The government will soon send you a survey asking whether you support changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Many people, like the ‘Angry Dad’ in this viral video, have expressed exasperation at the process. Others, including Barnaby Joyce, have said they’re sick of hearing about it — with still months to go.
The easy thing is to tune out. After all, why do you care if marriage equality becomes law? These 17 reasons explain why you should care; and care enough to fill in and return your survey form right away.
1. Because you’re sick of hearing about it.
If most Australians vote ‘No’, then the issue of marriage equality won’t go away. The Labor Party has already said, should the ALP win government, then it will legislate for same-sex marriage within the first 100 days of government, whatever the result of the survey:
Even Conservative commentator Greg Sheridan regards marriage equality as inevitable. So, he says in The Australian, it’s much better to vote ‘Yes’ now:
'Same-sex marriage is virtually certain to come about, either under this government or the next one, whether that is Liberal or Labor. So it is much better to do it now.'
A ‘No’ vote will merely delay the inevitable — wasting more government time, more air time, more of your Facebook timelines. If, on the other hand, most people vote ‘Yes’, then Malcolm Turnbull has assured Australians that marriage equality will ‘sail through the Parliament’. Vote ‘Yes’ as the quickest way to get marriage equality off the agenda.
2. Because you’re angry about the survey.
Many people see the survey as an illegitimate way to inform government policy on human rights. The survey will, in itself, have no impact on marriage law. The government conceded this in their submissions to the High Court in the recent postal survey challenge.
Only Parliament can make laws; the people answering a survey cannot. Although the High Court upheld the survey’s legal validity, the Court did not necessarily uphold the survey’s moral legitimacy. The survey may legally count as a survey, but that doesn’t stop it from being a dodgy survey.
As a result, some lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people plan on boycotting the survey, out of principle. Understandably, they reject the offensive notion that their rights depend on a show of hands, or on a tick of the box. But if you abstain, you will not upset the government; your vote will go unnoticed. On the other hand, if you contribute to a high ‘Yes’ vote, then you will prove to the government this survey has always been a waste of time and money that’s caused unnecessary division.
Vote ‘Yes’ to prove the other opinion polls correct: around two-thirds of Australians support marriage equality. And vote ‘Yes’ to force the government to do what we elect governments to do: to decide marriage equality through an ordinary vote of Parliament.
3. Because you want the the government to butt out of people’s lives.
‘Angry Dad’ vented his frustration at the government’s interfering in people’s lives. In The Australian conservative journalist Janet Albrechtsen shares a similar sentiment:
'Opposing same-sex marriage rubbed up against my belief that governments have no business policing private relationships that do no harm to others.'
You mightn’t care about marriage equality, but you might care about other issues that affect you: IVF, abortion, adoption, surrogacy, access to stem-cell treatments, voluntary euthanasia. Unless you stop them, governments can impinge on your personal choices.
Voting ‘Yes’ affirms anti-statist, libertarian, and conservative beliefs that the state should stay out of your personal life. Vote ‘Yes’ to tell the government to butt out.
4. Because you care about freedom.
People rightly worry about their freedoms — for example, freedom of religion and freedom from religion, freedom of speech and freedom from hate speech. But what of the freedom to marry the person you love?
Again, conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen believes libertarian conservatives who care about greater freedom ‘will regard liberty as a good reason to support same-sex marriage’.
Freedom-loving Australians ought to recognise, not rebuff, changing the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) since, in Albrechtsen’s words, ‘marriage equality will enable more freedom for people to mark their relationship by marrying and seek the stability that marriage can offer’.
Likewise, Liberal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has said on his Facebook Page that he will be voting Yes to ‘support individual rights and freedoms’.
Vote ‘Yes’ to extend a basic freedom to LGBTI people to marry the person they love.
5. Because you care about religious freedom.
Marriage equality won’t affect religious freedoms. Take, for example, section 47 of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth): a religious celebrant can already refuse to solemnise any marriage, for any reason. That won’t change.
Any case for further protecting religious freedom exists already and doesn’t depend on changing the marriage laws. Even if you accept the myth that marriage equality will affect religious freedoms, then it’s still best to vote ‘Yes’ now, while a Conservative government controls the process. As conservative journalist Greg Sheridan says:
'[T]he best chance of ensuring religious freedom will come if this change occurs under the Turnbull government.'
Former Liberal Premier Nick Greiner agrees:
'The necessary religious protections for ministers of religion, religious marriage celebrants, and use of church grounds and services, will be assured … Such freedoms are at the forefront of legislation drafted by senator Dean Smith and MPs Tim Wilson, Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman and Trevor Evans.'
Vote ‘Yes’ to secure religious freedoms.
6. Because you care about truth.
According to the latest poll, the ‘No’ case’s fear campaign has started to work. Predictions of the ‘No’ side winning the survey have already been made, comparing the survey with the election of Donald Trump and Brexit, as a popular reaction against the ‘elites’ and an angry retort to being told what to think.
If the election of Trump and Brexit are reactions against the so-called ‘elites’, then this survey can be your reaction against the fear, ‘fake news’, propaganda, red herrings, and ‘alternative facts’ of the No case.
Some things are knowable. We know that marriage equality will not stifle free speech, affect religious freedoms, or determine the content of Safe Schools programs. These myths have been busted. Former Liberal Premier Nick Greiner will be voting ‘Yes’ because:
'We should not be distracted by red herrings in this debate. We are discussing who can and who can’t get married under Australian law.'
Independent Senator Derryn Hinch will be doing likewise:
A ‘Yes’ vote will signal a return to sensible, fact-based decision-making.
7. Because you care about choice.
Not all people want to get married. Not all LGBTI people want to get married. But marriage equality isn’t about compelling people to marry; it’s about people having the choice to marry. A straight person has the choice to marry, whether they want to marry or not. Why deny that choice to others?
Vote ‘Yes’ to give others the choices you take for granted.
8. Because you don’t want someone else’s religion telling you what to do.
Just as you might object to, say, Sharia Law dictating the content of your secular marriage, so it is objectionable for any religion to dictate secular laws. Secular marriage provides the best defence against any religion holding sway.
Prominent Catholic priest Father Frank Brennan will vote ‘Yes’ in the survey, even though he still believes in the Christian view of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Father Brennan recognises the difference between religious or sacramental marriage and civil or secular marriage:
'None of [the] present attributes of civil marriage in Australia coincide with the aspects of a sacramental marriage recognised by the Catholic Church.'
A ‘Yes’ response will confirm what we already know: secular marriage differs from religious marriage and will safeguard against any particular religion dictating what you can do in your private life — Christian or non-Christian, Muslim or non-Muslim, religious or non-religious, gay or straight.
Set the precedent now. Vote ‘Yes’ to ensure someone else’s religion doesn’t trump your own religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs, now and in the future.
9. Because you care about marriage.
Far from weakening marriage, including same-sex couples in marriage strengthens the institution.
Around one in three marriages in Australia end in divorce. Gay couples who want desperately to marry will bring commitment back to the institution and encourage straight couples to re-value marriage.
In fact, experience overseas shows when countries legalise same-sex marriage, the general marriage rate increases. For example, in Scandinavia, where recognising same-sex relationships has a long history, marriage rates among heterosexual couples have increased by as much as 30% and divorce rates have gone down.
Because same-sex marriage strengthens marriage for everyone, former Howard government Liberal Minister Helen Coonan has changed her views on the definition of marriage. She will be voting ‘with a resounding yes’, as will Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the same reason.
Vote ‘Yes’ to bring commitment back to the fractured institution of marriage.
10. Because you care about kids.
LGBTI couples already have kids. The cumulative evidence shows that kids of LGBTI couples do just as well as kids of opposite-sex couples. If marriage confers benefits to kids of heterosexual couples, then why deny those benefits to kids of LGBTI couples?
Again, Catholic priest Frank Brennan explains:
'There are an increasing number of children being raised by same sex couples. The number is not going to decline. Those children deserve to be brought up in a society where there is a public commitment to respect and affirmation of their family arrangements.'
And as conservative journalist Greg Sheridan says:
‘Once the law accepts that gay couples can adopt children, then the overwhelming priority in the whole question is the welfare of the children. All children benefit from their parents being as committed to each other, and to them, as possible. Legal marriage helps the children of gay couples as it does the children of heterosexual couples.'
Vote ‘Yes’ for the kids of LGBTI couples.
11. Because you care about your friends and family.
You probably have more gay friends, family members, colleagues, and employees than you think. Many LGBTI people still don’t come out to their work colleagues, or even to family.
According to BeyondBlue, the mental health of LGBTI people is among the poorest in Australia. LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia. Up to 50 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once in their lives. Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers.
In jurisdictions that have legalised same-sex marriage, there’s a much smaller gap between the rates of poor mental health among same-sex attracted and heterosexual people. According to the US Centre for Disease Control, even rates of heart disease, drug use, and stress are lower among married partners.
And, despite the persistent and pernicious myth to the contrary, LGBTI people do not have legal equality.
Vote ‘Yes’ to help out your gay friends and family. The simple act of putting an envelope in a post-box may well have a positive affect on your family, your workplace, and your business.
LISTEN: Penny Wong speaks about getting married on I Don't Know How She Does It (post continues after audio...)
12. Because you care about your own kids.
What if your own child, grandchild, niece, or nephew is gay? The shocking statistics concerning the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people get starker in the younger age groups.
According to BeyondBlue, 55 per cent of LGBTI women aged 16-24 will have a high or very high level of psychological distress compared to 18 per cent of the nation as a whole, and 50 per cent of LGBTI men compared with 7 per cent. Young same-sex attracted Australians have up to six times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers.
Yet recent US research has found the rate of youth suicide attempts among gay and lesbian youths dropped by 14 per cent where same sex marriage was made legal.
Voting ‘Yes’ may literally mean saving a child’s life. And that’s something everyone should care about. Vote ‘Yes’ to end the stigma and to save young lives.
13. Because you care about our country.
Same-sex marriage has a host of benefits not only for LGBTI people and their families but also society as a whole. For example, marriage equality promotes equality and non-discrimination in society generally; fosters psychological, physical, and social wellbeing among LGBTI people, which flows on to a more productive workforce and a lesser burden on the health system; promotes family stability; and strengthens national identity and cohesion. It provides particular economic and business advantages (see below).
Imagine an Australia without the bitterness and vitriol currently tearing Australia apart. Vote ‘Yes’ to put Australia back again.
14. Because you care about the economy.
Marriage equality will bring positive economic benefits, ranging from increased spending in the Australian economy and increased labour productivity to improvements in social and mental health.
For example, ANZ has calculated that spending on weddings alone could add at least $500 million to the economy.
Overall, voting ‘Yes’ could inject around $1 billion to $3 billion into the Australian economy.
15. Because you care about the fair go.
A ‘fair go’ entails equal treatment under the law. Despite the persistent myth to the contrary, LGBTI people do not have equal treatment under the law. The High Court marriage equality case, Cth v ACT  HCA 55, explains how a bundle of rights and obligations attach to the status of marriage.
While ever LGBTI people cannot legally wed, the law denies LGBTI people this automatic bundle of rights and obligations. More fundamentally, you — a straight person — can marry the person you love; while a gay man can marry no-one he loves. How is that giving your fellow citizens a ‘fair go’?
Vote ‘Yes’ for the Aussie fair go.
16. Because you believe in the Golden Rule.
The Golden Rule is perhaps the most widely shared tenet of the major religions. In Christianity and Judaism it’s reflected in the command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:36-40; Leviticus 19:18).
In Buddhism, it’s ‘Hurt not others with that which pains yourself’ (Udana-Varqa, 5:18). In Hinduism, it’s ‘This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others that which would cause pain if done unto you’ (Mahabharata 5:1517).
In Islam, it’s ‘Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you’ (Mishkat-el-Masabih). How would you feel if Australians voted against the legitimacy of your relationship?
Vote ‘Yes’ to apply the Golden Rule to LGBTI couples who are in long-term, committed, and loving relationships and allow them the same opportunity to get married as everyone else.
17. Because we’re all in this together.
You mightn’t care about marriage equality, but you may belong to a different minority or disadvantaged group yourself. Remember when head of the Australian army, Lieutenant General David Morrison warned: ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’?
If you let the government get away with legislation that disadvantages an entire class of people, then you suggest that you will accept discrimination and injustice in other areas. And, very possibly, those areas may affect you and your loved ones, even if you think marriage equality doesn’t affect you.
You might also be letting down people who have worked hard for your rights, equal opportunity, and social acceptance.
LGBTI people, though no monolith, and the so-called ‘left’ of politics, have long been allies of other groups that society has marginalised, demonised, and discriminated against, such as Muslims, Indigenous Australians, and refugees.
For example, spokesman for the Islamic Council of Queensland and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ali Kadri, has remarked how ‘the right and conservative side has attacked Muslims as terrorists and extremists, and naturally the left side has been allies in defending us for a long period of time.’
All of us belong to a minority of some kind or another; most of us face discrimination and prejudice at some time in our lives. LGBTI rights are at stake now. But it might be your rights at stake later.
Vote ‘Yes’ to signal to the government that a minority — any minority — should not have their rights cast to the whim of the mob. And recall the famous words of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Hopefully, one or more of these reasons will jolt you into thinking carefully about marriage equality and spur you into action: fill-in your survey form as soon as you receive it and return it the same day.
As you can see, a lot depends on it.
This was originally published by Troy Simpson on Facebook and was republished here with full permission.
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