Equality will increase our youth’s self-esteem and help minimise thoughts of self harm and it’s time the marriage debate is brought to end, writes PFLAG’s Shelley Argent.
It’s highly unusual that an Australian government passes legislation against the human rights of Australians. But that’s what happened nearly thirteen years ago on May 27, 2004 when Prime Minister John Howard rushed through legislation banning same-sex marriage in Australia.
This has certainly contributed to a critical suicide epidemic in recent years as political parties still publicly and shamelessly exploit the same-sex marriage debate. It heightens insecurities in young LGBTI people, causing them self-doubt and to turn to self harm. The legislation of marriage equality is an issue that will continue to be an ongoing problem creating anxiety and depression for many LGBTI people and their loved ones, and it will continue until properly addressed by the government in power.
Most of those in opposition call themselves Christian or religious, although their reasons for opposing change to the Marriage Act have shifted over the years. Once, it was the fear of people marrying their dog, their television, or polygamy. Another common excuse was the fear that members of parliament who supported it would get voted out at the next election, or their electorate was against equality. How times have changed: now, MPs are likely to be voted out if they fail to vote on this important human rights issue in a timely manner.
And the reasons for inaction have changed. Now, it’s about tradition, children, the baker being made to bake the cake, and calling for a Religious Freedoms Act. These are really delaying tactics in order to achieve an illusion of action, yet ultimately do nothing. Groups and individuals can get nasty on both sides, and we can all scream foul at times. I acknowledge LGBTI groups and individuals are frustrated at the inaction as other first-world and Catholic countries introduce the reform. People ask: “Why cant we?”
Equality for our sons and daughters will increase their self-esteem and minimise thoughts of self harm. Same-sex couples will continue to have children, regardless of marriage equality. The concern for children should be the precarious legal and emotional position the government leaves them in while discriminating against their family units. Opponents should now assist the country to move on by allowing marriage equality, which will provide emotional stability for the children of same-sex couples and bring an end to marginalisation.
Mr Turnbull, it’s time for you to step in and do what’s right, not what’s easiest. It’s time for you to act and bring this debate to an end. It’s gone on for too long in this country. Politicians are playing with young lives and we need this to stop.
The parents of Australia with LGBTI sons and daughters call on you to have a parliamentary free vote on the issue. Costs will be minimised and affected couples will retain their dignity and self respect. MPs and senators can still vote freely and you will regain your credibility by being the Prime Minister we voted into parliament.
Shelley Argent is national spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Australia. If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.