Hide your children; the plebiscite* is coming!
It sounds like something from a cheesy horror movie, doesn’t it? Picture the streets awash with bodies, people young and old running in all directions, screaming, falling down, pushing one another out of the way…
That’s how it looks inside my head, for two reasons: I have anxiety and that’s a somewhat regular internal scene for me, and also because I’m dreading the plebiscite. For those of you who don’t know, the Australian government has decided to take the issue of same-sex marriage to a national poll, known as a plebiscite. It’s being discussed, contested, endorsed and condemned again and again. At this stage, if it goes ahead, it looks to cost the nation at least 160 million dollars. Now, I want you to bear in mind a few things about Australia, money, and this general issue:
1. Surveys and polls have shown (and continue to show) increasing support from the Australian public at large for marriage equality,
2. Australian government claims to have a separation from church and state (I mention this because it is consistently religion that stands in the way of marriage equality, stating that it should be between a man and a woman),
3. It is a fact that there are still Aboriginal people living in parts of Australia who are contracting diseases that are long-eradicated in countries we call ‘developing’, countries to whom we provide financial aid and
4. People who fall under the LGBTIQ banner still experience discrimination, daily.
So, why is an issue that is a basic human right even being debated at all? The united Nations Universal Declaration
of Human rights states:
1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It says nothing whatsoever about the fact that men and women can only marry each other. Therefore, to deny me this right is to deny me a basic human right, as stated by the United Nations.
So, we’re already being denied basic human rights… why is this even up for discussion? Why is it going to be voted on by the people of our nation, especially when it has been proven many times that the Australian public are all for it?
If you’re reading this, and you don’t identify as under the LGBTIQ umbrella and also don’t know anyone who does, I want you to imagine for a moment that this impending plebiscite is about you. I want you to imagine it is about something you hold dear, like the right to own a rifle and to hunt, or the right to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.
Imagine how you would feel, having millions of people who don’t know you, don’t know a thing about you voting on your right to do those things you love… it would feel pretty crappy, right? Imagine all the vegans who would say ‘killing animals is wrong’… imagine yourself thinking ‘well, that’s your belief, not mine… why do the rules that govern my rights have to fall under what your beliefs dictate?
Now, imagine instead of the vote being about something you like to do, imagine it’s about a part of who you are that you cannot change. If we have a separation of church from state in this country, what’s the hold-up? It’s kinda funny how the catholic church has soooo much money… such a powerful and wealthy influence here in Australia… I’m positive it has nothing whatsoever to do with it though, just a coincidence I’m sure…
Now, to the money. One hundred and sixty million?!? That’s the projected cost. We all know it’s going to be more than that. It doesn’t take much to think about some things that money could be better spent on… like the remote communities in Australia with no refuse collection. The communities living in Dickensian conditions because miners pushed them off their traditional lands so they could dig up all the Uranium hiding beneath that red soil. The communities with no medical centres, owing to cost cuts.
Ever heard of Trachoma? It’s a bacterial eye disease. It causes irreversible blindness. According to the World Health Organisation, trachoma is ‘endemic in many of the poorest and most remote areas of 51 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia and the Middle East.’ Trachoma is regarded as a disease of poverty, and is now unknown in developed countries… except Australia. But we’re going to spend upwards of 160 mill on a vote that is just not necessary.
Lastly, let’s talk about discrimination. If you don’t identify as LGBTIQ (I have many friends that don’t), chances are that you might think in this day and age, discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity has all but disappeared. It hasn’t. It’s alive and kicking, and right in front of your face.
Recently, I was told by my local fruit shop guy ‘I don’t mind “gays” getting married, but I don’t think they should raise children’. Can you imagine the thoughts going through my head? ‘Why? Do you think I’m some kind of depraved pervert? I’m just a regular person… I love kids! Do you think I’d “make them gay”?’ Of course, he didn’t ‘mean anything by it’, but therein lies the problem: it doesn’t matter the intent. Dig down deep and explore why you feel that way. You’re saying I’m not fit to raise a child. Because I’m in love with a woman. It hurts.
Now, let me assure you, this kind of discrimination happens every day. So, ponder this: when we as LGBTIQ people are treated this way by people who call themselves our friends, colleagues and family, how are we going to feel when we start seeing the advertisements on the television for the campaign against marriage equality in the lead-up to this plebiscite?
Just actually take a second to imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table, watching Family Feud with your spouse and children. You’re in a same-sex relationship, you’ve been together eleven years. You have two intelligent and kind daughters together. One of them wants to be a Police Officer when she grows up, so she can help people, and the other one wants to be a vet, because she loves animals. You’re all having a laugh at the Feud, and the ridiculous answers people come up with.
Now, cut to a break and the first advertisement is about the upcoming Plebiscite. It is not endorsing the yes vote… it features messages about how it is unnatural and wrong for marriage to be anything but a man and a woman. It tells viewers that all children must have a mother and a father, lest they grow up skewed somehow… You and your partner look at one another, and then for the remote. You’ve left it beside the television.
You jump up, grab it, and change the channel. Silence follows at the dinner table. This is going to be a reality for many, many Australians. This is going to affect our mental health, and just who is going to pay for all the new services we will need, to accommodate the influx of cases of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation?
This plebiscite will be devastating to so many, and the most ridiculous thing of all is that it is not needed. If you’re interested in standing up for what’s right and having your voice heard, check out Australian Marriage Equality’s website.
Because everyone deserves the rite of passage that is the chicken dance at a wedding reception.
Written By: Guest Blogger Robyn Hall
*The plebiscite is a country-wide vote on the issue and will be held in February
If you like this article, check out our Zero Discrimination Collection.