In recent years many Western countries have been able to pass through laws enabling marriage equality. Australia by comparison has lagged behind on this issue, due largely to the fact that a conservative government has been in power during the period in which the issue has been at the forefront of current affairs. That is not to say that there weren’t people pushing for marriage equality prior to 2013. There were, and there were nations that had already passed legislation to allow it prior to then. However, the past 4 years (or so) have seen many Western nations (the US, the UK and NZ to name a few) following suit and changing the legislation surrounding same-sex marriage (lets call it SSM for short).
Certainly, if Labor (or any other left-leaning political party) were to take power in Australia (now[i]), there is no question that a marriage equality bill would simply be passed through government. The Liberal party however have been adamant that if marriage equality is to be passed under their power that there will be a plebiscite, in which all Australians get to vote. Their reasoning has generally been that in matters such as this it is important to let everyone have their say.
Labor and the Greens have however blocked the previous attempts to enforce a plebiscite. Conservatives have treated this as a matter of hypocrisy[ii], or have argued that progressives fear that they would fail to get a winning vote. The polls however have repeatedly shown that the majority of Australians support marriage equality. The reason why Labor and the Greens shot down the previous plebiscite bill was that it was very expensive (I believe $170 million?), and that it was going to provide tax-payer money to both yes and no groups, effectively giving federal funding to a public anti-marriage equality campaign (as well as the pro campaign).
Conservatives that oppose marriage equality ask what is wrong with that, for government funding to go to those that insist on upholding a “traditional conception of marriage”, and allowing everyone to have their vote? Such people consider it to be a perfectly reasonable thing to oppose SSM, and feel offended that they get labelled bigots for merely expressing their opinion. The problem is this: Opponents of SSM have presented numerous arguments against it, but they are all completely erroneous. Every. Single. One. That is, there are lots of reasons why some people oppose SSM, but not one single good reason. I’m not going to go in-depth into all such arguments here. If you wish to read such arguments, you can start with the following links[iii].
Opponents of SSM argue that it would change the definition of marriage, and therefore it wouldn’t really be marriage at all. That is, they argue that marriage has always been defined as the union of a man and woman, for life, and for the purpose of bringing up children in a safe and stable environment. The thing is, that if we want to be frank, a major part of the traditional (and yes, Biblical) conception of marriage was as the purchasing of property (the woman) from her father to the husband. Fortunately most of us in somewhat modern cultures do not see marriage in this way anymore, but rather consider marriage to be a legal recognition of a life-long romantic partnership. We do not see the husband as owning the wife, but rather we (ideally at least) see them as equal partners.
As for the children part, many heterosexual people get married and do not have children, many by choice. LGBTI people already have legal access to IVF and adoption, and recognition of their unions as marriage will not change that in any way. Hence, if you are to deny LGBTI people access to marriage on the basis of it being strictly for the raising of children, perhaps you ought to divorce straight couples that have not children.
As such, given that the modern conception of marriage is as a legal recognition of a committed romantic partnership, there is no reason why this should apply only to heterosexual couples, and not to the LGBTI community. Words and concepts frequently evolve over time, and this is another example of such evolution. Not so long ago racism was largely accepted by mainstream society, and whilst it still certainly exists today, a significant percentage of modern people in Western nations will not tolerate it. It wasn’t even so long ago that women in Western nations were denied many of the rights given to men, and whilst there are still some legitimate areas for feminists to keep fighting, much ground was been won in this regard.
Regarding, the Liberal parties original plebiscite bill, it proposed giving taxpayers money to anti SSM lobbyists. Can you imagine a government giving federal funding to a racist organization to publish anti-Semitic material on television, in newspapers or on billboards? Can you imagine a government providing funding to a men’s rights group to petition the withholding of women’s rights?
Over the past few weeks we have constantly seen vile homophobic garbage in the media, from Bronwyn Bishops comments comparing SSM to bestiality and infanticide[iv], to the “Stop the fags” posters that have been showing up in Melbourne[v]. This is exactly why Labor and the Greens have opposed Liberals plans to host a plebiscite on marriage equality, as it is simply giving a voice to awful, irrational hatred that doesn’t deserve to be heard. Furthermore, the postal survey isn’t even a formal plebiscite, but rather a yes vote will simply lead to a vote in parliament. Hence, the whole thing can certainly be argued to be a gigantic waste of time and money.
Holding awful opinions doesn’t necessarily make someone an outright awful person:
Ultimately, I have to say that I think that the only reason why anyone would object to SSM is that they are homophobic. I happen to have a significant amount of family (and perhaps a few friends) that are openly homophobic, some virulently so. I personally feel that such opinions are equivalent to anti-Semitism; that is they are completely irrational, and downright ugly.
I do think however that we should avoid defining people completely by such opinions. That is, I know of many wonderful people that hold awful opinions. Human beings are complex creatures, and people temporarily identify with a range of different beliefs, seeking identity with religious, philosophical, political, racial and national groups. And yet, all beings are Spirit, and therefore have infinite worth and unlimited potential to shine forth radiance into the world. Most people have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, and may largely help other people, whilst still being held back by erroneous beliefs.
It is important to remember that beliefs, opinions and even behaviour can change, and that these things do not define the true Self. Rather, the true Self is eternal and unchanging, always accessible when the mind is still. Homophobia is one of the many symptoms of ego and illusion. Whilst we should stand up for what is true and good, we can simultaneously hold sympathy for those that are suffering from illusion, fear and hate.
There is much more that can be said on this topic, but this will suffice for today. May we treat each other with respect and dignity, find love within, and be an example of how love can express itself in the world at large.
[i] Labor previously opposed same-sex unions prior to 2009.
[ii] As in Australian progressives had the chance to vote in marriage equality, but they themselves shot it down.
[iii] An example of a case against same-sex marriage “10 reasons why homosexual marriage is harmful and must be opposed”: https://www.tfpstudentaction.org/blog/10-reasons-why-homosexual-marriage-is-harmful-and-must-be-opposed. See for yourself, all the arguments are baseless.
“18 arguments against gay marriage – and why they’re all bollocks”:
“Common arguments against gay marriage”: https://www.thoughtco.com/moral-and-religious-arguments-250095
“I oppose same-sex marriage – (and no, I’m not a bigot) by Michael Jensen”: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/jensen-i-oppose-same-sex-marriage-(and-no,-im-not-a-bigot)/6502850 . He claims that perhaps many people simply haven’t heard a sensible argument against same-sex marriage. In truth however, his argument simply consists of “it won’t be marriage as we know it; it will change the definition of it.” We have already heard that, and no, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
[iv] Bronwyn Bishop links same-sex marriage to bestiality and infanticide: https://twitter.com/skynewsaust/status/894887903158910976?lang=en.