In a referendum at the weekend, Ireland voted 62 to 38 per cent in favour of gay marriage. Just one constituency out of 43 did not vote in favour of the change in this traditionally Catholic country. Ireland will now become the 19th country in the world to legalise gay marriage.
After news of the Irish vote went around the world, local politicians were quick to state their positions. Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated that Australia would not have such a referendum under his government, as referenda are held here to change our constitution. The Prime Minister repeated his opposition to same sex marriage and said that the Coalition party room would decide whether their members could have a conscience vote if the matter comes before parliament. Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, agreed a parliamentary vote was the correct process. Greens Senator Sarah Hansen-Young is also keen to see a parliamentary vote on this issue, stating that “cupid doesn’t discriminate and neither should the law”.
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King Canute couldn’t hold back the tide and it seems politicians will not be able to stop public support for this long overdue reform. There are fundamental human rights that cannot and should not be ignored. These protect our right to be who we are without discrimination based on the colour of our skin, our gender or our sexual orientation. Over time we have seen advances in civil liberties for many people – but those who wish to marry a partner of the same sex have been refused this right in most nations – and worse still, persecuted in others.
Whether they are gay or not, most rational people realise that a certain percentage of the human race has a preference for relationships with the same sex. So what on earth is stopping us from enshrining this in law? What do we hope to gain by ‘punishing’ gay people for not being straight? Bravo to the good people of Ireland who, despite centuries of domination by the Catholic Church, have come out in force to endorse the rights of their gay citizens.
Are you listening Australia? We once led the world in rights for older people and women – now we have the chance not to lead, but to follow in the paths of the other nations who have recognised what is fair and inevitable. No, we don’t need a referendum. Yet. But if our politicians can’t get their act together and allow a conscience vote for a parliamentary bill, it may come to that.
What do you think? Is same-sex marriage inevitable? Should our pollies have a free vote? Or do you believe Australia is not ready for this?