It was widely criticised. Why should the public have to vote on a matter that could be decided by parliament? What was the point of a result that MPs were not obliged to consider when legislating? Then there was the unspoken question – what if the plebiscite did not offer a clear result one way or the other on the same-sex marriage issue.
For me, the answer seemed easy. I ticked the “Yes” box and dropped my envelope in the mailbox early on. Yet, in the days and weeks that followed I was alternately annoyed, angered, and downright disgusted as the debate grew heated and as campaigns grew more aggressive and intrusive. I also realised that most persons assumed that as a parent and a churchgoer, especially one of Indian origin, I would vote “no.”
Actually, growing up in India, I have been aware of multiple sexualities early on. The hijras are mentioned in Hindu mythology and transgender persons can indicate this on identity documents. Perhaps, this is why I am happy to have my child learning about the realities of relationships in contemporary society.
I understand the assumption about my religious leanings, particularly as several members of the Catholic and Anglican Churches have frankly spoken out against legalising same-sex unions and against the referendum itself. This seems a bit ostrich-minded to me. Is your religion such a fragile thing that a change of civil legislation will threaten and change your beliefs and customs? Oh, ye of little faith!
“I should have mailed a blank ballot paper,” I complained to my mother over Skype. “It’s a vote that is dividing the nation.”
She looked thoughtful. “It’s a very personal thing,” she replied.
Vote for love, we were told. Vote for fairness. Vote for marriage equality. I take exception to the last phrase. To me, marriage equality is about equality between the partners and I do not think we are quite there yet. Does anyone else feel the same way?
Finally, do I still feel that the vote need not have happened? I’m not quite sure. In the end, Western Australia had the second-highest “yes” tally. Watching the tears and the celebration across the states, I now realise one very important thing. Australians needed to hear that resounding “yes.” We needed to see that solidarity with our fellow citizens. We needed to know that when it matters most, Australians will stand up for and with their fellow (wo)men.
May our parliamentarians now legislate wisely for those they represent.
PS: Approximately twenty per cent of those eligible did not vote. Let’s respect that they found it hard to choose. As for those who did vote, let’s respect them for being brave enough to express what they believe in. Read about the result here.