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Love is so deeply and absolutely, just love

Georgie Nichol 26 September 2017 Marriage Equality

Marriage stands out as one of the most widely recognised commitments of love, a union that so many of us have grown up aspiring to be a part of. People get married for so many reasons, whether it be to validate tradition, to honour religion or simply because marriage acts to provide security and cement legalities due to its binding nature. Marriage is something we associate with utter joy and celebration. It allows two people to publicly proclaim their love and make a lifelong commitment to one another.

By denying those of the same sex the joy of marriage, we carelessly imply that society views same sex relationships as less worthy or meaningful than heterosexual ones.

When I first heard the ABS public announcement on television regarding the imminent postal vote, I felt such a sense of unease. A familiar feeling that sat uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach, as this issue continues to make headlines across our nation. Despite the neutrality of the announcement, I was sure I’d just heard something that sounded incredibly offensive on national television;

“Express your view on whether you think Australian marriage law should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry”       

Emphasis on the phrasing “your view”, as if my opinion should carry even an ounce of weight in determining a life affirming decision for someone else. More so, a life affirming decision that I already have the legal right to make. Fortunately for me, I just so happen to be attracted to the opposite sex. When I heard this public announcement, I had to do a double take because it felt as if I’d gone back in time, before women were allowed to vote or interracial marriages existed in our society.

I hoped Australia as a country has sought to learn (regrettably so) from the pain inequality and discrimination has caused in our past.  I hoped this was a place we’d moved far away from. But the reality is we are still here, and this is a place of shame for us. We allow this issue to repeatedly cause harm and damage the lives of our citizens. As a young Australian, I’m deeply saddened that my country continues to allow this inequality to exist.

Nobody has the right to make a judgment and determine whether the intimate partnership between two people is considered ‘worthy enough’ for marriage.  This is not about religion or tradition or for any other reason, we are talking about a legal right, granted already to the majority of our people. Society views same sex couples as equal when applying for pensions, healthcare or for tax purposes, how can we justify the exclusion of marriage? This makes us a society granting halfway rights for a selection of our citizens. The mere fact that current legislation in Australia relies upon ones sexual preference is difficult to comprehend.

For those who don’t believe the postal survey is having an effect on the health of LGBTQI citizens and the broader community in general, I ask you to consider this…

I have a friend who has known her sexuality for some time, but has been unable to find the courage to openly express herself to even her most immediate friends or family. The reality of this alone upsets me because I had hoped we lived in a country where all people felt accepted and proud of who they are. The highly publicised and controversial plebiscite on marriage equality has been a temperature test for her. A test she has apprehensively used to assess the acceptance levels of her friends and family, if she were finally able to reveal to them her true self. I know with absolute certainty, this has impacted her mental health every single day. Every time this issue surfaces on the TV, the radio, or pops up in conversation she holds her breath, cautiously observing a reaction that will either bury or ignite her courage.

There are thousands upon thousands of people, young and old just like my friend. These people are extraordinarily brave, but their resilience is wearing thin. With the prevalence of suicide and mental health conditions rapidly on the rise, I’m fearful for the well-being of those that continue to be the victims of this debate. It’s no wonder outreach calls to support organisations like Beyond Blue have increased by 40%. A relief, to know some people are reaching out, because they need to and because they can – but the reality is, not everyone has the strength.

There are many people expressing their right to campaign against marriage equality. This issue has been a regular elephant in the room, dividing families, friends and workplaces. Whilst I believe in respecting one’s right to free speech, having an opinion is one thing, but actually standing in the way of the happiness of others is another. How have we allowed a decision that effects a minority to sit in the hands of a majority, whom already have the right themselves? Isn’t this process alone unjust in itself? Getting married in a church is not something that is important to me, but I would never dream of standing in the way of others, because it is fundamentally not my right to do so.

This is something we will undoubtedly look back on as a nation in less than half a decade and shake our heads in disbelief. Something I only hope the next generation will be unable to comprehend or relate to.

We can be thankful to live in a country that claims to be foundationally built upon equality and committed to the freedom of its people. If this really is the case, let’s start being honest about freedom truly looks like, and stop underestimating the value and the power of equality.

Come November 15, I will have every inch of my being crossed in hope that the Australian people have done the right thing. A question of equality that should never have been asked, nor rested in the hands of the public. Australia has a moral responsibility to protect diversity and the rights of all of our citizens. It is time we followed the progressive footsteps of other countries in our modern world.

Love is so deeply and absolutely, just love. There is one version and nothing else.

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