Despite overwhelmingly public support, Australian MPs voted down marriage equality for same-sex couples almost two-to-one last week.
Not long after the news came through, a good friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook:
Today, the Australian Federal Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining discrimination against LGBT people in the law, even though I and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk are otherwise subjected to the same laws, taxes and constraints upon all Australians. A scan of my Facebook news feed shows that none of my friends, the majority of whom fall into this, my rainbow community – aside from two noted activists – have said anything. I think it’s little wonder then why we don’t have equality because, really, “we just don’t care”.
As someone who has been labelled numerous times as an inverted-commas ‘gay’ activist by Christian groups, I fell into the say-nothing category. My friend’s words moved me, though. I didn’t say anything at the time, not because I don’t care, but because I am tired.
Tired of having to justify my existence and right to be treated equally All The Fucking Time.
A couple of days later, my friend Craig posted the following on his Facebook, and I reposted it to the Bipolar Bear page:
“I am Craig, a 44 year old Australian man who has worked hard all his life and paid his taxes and invested in our culture and economy. I am accustomed to being hated, bullied, marginalised, used as a political pawn and having my rights and dignity withheld; however, yesterday I was denied the opportunity to publicly commit my love to another human being. It was made clear for the world to see that Australia has two classes of citizen: the first, allowed to formally commit to loving and being loved by their life partner; the second, not. As a result, the thought of celebrating another heterosexual couple’s wedding, engagement, baby, child, mortgage, shower or party of any kind, sickens me. I can no longer pretend to care for the choices offered a first class Australian until those choices are universal, and the legitimising of hate has ended. I would apologise, but I am over doing that too.”
It really summed up how I was feeling, and it generated a lot of discussion, which roughly fell into three categories:
- Amen, sister
- Yes, everything’s buggered and will never change
- Outraged heterosexuals being tarred with the bigotry brush
The disillusionment with the political process is potentially the most damaging response to this latest setback. Like it or not, it is the only way we are going to effect change. There have to be enough MPs who will have the balls to vote on this as a human rights issue, and defy cowardly party blocs set down by likes of Tony Abbott.
Do I believe for a second that every Liberal MP is a raging homophobe? Of course not. But how many stood up and defied their leader, crossing the floor to vote in favour of the bill?
According to The Australian, two were in favour – one made herself absent from the vote, and the other was on paternity leave.
One heterosexual correspondent on the Bipolar Bear page asked what she could do to show support. She had voted progressively at the last election, and wasn’t capable of financial contribution.
The answer is simple: be loud.
It’s very easy to show your support over a cup of coffee or a drink with friends, and tut about the state of the world. Pressure your local MP if he or she voted against equality. Write to them to express your disappointment.
If you’re heterosexual, use the examples of your gay friends or family being discriminated against. If you don’t have any gay friends or family, then talk about how marriage equality is not going to effect your life one iota, but will make a world of difference to gay people who are already contributing to society in every other way (and, most offensively, are recognised and penalised as couples for tax purposes when co-habiting).
If you’re gay, tell your story. Courtesy of blogger Preston de Guise, there is now a website where you can do that, and it’s called Second Class Citizen. There is also a Facebook page. Stories have been flowing in, and perhaps the most moving in the last few days came from a woman named Coral.
Her gay son passed away a few years ago – not of AIDS or by suicide – but by contracting meningitis in a foreign country. He had a partner, and they had planned to marry. She is carrying on the fight on their behalf, and continues to act as a surrogate mother for other gay men who have been rejected by their families.
The reaction to the story was universally positive from other gay men, rightfully saying that Coral was an “amazing” woman. Hopefully we can reach a point where her actions are no longer considered “amazing”. Caring about your friends, family and fellow citizens being treated poorly is a natural part of being human.
I consider it “amazing” that people don’t care more.