they are attacked, verbally or physically, we feel it. We hurt with them. We want to protect them.

Watch Penny Wong talk to Mamamia about her family. (Post continues after video.) 

That’s why we see grandparents stand up and support LGBTIQ rights where they maybe haven’t before — because they’ve finally been forced to see someone as something aside from an “other”. A much-loved granddaughter or grandson, perhaps.

Not everyone reacts this way. Some families are divided, not strengthened, by this type of news. In their homes, every day, they are at war with themselves and each other, trying to reconcile what they’ve always believed and what they now know.

It’s never pretty. It’s never nice. It’s never pleasant. My God, why would we want to drag an entire nation through it?

I know these things to be true, because my dad came out to me when I was 18 years old. I already knew, having figured it out a long time before, and I didn’t care one bit. But the pain on his face, the reluctance with which he “confessed” made it perfectly clear to me that this was not news he’d had a lot of success sharing.

I grew up in a very different household to many of my peers, but gee I was loved. And I love my family with a ferocity that’s hard to describe. They are the best people I know.

"I grew up in a very different household to many of my peers, but gee I was loved." Image: supplied.
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That's why I know Penny Wong is right.

The way people talk about same sex parents and the "damage" they will do to their children sometimes hits me so hard I almost want to cry.

Because even though I'm a fully-formed adult, who knows (as Wong famously said on Q&A) what my family is worth, every claim that something's wrong with me hurts.

So I can't imagine what it's like for the children who will be growing up as the nation tries to navigate this plebiscite. How they will feel when they hear the damaging rhetoric from people who claim (against the evidence) that children in same sex families are worse off.

Straight politicians, straight families, they cannot know what that feels like. How much damage it can do.

Why would we put our nation through it?

Last week in America 49 people were shot and killed because they were out at a gay nightclub. They were living their lives, having fun in what was supposed to be a safe space.

"Last week in America, 49 people were shot and killed because they were out at a gay nightclub." Image via Getty.

Last week British MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man shouting "Britain first", as that nation prepares for its devisive "Brexit" poll on June 23.

They were all victims of the politics of fear and hate. Of the insidious message that difference should be punished, that other people are the cause of your problems or the thorn in your side.

Australia should and can be better than that.

We don't need a plebiscite on same sex marriage. The polling tells us the policy is widely supported, and the law is clear - the Government simply needs to legislate.

Not doing so is the cowardly option. Allowing a damaging, drawn-out debate so right wing elements in the Liberal party can bleat loud and long about their ridiculous fears is not a solution.

It's not leadership. And it will harm families and children.

You know what won't? Legalising same sex marriage.

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