Since January 15, Redheads — the manufacturer of Redheads Matches — have been conducting a competition to find the best re-imagining of its iconic box design. The competition has given equal marriage rights advocates an opportunity to send an equality message into shops across Australia.
MARRIAGE equality matters.
It matters because equality under the law matters. My exclusive, committed relationship with the adult I love is no different in any relevant way from the exclusive, committed relationship that two heterosexual adults may have. Children cannot be a relevant difference since infertile couples and people who choose not to have children can still marry.
Yet my relationship is treated differently. Heterosexuals can marry and I cannot. This is basic unfairness. What is a first order priority of government if it’s not to address basic unfairness?
The unfairness is not merely abstract or theoretical. The status of marriage automatically confers certain legal rights. Marriage makes people happier and healthier. Married people live longer than single people.
Conversely, unequal treatment harms people. Gay people are still sometimes seen as broken, or deficient, or lacking. Marginalisation, discrimination, and demonisation have harmful psychological impacts on people — and harmful physical impacts, too, especially for young people coming to terms with their sexuality. Young gay men and women are four or five times more likely to attempt suicide. Some of the stigma will lift once marriage equality is introduced. Recognising same-sex marriage will make us feel good about ourselves.
Marriage equality matters to families and society more broadly. If marriage confers benefits and protections to heterosexuals and their children, by fostering cohesion and stability, then why deny those benefits to children of gay parents? Longterm, stable, monogamous relationships are good for society. If same-sex marriage makes such relationships more common, then same-sex marriage is pro-family. Marriage equality is as much a capital-C conservative thing to do as it is a small-L liberal thing to do.
I’m impatient for marriage equality. I’ve been advocating for same-sex marriage since 1997, when I participated in a First Steps program run by the AIDS Action Council in Canberra. I’m impatient because there’s no logical reason why we must wait any longer.
Last year, the High Court unanimously and unambiguously gave the Federal Parliament the power to legislate with respect to same-sex marriage. The old excuse (and feigned concern) that gay people might enter marriages that are later found invalid is gone.
And no longer is the Coalition bound by any pre-election promise to keep the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage that John Howard introduced in 2004. In short, there are no excuses left to deny marriage equality. Parliament has the ability to introduce same-sex marriage; all it needs is the will.
The argument that equality must wait for the economy to be fixed is also unconvincing. Same-sex marriage will be a boon to the economy. When Tony Abbott inexplicably reintroduced knights and dames, he said his government can do several things at once. The same is true with marriage equality. Something as fundamental as equality should wait for nothing.
The government won’t act because they don’t see votes in marriage equality. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a Roman Catholic, opposes gay marriage on religious grounds. He believes marriage is only between a man and a woman. But religious marriage is different from civil marriage.
If enough people, including people from corporate Australia, publicly support marriage equality, then it would be defused politically. Even Tony Abbott’s “principles” will yield to pragmatism. The way forward is for Abbott to allow his MPs a conscience vote on the issue in parliament. If Abbott can exercise his conscience, then it’s fair that his MPs be allowed to exercise theirs.
That’s why it’s important to publicly support marriage equality.
That’s why it’s important to vote every day for my Redheads re-design. Judges will adjudicate three entries for cash prizes, while the public will choose the most popular design. Although no cash prize will be awarded for the public choice, winner of that category is worth much more than money. If my design wins the popular vote, Redheads will print it on limited release matchboxes.
Ms Redheads has a chance to become a positive symbol of liberty and a mascot for marriage equality.
You can vote for Troy Simpson’s marriage equality design for Redheads every day from now until midnight, April 11. His design has already received over 2000 votes, but faces stiff competition. To vote, visit http://goo.gl/epVReC.