LIKE so many of you, marriage equality is rather important to me.
I may not be in a longterm relationship at the moment, but I come from a family and cultural heritage where marriage is taken seriously and celebrated.
[showads ad=MREC]So you can imagine why I am utterly pissed off at the way many of our federal politicians are handling the issue of marriage equality.
Legislating it should not be such a big deal. From a purely legal perspective, it’s largely symbolic in an Australian context considering how de facto couples of any gender essentially have the same rights and benefits as married couples. But to make marriage equality happen, it only requires parliament to amend about six words in the federal Marriage Act. That is all.
We don’t need a referendum, as it’s not in our constitution. A plebiscite is both a waste of taxpayer’s money and not legally-binding. Actually, any human rights issue concerning a minority should never, ever be subject to the vote of a majority. The High Court in 2013 even confirmed that Federal Parliament had the power to legislate marriage equality.
So why are so many MPs still shuffling their damn feet on the matter after 11 years of debate and consistent polls showing Australians in favour of it?
For a moment though, let’s actually think of the children. Think of the boys and girls who, as you read this column, are struggling with their sexuality. They don’t understand what they’re feeling, or why they’re somewhat different from their peers at school. It’s a scenario familiar to so many of us.
I can still remember the confusion as I struggled with my sexuality during my high school years in the late 1990s/early 2000s. I tried so hard to be the person society wanted me to me, the person the cultural norms in my Palestinian/Lebanese family expected of me — but I failed. I also hoped it was just a phase and part of growing up, but the feelings only became stronger as I became older. All this “trying”, all this “lying” — it affected my confidence and there were times when I felt alone. There were no positive, young gay role models when I was a teenager, and the fear of rejection from family and friends made me anxious.
While things got better for me, thanks to the ongoing marriage equality debate some kids today are essentially being told by the anti-equality group that there is something wrong with them, that they do not fit in with the rest of society. Studies also continue to show that the rates of suicide, self-harm, and depression among LGBTI people are much higher than their heterosexual peers.
So the next time someone cries “think of the children”, well, they are right. We should. Legislating marriage equality will go a long way to help those who feel alone and frightened. It sends a message that it’s okay to like someone of the same sex, and it’s okay to marry them. It sends a message that you’re afforded equal rights before the law. It’s pretty simple.
Some politicians also love to say marriage equality “is not a top priority”. Well, if it’s not that big a deal — what’s stopping them from making the amendment? Like I said, it’s only about six words that need to be amended. I, for one, would also very much like to move on and focus on tackling other, bigger issues facing the LGBTI community.
It’s not “it’s time” for Australia to have marriage equality. It’s well and truly overdue.
Just get it over and done with, Canberra.
**This editor’s column was first published in the September edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.