COMMENT: A lot has been said about the conduct of equality campaigners and advocates while the debate to change marriage laws has been taking place. As with every group there will always be some bad eggs, however, the actions of most are quite justified. The word ‘No’ in this campaign digs right to my very soul, when people use it represents that I am not like everyone else and should not get the same rights. If this were you, I bet it would hurt too.
When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the postal survey, currently being conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) at a cost of $122 million, he asked everyone to have a respectful debate around the issue. He even blamed the Labor Party and the Greens for not giving Australian’s enough credit that they could have a civil debate.
I am sure that his intensions around keeping the punches above the belt was done so with honestly and good intentions, the fact is it was never going to be.
When people are debating the very worth of a person, who they are and who they love, high emotions are bound to come into play.
When opponents of change attempt to justify their reasons for voting No, they are inevitably discriminating against same-sex couples. This is state-sanctioned discrimination no less.
Cambridge Dictionary defines discrimination as, “treating a person or a particular group of people differently, especially in a worse way from the way in which you treat other people, because of their skin colour, sex, sexuality, etc.”
I am not sure if everyone who expresses their negative view on changes to Australia’s marriage laws believes that they are discriminating against gay and lesbian couples, the fact remains that they are.
Personally, I understand that people will have a view that is sometimes different to my own. I relish the opportunity to have an educated debate on any number of topics. I may not always be able to convince you of my view however, I enjoy the verbal sparring. This debate is different.
I am not going to sit here and go through the merit for voting for change to marriage laws. I do want people to understand something. The things you say or write during the campaign will have a direct and emotional response from those it impacts.
Whether it is or it isn’t, the opportunity for marriage equality right now is too important to be complacent. Most gay and lesbian people see this as their only chance in the foreseeable future to making same-sex marriage a reality. If we lose it may be some years before we see any movement on this issue again. Politian’s will have the democratic high ground in claiming that Australian’s rejected it. Albeit by being deceived in a campaign laced with misdirection and red-herrings.
This is why I can’t just ‘turn off’ my emotions in this debate. I can’t bury my head and say that the outcomes don’t matter to me. The stakes for are far too high. I want to call my partner of 11 years my husband.
I have never in my life felt that I am any different to anyone else. I was raised as a regular kid in a small country town surrounded by love and happiness. Not for a single moment while coming out as gay 15 years ago did I feel that this changed who I was and my place in the world.
Until now. During this campaign I have been made to feel that I am not worthy, I am not valued in the community I serve and that I am indeed different to everyone else.
This is why it hurts so bad when I see ads on TV shifting the focus for this vote from marriage to freedoms. We are talking so much about religious freedoms in this vote, however, where is my freedoms of expression? Where is my freedom to express my love for my partner through marriage?
It was never going to be a civil debate as promised by the prime minister. It is not that Australians can’t be trusted to speak civilly, it is that the issue is too much about the value members of the gay and lesbian community have in this country. It’s about our worth.
Many No campaigners will never realise the power of their words in this survey. Just know that with every criticism you make or negative claim you speak you are having a significant impact on others around you.
That’s why it hurts so bad.
Written by Joshua Mathieson
Follow me on Twitter @TheMathiesonEd