Campaign for marriage equality is on as High Court confirms postal vote

The campaign for marriage equality is on as High Court gives postal vote the green light

The High Court has given the green light for the government’s proposed postal survey on same-sex marriage. The reasons the court upheld the survey are yet to be published but from next week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will post out surveys asking us if the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The campaign for marriage equality is now on in earnest and Australia has the opportunity to follow in Ireland’s footsteps to become the second country in the world to deliver the change in law through a public vote.

Tiernan Brady is the executive director of the marriage equality campaign in Australia and was the political director of the Irish Yes Equality campaign. In an op-ed in Fairfax Media on Friday he urged ‘campaigners’ to get out there and tell their own stories to the people around them.

“The not-so-secret weapon of the Irish campaign was the people who told their stories,” he writes. “Across towns, villages and at crossroads people talked with their families, their friends and knocked on doors to allow people to understand why this mattered. We let people ask genuine questions.”

These “campaigners”, he says, were not really campaigners, they were members of the community asking to be seen and recognised.

“They were not just LGBTQI people by any means. The parents of lesbian and gay people grabbed the imagination of the communities across the island as they “came out” as the most amazing advocates for their children – and why wouldn’t they? Their dignity won the country over.”

It has already been made abundantly clear that here in Australia dignity is not universal. Disrespect and dishonesty have marked the public discussion about same sex marriage for years.

In recent weeks marriage equality has been framed as tantamount to dismantling the family unit, threatening the curriculum taught at schools and an unnecessary encroachment of political correctness.

Christine Forster, a high profile Yes Campaigner who has been engaged to her female partner since 2013, says these falsehoods needs to be exposed.

“Misinformation and untruths are being pedalled by some members of the no campaign,” Forster says. “It is utterly untrue to say that if we allow same sex marriage it will have any impact whatsoever ever on what is taught to your children at school.”

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She says the idea that the outcome of this postal vote giving parents any influence over the school curriculum is ridiculous.

“The LGBTI agenda in schools seems to be the big fear the no campaign are focused on and it is purely and simply scaremongering,” Forster says. “It’s trying to shift the spotlight away from what this is all about –which is about giving all Australians the right to marry under our law.”

She says it is critical that everybody on the yes side of the campaign pulls together.

“It’s a pretty broad group of people – we wouldn’t ordinarily be in the same camp on all political issues but in this instance that is irrelevant.”

The objective for anyone interested in equality before the law for all Australians is threefold: vote yes, fight to keep the marriage equality debate focused on marriage equality and speak to the people around you.

If you have a story about why marriage equality matters, about why eradicating the entrenched discrimination is important, now is the time to share it. If we are to replicate Ireland’s victory we need to replicate their secret weapon.

I have been a supporter of marriage equality for as long as I can remember because the entrenched discrimination in our marriage act offends every principle of fairness and justice I believe in. The rate of suicide among the LGBTI community is a truly abysmal reflection, in my mind, of the damage that is inevitable when our laws permit and promote prejudice.

Last weekend I was reminded, yet again, of the personal toll this exacts. I have an aunt who is gay and in the middle of a discussion we were having about the High Court’s potential decision she reminded me that up until she was 21 being homosexual was classified as a mental illness.

How could that not irreparably traumatise every boy, girl, man and woman who knew they were gay? It can’t. And the same is true when an entire section of the community is denied a right that the majority enjoys.

If you care about the welfare of children or the closeness of family or the wellbeing of your fellow citizens, vote yes. Your vote will change lives for the better.

As The Age’s editorial says: “Civilisation is the story of change, and this particular advance is lamentably late in Australia. The sole result of legalising same-sex marriage would be more weddings.”

Let’s get this done.

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