I’m writing to express my thoughts on the potential “survey” on marriage equality in September.
Being a Bellingen boy born and bred, I want to reflect on how diverse and accepting the people of the Bellingen Shire are. Coming out as gay when I was 17 years old I went through some tough times, but I always had my family and the local community who made me feel loved and accepted.
We are the last English-speaking nation to deny equal marriage rights, which is an embarrassment. Instead of legislating to right this terrible wrong, the Australian Government now plans to spend $122million of our taxpayer funds to see if the public supports equal rights, which after years of polling we already know it does. It was only in 2004 that the government changed the Marriage Act to include a definition of marriage as the ‘voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others'. We did not have a public, expensive and non-binding vote then, so why do need one now?
Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker opposes marriage equality. But do his values truly reflect the people of the Bellingen shire? From my experience, no. He supports spending this money on a wasteful survey, when the funds could be better spent on health, education or helping our struggling pensioners. In fact, we would be better off from a financial perspective if the government simply legislated for equality. Australian couples have injected $550million in the New Zealand economy just from same-sex weddings, money that could have been spent on Australian businesses if our government just did its job.
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.
If this postal plebiscite survey goes ahead, I urge the people of the Bellingen Shire to vote YES. Make your voice count by saying YES to mutual respect, YES to love and acceptance, and YES to the equal rights of your friends, family and Bellingen community.
Be on the right side of history.
Sydney/Boggy Creek Bellingen