The right side of history

I am an Australian for marriage equality.

The funny thing about this debate is that if I’m being brutally honest, marriage is not something I feel a great deal about. I should, but I don’t. My parents have been happily married for thirty years. I come from a huge extended family and have been to my fair share of “beautiful” weddings, but the cynic in me sees the concept as outdated, backwards, a waste of time.

But this should be a realisation that everyone has the opportunity to figure out for themselves.

Right now, this is not the case.

I am yet to hear a single argument in favour of discrimination, which effectively is what this debate is about, that doesn’t start with either, “In the bible…” or “A child needs a mother and a father…”. Firstly, religion is not an argument. I am talking about equal rights under the law: separation of church and state. You know, that whole thing. You can have your religious beliefs, but don’t sit there and dictate what other secular Australians can and cannot do. With all the bad press religion has seen over the decades, you would think that allowing love to be recognised under law would be high on their agenda.

Secondly, the argument about a child needing a parent from both sexes is rather condescending. I doubt any lesbian or gay couple think they can replicate the role of, and do a better job than, a member of the opposite sex. Positive male and female role models are fundamental in a child’s life whether or not the parents are in a heterosexual relationship, homosexual relationship or single parents. Let’s also not forget that there is no shortage of deadbeat mums and dads from heterosexual relationships out there.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” and I’m willing to bet where there is a “deficiency” in what is best for the child, most loving parents would be doing their darnedest to rectify that situation – a godfather as a male role model, an aunty as a positive female influence etc.

On a personal level, I will never forget this heartbreaking story from a trip I took to the United States. My cousin lives in San Francisco in an apartment block opposite a male couple who have been in a loving, committed relationship for longer than I have been alive. My visit coincided with the Proposition 8 vote where Californians were in the process of deciding whether or not they would allow people like these two men the right to marry. What really struck me about my experience is that if I had drunkenly met some floozy in Vegas, we could have wed immediately. Yet these two men were, and still are, denied that right.

I’m sure stories like this occur all around Australia.

Worse still, kids are being bullied due to their sexual orientation and are committing suicide. I’m sorry, can I repeat that: kids are killing themselves! Marriage equality may not be the answer, but it sure as hell goes a long way in changing public perception and creating acceptance. Try telling a child that every one is equal and that you will always be accepted for who you are, oh except of course in situation X, Y and Z. If this isn’t reason enough to move forward on the issue, I’m not sure I can convince those against progress otherwise.

I may not know how to fix the economy or the environment but I guarantee I can sort this marriage equality mess out. Change the Marriage Act from “a man and a woman” to “a person and a person.” Simple. Men can marry women, women can marry women and men can marry men, if they so choose, affecting no one but the people exclusively in those relationships. After all is said and done, we can get back to dedicating newspaper inches and parliamentary debate to fixing the rest of Australia.

Speaking of parliamentary debate, soon this matter will come before Parliament and the Labor Party will offer a “conscience” vote for its members albeit without the support of their leader (I wonder how long Australia will have to wait for Prime Minister Gillard to “evolve” on marriage equality.) The Liberals, on the other hand, are not even entertaining the idea: it’s a flat out “no”. How can anyone sit in Canberra and think that because of their bigoted beliefs an entire Australian community can be discriminated against?

This issue won’t go away. Change is inevitable. We only need to look at the news coming out of Tasmania the A.C.T and South Australia to see that state based marriage equality laws are on the horizon. Nationally, if it’s not 2012, it will be 2013, 2014,… or sometime later when the rest of the world is looking at Australia and shaking their collective heads at our backwards laws. That documentary capturing the history of this debate is going to be hugely embarrassing for those caught on the wrong side of history.

I know I’m going to be on the right side of history… will you?

Mike Nicholson is a 25 year-old freelance media graduate from Adelaide. When he’s not undertaking a variety of temporary media and non-media related work you can find him avidly tweeting, trawling the internet for memes or attempting to forge a career in radio. Check out his innermost thoughts on twitter: @Mikey_Nicholson.