Australia has many fine traditions. Water fights and backyard cricket at Christmas. Eating too much at lunch on Easter Sunday. In Victoria, there’s the sickie on the Monday before Melbourne Cup Day. In a busy world, these traditions are about creating opportunities for us to come together as families.
Marriage Equality does not undermine or diminish our concept of family. It enlarges and strengthens it. It would encourage more Australian couples to stand before their loved ones and promise to spend the rest of their lives together. That can only be a good thing.
These rites are not necessary in order for a couple to legally establish or publicly demonstrate their commitment. But this applies to every couple. And so does the meaning that a couple may or may not ascribe to calling that marriage.
Preventing same sex couples from marrying is not tradition. It’s a form of discrimination that, for now, is enshrined in Australian law.
This is not a question of freedom of expression or opinion. Australians would not tolerate laws that prevented people from marrying because of their race or religion. Nor should they tolerate laws that discriminate based on sexuality or gender identification.
It is also not a question of freedom of religion. Religious people can continue to hold beliefs about the institution of marriage, and define what it means for their faith. Priest, pastors and celebrants that don’t support marriage equality, won’t have to officiate over same sex marriages.
That Australian laws might accord with a particular religion’s beliefs, does not mean those laws cannot or should not be changed. In our secular society, religious freedoms are preserved by the separation of church from state. Religious beliefs do not require legislative endorsement. And this is to the benefit of those who hold them. It ensures that other beliefs are not imposed on religious people in, perhaps, the manner that theirs are imposed on same sex couples right now.
Legislating for marriage equality won’t require anyone to approve of other people’s marriages, any more than we do in respect of straight couples now. Personal approval or disapproval about someone else’s marriage is (hopefully!) a matter of private opinion. It certainly does not require state intervention. In fact, marriage equality will have no impact on straight people at all.
For those who remain uncomfortable, please remember that – for you – nothing will change at all. If you can find it in your heart to vote yes to marriage equality, your support will provide validation for others, while reinforcing a family structure that you believe in.
LOVE IS LOVE.