Australia, the passing of the same sex marriage bill in 2017 is nothing to celebrate.
Same sex marriage should have been made legal in this country many years ago.
The fact that it took until 7/12/2017 demonstrates the collective intolerance, homophobia and arch-conservatism of middle Australia.
Activists have been campaigning for same sex marriage for many, many years. What’s more, the same sex marriage bill was only discussed, at length, and voted upon, after a postal survey which was a multi-million-dollar national embarrassment.
Many other countries legalised same sex marriage many years before Australia – and they didn’t rely on an expensive postal survey.
Don’t forget, if the government had not spent so much money on the survey, your internet might actually work properly.
The Netherlands legalised same sex marriage in 2001, preceding the recognition of the union in (all or some parts of) Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, The UK, The USA and Uruguay.
Crikey, even New Zealand beat us to it. Just like they beat us to recognition of Indigenous rights and female suffrage.
Most of the countries which beat Australia to the legalisation of same sex marriage are countries with which most Australians would equate themselves on the basis of democratic rights and social freedoms.
Admittedly, most Australians would be willing to accept being surpassed on this issue by famously open-minded nations such as Sweden and its northern European neighbours. But most secular Australians would definitely consider themselves, and their beloved country, more open-minded and tolerant than countries such as Malta, Ireland and Argentina and other Latin American nations famed for the influence of religion, especially Catholicism, on the daily lives of the populace.
For further proof of middle Australia’s conservatism, consider the other nations which had not legalised same sex marriage until 7/12/2017.
Maybe Australia is not a truly secular society. Maybe the religious right still exerts a large degree of control over our minds and our lawmakers.
The exorbitantly expensive and nationally embarrassing same sex marriage postal survey indicates the power of the religious right.
Most experts agree that the survey was in reality an attempt by the ultra-conservative wing of politics to defeat, or at least delay, the same sex marriage bill.
Estimates put the cost of the survey at $AU120million. $AU120million to conduct a postal survey which achieved no definite outcome and which only served to persuade the politicians to decide whether or not they should actually debate the bill in parliament.
Many Australians celebrated the outcome of the survey and its subsequent prompting of the debate and passing of the bill. However, it is worth considering a number of factors surrounding the survey.
Firstly, the conservative, intolerant and narrow-minded element of our national parliament was strong enough to convince Malcolm Turnbull and friends to proceed with the survey. It also suggests that there are enough Australian citizens who support this element of our government – someone voted for them and someone voted for them in sufficient numbers to give these politicians a powerful voice.
Furthermore, the results of the survey demonstrate that 38% of Australians voted NO. More than one-third of voting age Australians (allowing for variations due to absenteeism, apathy, un-returned surveys etc) harbour views at odds with a modern, free thinking, liberal, democratic nation.
This fact surely destroys middle Australia’s claim to being laid-back, open minded and hell-bent on giving everyone a fair go.
What should be celebrated and applauded, apart from the eventual passing of the bill, is the social media campaign conducted by the LGBTQI community and their supporters throughout the years leading up to the bill.
It was brilliant.
The masterminds of the social media campaign, in all its manifestations, conducted a patient, colourful, trendy, happening, fun, substantial, persuasive, headline grabbing, youthful, thoughtful and well-targeted social media campaign which went a long way to winning over the minds of many Australians.
The campaign featured posts, across every current social media platform, ranging from the presentation of the ramifications and technicalities of the law change, to a day encouraging people to wear rainbow coloured laces in their shoes in order to show support for the cause.
Hey, who doesn’t like a bit of colour in their life?
Colour was central to the campaign and the true genius of the campaign was owning the rainbow. Whoever first decided to publicly use the rainbow as a symbol of the LGBTQI community and its struggle for equal rights, is owed a massive debt of gratitude.
The appropriation of the rainbow symbol allowed for so many colourful and palatable presentations across all mass media. The campaign was so successful, in fact, that any presentation of a rainbow, in any context, anywhere in Australia these days is likely to prompt thoughts of same sex marriage and equality for LGBTQI people.
Advertising executives must be livid with jealousy.
Academics should also cite this campaign if they are searching for a case study of the use of social media in modern day activism.
So, Australia, pop open the bubbly and celebrate the eventual passing of the same sex marriage bill, but chase it with a rather sobering question, why did it take so long?