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debate or degradation? when high-brow bigotry hijacks the marriage equality discussion

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What a disgusting week of political dribble on marriage equality. Just when you believe nothing more offensive or ridiculous could be done, the people responsible for carrying out governance aim another notch lower to seal the deal that they are woefully out of touch and out-dated. Once again, government ministers flouted all common sense and dragged Australia’s marriage equality debate to a pitiful new low.

The ever-outrageous and blunt Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce stunned audiences with his wild accusations, saying allowing marriage equality in this country would make Australia appear ‘decadent’ to our Asian neighbours. Yes, decadent. This, coming from the man who singlehandedly painted Australia as a country of backward yobbos, after demanding  actor Johnny Depp’s dogs, Pistol and Boo ‘bugger off back to the United States’ or face euthanisation. Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz began the ridiculous line of commentary a few days earlier, stating that if Australia is operating in the so called ‘Asian era’, Australia shouldn’t redefine marriage because no Asian country had.

If there were ever a time to reign in the absurdity of political stunts and offensive one-upping, this is perhaps it. These are people’s lives. This is a human rights issue. Not a platform to launch unsubstantiated, exaggerated and outright ridiculous claims in order to perpetuate concealed bigotry. And that’s exactly what it is. Bigotry.

This debate in Australia has gone on long enough to register that the Government is not interested in legalising same-sex marriage. Despite the latest data showing 72 per cent of Australians support marriage equality, the Government continues to maintain an air of ignorance in order to justify their selfish rhetoric about personal opinions and beliefs. For an issue – it claims, is not high on the agenda, the Government seems to spend rather a lot of time having to deal with it: time that could easily have been better spent passing a bill which would have ended their precious time talking about it. And since nothing has been done to properly address marriage equality in Australia – against the overwhelming community support – the Government finds new ways to discredit same-sex marriage at any cost. Crying, “but what would the neighbours think?” is simply the latest sludge to be thrown at Australia’s push for equality; it reeks of desperation.

The reality of the matter is that there is actually no logical reason for gay couples not to be able to marry their partner as straight couples do. The arguments – tossed around like confetti – are often incorrect or based on subjective nonsense, because at the heart of the ‘we love gay people but we just don’t think they should be able to get married’ argument is a fundamental assertion that straight relationships are always superior to any gay one. If you think gay people are inferior to you simply because of their sexual orientation, you should stop telling yourself you aren’t a bigot. No amount of God, ‘traditional’ notions of marriage, outright homophobia or think-of-the-children arguments justifies why a secular, Western, democratic society with access to leading research on the actual impact on children raised in same-sex families, should not have marriage equality.

It is also despicable that an issue as important as this is being used as a political weapon to score points and discredit rivalling political parties. Why did Labor only just change its stance on marriage equality when it looked set to lose the election? Why did Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten attempt to introduce a bill he knew the Government would not support and would therefore not pass, earlier this year? For an issue that is held dearly to many Australians, it seems like a slap in the face every time our politicians childishly cite personal views as justification enough for not wanting to change the Marriage Act (despite what the majority of Australians want), or who use the passions of the Australian community as a means to secure votes – and therefore, their job.

This isn’t about what Ireland or the United States have done. Nor is it about giving in to inevitability. This is about recognising the flawed ideology that perpetuates masked bigotry. It’s about being a decent human being. And it’s about ending one of the last discriminatory legislations against LGBTQIA people who will continue to fight the bullying, violence and social persecution they often suffer even after marriage equality is actualised.

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