It is time to vote yes for marriage equality and love thy neighbour. (Updated)

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Legalising same-sex marriage will help reduce high rates of suicide among young people in Australia”

“Australia remains the only English-speaking country in the developed world not to legally recognise same-sex marriage. If the upcoming postal survey indicates public support for marriage equality, a conscience vote will be held in parliament. If not, it’s unlikely that same-sex couples will be able to marry for as long as the current government remains in office.

This would be quite a harmful outcome for the health of same-sex attracted couples, who are already at higher risk of poorer mental health outcomes and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. This is directly associated with the stigma and discrimination to which they are exposed on a daily basis.

Research shows that in countries and jurisdictions that have legalised same-sex marriage, there is a much smaller gap between the rates of poor mental health among same-sex attracted and heterosexual people. This is particularly the case with young people, for whom suicide rates have a been a significant national concern for decades.


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What’s more, Australia is a secular society. This is meant to allow for freedom of religion, while ensuring religious leaders do not have authority over political decisions. However, the religious voices and their conservative supporters are being given a disturbing public platform in their opposition to the political decision of legislating for marriage equality. It frightens me to think that my right to marry my wonderful partner is in the hands of people capable of such bullying and hateful rhetoric.”


There’s a lot of reading around at present on the marriage equality issue. Two items struck me this week. One was the article from The Conversation and a Letter to the Editor from Mr Tyson Young, in the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, giving his perspective as someone who is now openly gay and who grew up in the valley. I re-read both items this week. They had an impact on me.

I have had much exposure to religion. My junior and senior high schooling were in the Catholic system and two excellent institutions, with great priests, nuns and lay people, they were too. These days, however, I am an ardent atheist. That said, my children go to a faith based high school. I think it is good for them to be exposed to wide perspectives and they can then make their own choices. The article in the The Conversation, and the comments by Mr Tyson Young go to the heart of my dislike of religion and religion in politics. I have no issue with faith as a private and inward focused pursuit. If it works for you, then good luck to you. But please think of your fellow man and woman and their rights and not just your rights.

If you are of faith, practising or lapsed, please be honest enough to recognise that these days you are you in the minority. And there’s no shame in that. Your church or brand of religion no longer speaks for the majority, as it once did. Religion is on the wane as it has become less relevant in a more informed, educated, honest and transparent society.

In this article we have an example of the consequences of the maintaining the status quo (that is, voting ‘no’). The experts say Australia could maintain “high rates of suicide among young people in Australia”. Are we happy with that? Hell no! The most Christian thing a person of faith could do for their fellow man and woman is vote yes.

I also get that some have a deep dislike for GLBTI people and everything that goes with it. While I am in vehemently opposed to their views, I respect their right to have them. All I ask is that they consider supporting something that will have a tremendous beneficial impact on the lives of many and zero impact on their on personal life.

This issue is like the devastating impact of poverty and disease in many developing  nations. Much of it would be avoided if churches and their right-wing government accomplices (like Trump and the Republicans in the US and Abbott/Turnbull and the Liberal National Coalition in Australia) sanctioned birth control, family planning and abortion. But no, let’s have people suffering pain, mental illness, disease, malnutrition, starvation and an early miserable death because of some ‘belief’. Sitting there with food on the table, a shiny car in the driveway, a house three times as big as it need be, clean water and fresh clothes, numerous pets, listening to a seven speaker surround sound system, watching an 80 inch television set while counting your money and credit card debt is a great place to impose one’s views from.

To me, voting no defies belief in a modern and civil society. There are many people of faith with the good sense to vote yes and I urge them to talk to their friends, family and strangers about this – and explain why. The world has changed. Religion and churches will become even more irrelevant should they remain insular in their thinking. A yes vote is an opportunity for us as a society, including faith based organisations, to grow.

The basis of a civil society is protecting and enhancing human rights. Voting yes is a vote for human rights and an even more civil society.

It is time to vote yes and love thy neighbour.


Update 27 August

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This Sydney Morning Herald story amplifies my point that the leadership of the church is out of touch with the community and its followers.

A majority of Catholics, Christians and other religious groups support same-sex marriage and are inclined to vote for it in the forthcoming postal survey, according to new polling commissioned by advocates.

The “yes” side starts the campaign with the backing of 66 per cent of all Australians, with support among the non-religious at 79 per cent, compared with 58 per cent among people of faith, the research shows.


If this article has raised issues for you or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 44.


Reference

Robinson J., Bailey E. and McGorry P., 2017, The Conversation, Legalising same-sex marriage will help reduce high rates of suicide among young people in Australia, Accessed: 25 August 2017

Young T., 2017, Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, Tyson Young’s letter,  Accessed, 27 August 2017
Koziol M., 2017, Sydney Morning Herald, Catholics defy church leadership to become biggest backers of same-sex marriage: poll, Accessed: 27 August 2017