Australian Marriage Vote – A Display of Justice, or Demonstration of Intolerance?

Australia’s momentous postal vote results are the sure signs of change. However, how is it 2017 and we’re still having to debate these things?

61.6% of Australians taking part in the optional vote said ‘yes’ to amending their current marriage legislation to include same-sex couples. This is being celebrated, and rightly so, but it’s being seen as ‘an overwhelming majority’. Yes, it’s a definitive majority, and yes, that means change will come, which is absolutely what should happen.

Yet at the same time, that means almost five million people voted against the change. This isn’t the obvious landslide of support that you could hope to expect from a first-world country in the modern day.

This brings into sharp focus the interesting period of transition that humanity is currently experiencing; never before in history has the world been so connected, and therefore never before has globally interconnected change been possible. Just 4 years after the law was changed in the UK to allow for same-sex marriage, it now seems so archaic and antiquated that there are huge swathes of the planet that still don’t allow these obvious human rights. How did it take anyone this long to get this right? The idea of such a basic act being impossible simply due to finding yourself on a particular spot of this large rock floating through space, is, at best, uncivilised. It doesn’t represent the incredible feats that humankind has accomplished. We can create devices that allow us to access any piece of information ever discovered from the palm of our hands, and yet five million Australians still decided to go out of their way to try and prevent the happiness of others? Humankind’s marvelous accomplishments don’t seem to line up with the apparent ignorance of great parts of the population.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that he hopes to have legislation in place by Christmas. So, on the one hand, it’s fantastic that change is going to rapidly take place. Finally. On the other hand is the point of this article – how are we still needing to debate this? What do we need to do to enlighten the nay-sayers?

Looking beyond the lack of same-sex marriage options in many countries, there is the dark veneer of barbaric brutality. In 7 countries, being gay is punishable by death. This is so far beyond ‘uncivilised’ that it makes it seem like the acts of an entirely different species. Is it so inherent to our nature to be afraid, that we must kill whatever is different?

Compared to this harsh demonstration of medieval injustice, the new laws coming to Australia seem like the correct choice for an ‘enlightened’ country, moving forward into a better future. This doesn’t change that it’s unfathomably frustrating that so, so many people continue to grasp for the past that needs to be left behind. Whilst this vote is a display of victorious righteousness, it’s also a reminder of the continued prevalence of archaic intolerance.

One step at a time. Laws need to be amended and reversed the world-over, and it would be foolishly childish to demand sweeping change overnight. However, understanding that doesn’t change the fact that waiting years and years for such obvious change to take place is disheartening. For there to be such fevered and numerous opposition is beyond disheartening – it’s despicable.