Words by Samantha Hillman
Today, after months of anticipation, Australia finds out the result of what has been a contentious referendum on the topic of Same Sex Marriage (SSM). For those of us living three time zones separated on the outside world, the result may seem inconsequential, but for Australians, this long-running debate has been seen as something of a blight on the oft-relatively calm socio-political Australian landscape (particularly in comparison to the last 12 months in the US under the new misogynist-in-chief, Donald Trump). The referendum — which much of the public sees as unnecessary government spending — has caused unbridled upheaval amongst many on both sides of the debate, not least of whom is ultra-conservative political commentator Miranda Devine. Thankfully, the vote does not rest on the shoulders of commentators like Devine, as an overwhelming 77% of the Australian voting public turned out to respond to the postal survey, more than both the Brexit vote and the 2016 US election. However, this hasn’t stopped the conservative media crying foul over recent months, often creating false narratives that work to appease the more right-leaning public of the predominantly Christian country and to promote scare tactics to influence the voting public.
In this field of commentators crying foul, Miranda Devine sets herself apart from the field. Conservative writer at The Daily Telegraph, Devine recently claimed that “rainbow fascists” are vilifying Christians in connection with today’s vote. True, churches have recently been vandalized. These incidents caused a predictable amount of back and forth between left and right leaning pundits. Devine and her conservative media pals, however, generally fail to note that it’s been grisly on both sides of the SSM debate, and in context of Australia’s shameful cultural legacy of reflexive homophobia — where in the 1980’s “poofter-bashing” was more or less an organized sport — and The Australian Christian Lobby’s recent suggestion that the children of gay couples are a ‘stolen generation’, the right’s claims of vilification aren’t holding up.
The left is not bullying Christianity with today’s plebiscite vote. Today’s vote is a human rights issue and religion has no place in the SSM debate. We don’t need religion to be good people and, as we’ve seen in recent debate, being religious does not guarantee one will be a good person. My goal here is not to dethrone God, but to remind you that he doesn’t hold a seat in parliament.
Australia is a secular nation. Our country is young, and our population diverse. Our rich cultural tapestry — which is varied in ethnicity and sexual orientation, and bequeaths us national treasures like steamed Dim Sims and Magda Szubanski — must be considered and incorporated into our policymaking. We must develop laws which recognise plurality. We must adapt the laws we have to accommodate our nuanced demography.
Devine and her ilk talk frequently about protecting kids. Concern for children is common ground regardless of politics. When ideological waters cloud, protecting the young is a logical northern star. While we all want to keep them safe, we just disagree on what counts as a reasonable threat.
I believe that the greatest hazard to the next generation is closed-mindedness. While homosexuality cannot be taught, acceptance can. As an Australian citizen, I believe we have a duty of care innoculate future LGBTI youth against the shameful legacy of reflexive homophobia which runs deep through the veins of our country, and marred the lives of so many before them.
We have a duty of care to pursue a new societal ideal, one which welcomes nuance in sexuality and gender, and which champions thought that is rational and inclusive.
We have a duty of care to separate church from state, and grant same-sex families the rights that heterosexual Australians already enjoy.
Marriage isn’t about politics or religion.
Marriage is about love.
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