Aptly named the “day for love,” same-sex marriage is now legal in Australia, and is the 24th country in the world to have changed the marriage laws to include gay couples.
After a tumultuous few years of attempting to change the law, this country’s government had continuously denied any attempt at the change. Conservative governments have fought the gay community’s demands for change.
Former prime minister Tony Abbot fought a longtime campaign rejecting same-sex marriage. Surely, he must have been opposed to his daughter’s intention to marry her same-sex partner in the new year. However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “This is Australia; fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect for everyone.” He has been a fierce fighter for equal marriage. Only four members of parliament were opposed, so the bill passed with ease. It was not to be until January before the first marriages would take place as there is the requirement in Australia for couples to provide a full month notice of their intention to marry.
In an unprecedented procedure, the government decided to have a “mail-in” vote, a decision widely criticized, as most felt that the government could have moved on the issue. As it turned out, 61 per cent of the population voted “yes.” It was no longer a question of the population’s disapproval, instead an overwhelming show of inclusion.
The county’s LGBTQ community is elated by this decision, and another step toward equal rights has been established.
Slowly, but surely, more nations will be facing this issue and many will never be inclusive regarding equal rights, let alone equal marriage: Russia and countries on the African continent, except South Africa, where same-sex marriage has been in effect for a number of years. In Asia and South America, this issue will never be a reality. As a matter of fact, any type of LGBTQ demands for equality is strictly tossed aside.
President Putin, a strong opponent of any kind of equal rights for LGBTQ citizens, will certainly keep up his fight to keep up pressure to forbid equality and he has the support of the Russian people. About 75 per cent of Russians agree with Putin, who said recently that it’s his “duty” to stop gays from getting married.
Death penalties exist in some seven countries and imprisonment in others, attacks and murders are common in many nations, indicating of course that same-sex marriage is out of the question and will never see the light of day. So, as we study the positivity of some countries and the opposite views of the vast majority of others, we can see, with certainty, that the fight will be contentious, arduous and without doubt divisive around the globe.
Marriage is certainly not for everyone and common-law relationships are common everywhere. The importance is the fact a couple should be able to choose how they wish to celebrate their relationship and not be banned from legal marriage if they wish.
We will not experience a wave of same-sex marriages world-wide any time soon. Be assured that this is reality and, wish what we may, equality in all its forms will not be in the immediate future. Meanwhile, we do see some countries that are embracing equal marriage, 24 in all so far. Out of 195 nations that is a very small number, but we must never stop the fight.
As for Australia, congratulations in your success for another step in equal rights and a happy new year!
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.