Comparing gay marriage to child abuse: a new low in Australian politics.
During the Federal election campaign, Family First Senate Candidate Wendy Francis tweeted, “Legitimising gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse.” Although her view is an extreme one, the Federal government’s current stance on gay marriage complacently supports it.
As a child of a lesbian mother, their ignorant excuses for the same-sex marriage ban enrage me.
Francis claims that children brought up by gay couples suffer “uncontrollable depression and suicide.” However, a study at the University of Southern California reveals that the emotional development of children with gay and lesbian parents does not differ from children with heterosexual ones.
Children don’t need parents of each gender to adjust. The real danger to them is uninformed comments, such as Francis’, which promote attitudes of homophobia that will marginalise and ostracise children living in same-sex families.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, more than 4,300 Australian children live with same-sex couples. Gay father, Malcolm McPherson says, “It is not good for my children to see their father treated as a second class citizen”. By excluding the gay community from the central institution of marriage, the government is sending the message that homosexual relationships are inferior.
From a human rights perspective, surely it is in the child’s best interests to give their parents the same protections and benefits as those raised by straight couples.
Gay marriage popped up as the surprise question in the recent election, with both Gillard and Abbott repeatedly challenged on the issue. Both say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. I expect this from Abbott who openly admitted to being “threatened” by homosexuals earlier this year, but I expect more from an unmarried, atheist woman who has had to overcome adversity herself in order to hold the position she does today.
It seems many people are concerned about the threat to the sanctity of marriage. But what are we really protecting?
If there is any threat to the sanctity of marriage, it comes from those of us who have the right and have abused it. Look at the staggering divorce rate within our society, turn on the television and we are practically giving away husbands on reality shows and competing for the most elaborate wedding.
We have nothing to fear from people who are committed to each other and want to share their lives. My mother and her partner are two of the most committed people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It is a relationship that I envy, and perhaps one we all should. All they are asking for is to be treated fairly and equally.
Fortunately, my mother does not reside in such a backwards society as Australia. She lives in South Africa, a country that legalised same-sex marriage back in 2006. But in Australia, civil unions (which basically provide the same legal rights as marriage) are only available in some parts of the country.
Personally, I think it’s incredibly discriminatory to invent a new union specifically for gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples wish to marry. They want to do so for the exact same reasons as heterosexual couples: to publicly proclaim and celebrate their love, to protect their children, and to ensure legal and social recognition.
As for Penny Wong, she could not have been more wrong. The only openly gay female cabinet minister supported the Labor Party’s stance, citing “cultural, religious and historical views” as the reason for not legalising gay marriage. If this were true, women would not have the right to vote, the Aboriginal people would not be recognised as citizens, and Australia would not have women in the ministry - never mind a female PM!
As for the religious sanctimony of marriage, if we truly believed this we wouldn’t have non-religious marriage celebrants or even let atheists marry. Legalising gay marriage poses no threat to the religious institutions in our (apparently) secular society. Nobody’s asking two Priests to get married, or even force them to perform marriages for same-sex couples.
Perhaps if Gillard supported gay marriage, her position as Prime Minister would not be so tenuous?
The recent overall swing away from the Labor Party towards the Greens may be partly due to the fact they haven’t been listening to the voters. According to a Galaxy poll taken in 2009, 60% of Australians believed same sex couples should be able to marry. The historic win for the Greens in the seat of Melbourne has certainly given hope to those fighting for marriage equality.
Same-sex marriage is a reality in a growing list of countries, including South Africa, Spain, Norway and Argentina. It is inevitable that some day, same-sex couples in Australia will have the legal right to marry. As with every major human rights advance, from the abolition of slavery, to allowing women to vote, future generations will look back and wonder how anyone could have opposed such a basic human right.
Shari Nementzik is the child of a lesbian mother and an activist for gay rights. She has a BA (Hons) in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Leeds in the U.K and is currently completing a Masters of Media Practice at the University of Sydney.