Same Sex Marriage: Unifying The Divide

A man and a woman stand together looking ahead at the stage in front of them. Image: Christopher Kelly

Nearly five million people voted no in this survey and that is something we must acknowledge and accept. It’s our history now.

A person’s true worth in life is the convictions they hold close to their heart. It makes us human. And while we see the rainbow flags flying high above a sea of celebrating yes voters, we are inadvertently forgetting the people who voted no. They had to do it knowing their actions would bring them a flood of disapproval. Rejected by family members, by friends, by colleagues, and sometimes by the ones they love the most. Just like us in the queer community who showcase who we truly are, knowing our actions will bring us hate. You cannot please everyone in a diverse world, unfortunately.

To the four million, eight hundred and seventy-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven (4,873,987) of you who voted no, I want you to know that I respect your choice. I wish we could live in a society where everyone thinks the same, but that is not the world we live in – and in some great way that is what makes us a vibrant country. Our varying values define us together as a nation, but the way we voted is just the tip of the iceberg.

One thing we all must remember is that most of those who voted no do not see same-sex couples as gross or immoral. They just have convictions like all of us do. Most of them wanted to uphold traditional values and most of them wanted to uphold freedoms.

And I respect that.

And while I respect that, I want to offer all the no voters some comfort at this time. Comfort in knowing that your traditional values and your freedoms will not be destroyed. Ultimately, only you have that power.

Marriage itself is not a tradition, but an institutional tree trunk branching into thousands of different traditions which are not followed by everyone. Marriage before sex is not a tradition held by everyone, same with wearing white for a wedding, keeping the bride and groom apart until the ceremony, and going on the honeymoon straight after the wedding. Soon marriage will be extended to same-sex couples, which will not be a new tradition, it will be law. Members of clergy will get the right to refuse, as they always have, and that is understandable since it is their church people want to get married in. But if you’re a cake baker or a dressmaker with strong convictions, you must understand that not everyone has the same convictions as you. Some people walking through your doors right now are gay, and if you won’t refuse service to one gay man, why would you refuse for two? It’s just a wedding cake after all.

And then there is freedom, the ultimatum for democracy, and it is something we all must uphold together. You should have the freedom to marry whoever you want, however you want, just like I should have the right to marry whoever I want. And this also goes for those pushing for religious freedom. You have the right to practice your religion freely, and I have the right to have freedom from your religion. If you wish to refuse to attend my wedding based on your religious beliefs or your traditions, that’s your free choice to make, and that’s something I must deal with.

But my ultimate goal here is not to convert you to my side, but to create a bit of unity in a country that has scratched, prodded and played with an issue that transcends demographics and political persuasions. There are divisions in society as a result of this ugly debate. Parents have lost love from their children, friends have lost love from their friends, siblings who were once so close have lost sight of each other. But we must remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We must remember that we are all different, with our own convictions. We must remember and celebrate our diversity. And we must remember that with unity comes great compromise.

That last one hits me harder than most because a week before Australians began to vote my mum said she will be ticking no. My mum has always loved me, and I will never doubt it. But her convictions for traditional marriage was too strong. I could have screamed down the phone and told her it was a stupid decision, but what good would that do for my family? No, I didn’t do that. Instead, I reminded myself of the convictions we shared: That you must stand for what you believe in. That you must get up and get out if you’re going to achieve your goals. That men and women should be equal. That music enlightens the soul. And that no matter what, a parents’ love, whether biological or adopted, should always be unconditional.

But I also made a compromise with my mother: that I wouldn’t try to push her to vote yes if she promises to attend my future wedding with a man I will eventually meet and love. She said yes, and it was the best I could hope for.

And so, here is my compromise with you, dear no voter:

I will not force you to attend my gay wedding if you can promise me that you’ll respect my soon-to-be democratic right to marry. And if you bake cakes or make dresses and someone wants you to make one for their wedding, don’t make it for their sake but for yours. Do it because you believe in the freedom to practice traditional values; Do it because you believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religion; And do it because you respect that other people hold convictions that are different to yours. It’ll be a tick for democracy.

As for the seven million, eight hundred and seventeen thousand, two hundred and forty-seven (7,817,247) of you who voted yes, don’t forget to find a no voter and give them a proper handshake.

Because unity starts with respect.