Referendum on gay marriage?

Independent MP Tony Windsor has proposed a referendum on same-sex marriage, to coincide with the forthcoming federal election. The proposal has backing from the Greens and other crossbenchers.

Mr Windsor said that Australians felt it was time to “let us have our say and get it away from you idiots [politicians]”.

If you have been following the same-sex marriage debate closely, you might remember that Tony Windsor actually voted against the most recent same-sex marriage bill. He has explained that he was a guest at a same-sex civil ceremony late last year and that it was “possibly the most sincere and meaningful occasion” he had ever attended. His stance on same-sex marriage has since softened.

According to polls support for same-sex marriage is growing. In 2011 a Fairfax/Neilson poll showed that 57 per cent of Australians supported gay marriage. Last year a Galaxy poll showed that the number had grown to 64 per cent.

Christian groups, led by Reverend Fred Nile, are in support of an election day referendum on same-sex marriage. Mr Nile believes, that if the question is “black and white”, Australians will vote against gay marriage. “I think people should decide the issue,” he said. “But the question has to be clear. A question like ‘are you in favour of marriage equality?’ will confuse some people… The question has to be black and white: ‘Do you agree that homosexuals should be legally married’?”

Read more about Tony Windsor’s proposal at The Age website. 

Read more about Reverend Fred Nile’s take on gay marriage at The Age website. 


Australia is an international embarrassment

As far as I’m concerned, same-sex marriage is no longer a debate, it is an inevitability. Support is skyrocketing, the opponents’ arguments sound weaker with every passing news story and now that New Zealand has jumped on the bandwagon, by not following suit we are looking embarrassingly out-of-date.

Australia has come a long way on this issue in an astonishingly short time. In 1980 it was still illegal to participate in gay sex in Victoria. By 2004 a Newspoll found that 38 per cent of Australians were in support of same-sex marriage. This week, Essential Media found that only 33 per cent were against. In just over 30 years we’ve gone from arresting same-sex couples to crying out as a nation for their right to marry. But we’re still behind the times.

I’m usually the measured, two-sides of the story blogger in the YOURLifeChoices office. But when it comes to same-sex marriage I have absolutely no sympathy for those who oppose it. We are all people. We are all Australians. We play together as children, we study together, we work together, we live in the same streets and go to council meetings to protest developments and complain about the public transport system. And we do it all together. As a country, we pride ourselves on the Aussie ‘fair go’.

And yet in a day and age where we strive for equality, Australia still tells some people that they are second class citizens, just because of who they happen to love. Not allowing gay marriage is like saying ‘Your difference makes me uncomfortable so I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist’. Why is it so difficult to instead say ‘Hey, you’ve found someone you love so much that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Good for you. Of course you can officially declare it in front of all the important people in your life. Who am I to stop you?’

Marriage is no longer about religion. Atheists and agnostics get married all the time. Nobody is forcing the church to perform these marriages. Denying same-sex couples the right to get married is denying them the basic human right of being equal with their fellow Australians. I have rarely been ashamed to call myself Australian, but until we allow same-sex marriage I think we as a country are an international embarrassment.

What do you think? Should gay marriage be legalised, or is marriage just between a man and a woman? And is holding a referendum on the issue a waste of money?