I’m an Australian. My family has resided here for generations.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I acknowledge the hurt and chaos caused by my forebears. I do this because I have respect for those who have been treated as if they weren’t human1.
I look at World War II and am confounded by the amount of death of the Jewish people, based solely on their religion2. How devastating that whole generations can be wiped out while the rest of the world watches.
I see the destruction of the Rwandan genocide3 in 1994 and have great angst about the role we all played in ignoring it.
My world was turned upside down on September 11 20014. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how anyone’s religion could lead them to kill innocent people.
The Boxing Day Tsunami5 was the one that ultimately lead me to walking away from religion. Hundreds of thousands of people died under a wall of water caused by an earthquake.
Now I have a new passion. My rights. The rights of those around me to be who they are. I have respect for people. I understand and acknowledge the many different perspectives in the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Michael’s family’s Jewish traditions, the Catholic faith of Jennie, mother of my children, or even the people I work with who read their stars in the paper every day. They have my respect in so much as they are entitled to believe.
I am not about changing people’s beliefs. Sure, I’ll challenge your beliefs, ask you to justify them and even get into a long and sometimes heated debate. But at the end of it, you’ll go on believing whatever you want. Maybe I’ll spark something in you.
Today, to read the underlying message from the Prime Minister of Australia, leaves me cold.
The first is on same-sex marriage. I am proud Labor has been at the forefront of changing laws to end discrimination against same-sex couples in so many areas. We have come a long way as a more inclusive and fair society in a relatively short time.
Julia recognises that there is discrimination, she has even been a part of helping to eliminate that discrimination.
However, I equally recognise the deeply held convictions in society on the questions of marriage. This diversity of public opinion is reflected in the passionate debate inside the Labor Party. Given the personal nature of the issue and the deeply held beliefs, I believe that in future it is appropriate that a conscience vote flow to Labor MPs. They should be free to vote in Parliament according to their own values and beliefs.
Deeply held convictions are to be respected. Diversity in public opinion is to be expected. We should only ever expect our MP’s to vote according to their own values and belief. What a country we would be if that was the case.
Many will ask what my opinion is and where I stand in the debate. As I have said many times, I support maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form and the government will not move legislation to change it. My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation, and that should continue unchanged. The Labor platform currently reflects this view.
Julia supports the marriage act, as changed in 2004 by the Howard Government.
“marriage” means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life6.
In that short addition to the marriage act we have an Act of Parliament that was created to deliberately discriminate against people wishing to enter into marriage, who are of the same gender. In a sense, the marriage was redefined. It was given a particular meaning. Australians weren’t asked about it, it just happened. I can’t help but observe how this small amendment now gets thrown around, as if it’s always been part of our culture. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Howard put that in there in 2004. It’s pretty new. Nobody talks about the second part, to the exclusion of all others and entered into for life. It’s too sticky because we know that marriages end, people have affairs.
When Julia talks about marriage having a particular meaning, and that meaning should continue unchanged, she gives no reasoning, other than her strong conviction. We have no idea what the strong conviction is based on. It’s fair to say that nobody is talking about getting rid of marriage in Australia. Changing the act would not prevent marriage between a man and a woman from happening. The world would not end, and I wouldn’t be considered a second class citizen.
Oh, yes, that’s what I am. Second class. My love, my life, my sexuality is not equal to the heterosexuals love, life or their sexuality.
Julia calls for respect.
What we must do when that debate is over is to respect one another’s point of view.
I already respect the other point of view. I understand it. Now it’s time for the respect to flow the other way. Those who oppose my point of view have no respect for me. I have not once seen a well reasoned argument for why I shouldn’t be allowed to marry Michael. I get it when people talk about children needing a mother and father, but that’s not marriage. I get it when people have their religious belief, but that’s not my belief.
Yet, I have to accept that my life is being judged as unequal based on perceptions that are not my reality.
I’m realistic, I understand how the politics work. One day maybe I’ll be allowed to vote on worth of the marriage of my brothers and sister, of my friends and colleagues.
I can’t do this alone. The people, the lobby groups, struggling for marriage equality can’t do this alone. I need your help. We need your help.
I am a human being. I would like to be respected by the laws of this land.