The release of the of the massive yes vote for marriage equality, by David Kalisch, the chief statistician of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, was the signal for the outbreak of spontaneous celebrations around the country.
Nearly 13 million Australians took part in the Marriage Law Survey and 61 percent declared their support for equality for same sex couples. It is beyond question now. The Australian community wants change and expect that the parliament will deliver. There can no longer be any excuse for the dithering that has been characteristic up to now.
Australia wants to move forward to build a more tolerant and accepting society and the politicians now have an obligation to respect this and move quickly to make it a reality.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had promised that in the event of the yes vote, the Coalition “will facilitate a private member’s Bill to make same-sex marriage legal before the end of the year”. The time for promises has gone and it is now time deliver and it needs t happen during the parliamentary debate will begin on 27 November.
It will not be plain sailing. As it stands, two different bills Were to be presented and there is a danger that the debate will be seriously limited.
One of them is from Western Australian Liberal Senator James Paterson, which contains provision that exempts ministers of religion and celebrants on the grounds of conscientious, guarantees freedom of speech on paper and allows parents to opt their children out of school classes that conflict with their values. In the wake of the strength of the Yes vote Paterson withdrew his bill and and has joined those who wish to make sure the alternative comes as close to it as possible.
Two things are wrong with the Paterson bill and is it worthwhile commenting on it.
Any conscientious objection provision needs to be restrictive enough not to become and under the counter means to legitimise discrimination. The same applies to the vague notion of guaranteeing free speech. The right to peddle hate that brings harm to others because of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other differences has nothing to do with free speech. Everyone should have the right to express their opinion, so long as it is within the context of honouring their repo9nsibity to not use this to harm others. Those at the recieving end have a right to protection.
It is now becoming clearer that some of the forces behind the No vote, are seizing the opportunity to to destroy the Equal Opportunity Act, by piggy backing into the Marriage Act a legal right to discriminate. Expect some vigorous campaigning on this score.
Pinning education into a change in the Marriage Act is wrong. It has nothing to do with it and lends to the false accusation that homosexuality is taught, regardless of the evidence against this. If there is a genuine concern about conflicts with the values of parents, the legislation belongs elsewhere and should not be limited to homosexuality. All education should be balanced and open to counter views. For instance, in teaching history, faith based schools are compelled to present their view in the classroom as opinion and not fact. They must include the history taught in secular schools.
There is a balance between the right of parents and schools to educate the children in their own values and the right of the children to be properly informed of all points of view.
The alternative bill is from Liberal Member Dean Smith. Although it does not go as far as the Paterson bill, it allows military chaplains and officers to discriminate, in addition to allowing minister of religion to discriminate and providing the same to celebrants, by including a provision where they can register as ministers of religion. There will be an attempt to bring this closer to the Patterson position.
The main concern is that the same sex debate has been used as a Trojan Horse to bring in an aggressive political agenda that manipulates religious beliefs and insecurity, to divide the nation along hate fault lines. The Survey result has not put an end to this.
More ominous than the Trojan Horse being pushed through parliament, is that the peddlers of hate have attached themselves to the broad network built around the No campaign and will continue to use this to push their broader political agenda.
Countering this is the landslide survey result, which has made it clear that Australia wants genuine marriage equality and will not be satisfied with equality written into the Marriage Act, circumvented by allowing discrimination provisions in the same act.
The Yes campaign has built an even more extensive network than its rivals, which has the potential to continue to be an influential force that can have its own broader political agenda. This is about the acceptance of diversity, fairness, inclusion, empowerment.
This cannot be limited by legislation. It is built in our communities, which in turn, pressures the political system to catch up.
What better counter could there be to the haters?
Malcolm Turnbull has expressed his own support for marriage equality. The test is about whether he will have the courage to carry this conviction and not succumb once again, to those pushing in the opposite direction. His political future may well depend on it.
A failure to respect the wishes of Australia will seriously undermine the Coalition
Labor and the Greens will also be tested.