Late one night recently I happened to be watching the telly and saw that the movie Philadelphia was on. I sat down and watched it for maybe the 3rd time and in the shadow of the same sex marriage debate I felt like I was seeing it again for the first time. Great cast. Great soundtrack. Great script. Tragic story, but in the end a triumph, of sorts, for the main character. However, at the heart of the movie it was clear that a large section of the public in the 1980’s and early 90’s saw gay men as hypersexual, disease-ridden victims of their own urges.
Around the time that Philadelphia was released I was in my late 20’s. The discovery of HIV and AIDS was a mere decade before and the Grim Reaper ad had been aired less than 5 years prior. I was studying medicine in Brisbane. On holidays I would often go and visit my parents further north. On one occasion around that time we were driving along in their car. I can’t recall where we were headed, or what day it was, but it was all very relaxed. The radio was on and a story came on about something related to homosexuality. Maybe it had to do with gay rights. I can’t recall exactly, but I do remember that my parents distaste for the topic was obvious.
Something came over me on that day. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that during my studies in Brisbane I had been to the HIV ward at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and had seen gay men dying horrible deaths from AIDS. On that day, in that car, I was surprised to hear myself saying, “Well, I think that any kind of love is good love in this crazy screwed up world.” You could have heard a pin drop.
I am not naive enough to believe that a blanket statement like that can ever be completely true. Let’s face it – there are some very screwed up ideas of love. But – I still believe – the sentiment is true as much today as it was back then.
In 2017 some people still believe that homosexuals are hypersexual, salacious monsters that are out to take over the world. Memories of the San Francisco bathhouses in which AIDS rampantly spread during the early 1980’s still burn bright for some people. Why should these freaks be allowed to exist, let alone **quiet gasp** marry?
I would not be surprised if the loudest of “NO” voices in these debates had never met a gay man or woman, let alone had some sort of meaningful conversation with them. They would probably be surprised to discover that most them are quite normal – boringly so. I myself have not met a lot of gay men or women but overall have found them to be very normal and who like myself put their pants (or knickers) on one leg at a time.
Until now I have remained silent in this debate. A little voice in the back of my head said, “It will happen anyway.” A louder voice reminded me of my conservative friends and very close relatives who are very much in the NO camp. Why stir the pot? Why ruffle feathers? Why say anything? Why?..... Because it’s the right thing to do.
The state of marriage can be defined as the legal, social and a mutual recognition between the marrying partners of a lifelong dedication to each other’s best interests. This is a phenomenon championed by religious authorities, with the incongruity that most marriages (3 out of 4), in Australia, are now performed by civil celebrants. And yet our largely secular society still allows those same organisations to be some of the more authoritative voices in any discussion when it comes to discerning who should be allowed to marry. This is confusing to me.
Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares…..
“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.”
Some parties would say that whilst the United Nations have not explicitly stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that is the intention of the statement. Some of those same parties are likely to have difficulties in separating the legal and social definition of marriage with the religious sacrament of marriage. They are also likely to have difficulty in separating the arguments for and against same sex marriage from programs for encouraging inclusive and safe environments in schools (e.g. Safe Schools in Victoria). Likewise, they would suggest that children in same sex marriage are “at risk” despite recent evidence to the contrary.
ALL of these NO arguments are put forward by (largely) heterosexuals who live in an Australian society where.....
1 in 3 marriages end in divorce
One half of divorces involve children
1 in 5 girls are sexually abused as children
Given that ten percent of the population on average identify as homosexual. The other 90% of us are doing a pretty lousy job at protecting the sanctity of marriage and the safety of our children.
I have voted YES. I didn’t do it because I feel like I had been swept along by the tide of popular opinion. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.