Same-sex marriage: A reflection

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Image Courtesy of ABC

A year on since the postal survey of Same Sex Marriage in Australia, what has really happened since?

Society has not, in fact, collapsed in upon itself since the law legalising same-sex marriage passed the Parliament on 7 December 2017. Nor had havoc broke loose in any of the other 24 countries Same Sex Marriage has been legalised in. 

Australia has not experienced as Norm J predicted back to the ABC back in November of 2017.

“I’m disgusted,” he said. “Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. God shall surely judge us harshly for this.”

Oooh Norm, I’m shaking in my Timbs.

God’s judgement, with me being agnostic, has left me unaffected. Others in the LGBTQI+ community would likely, too, be indifferent to such prophecies as above. Outside our community though, how has the Australian public taken to the legalisation of Same Sex Marriage (SSM)?

Bar a man in the sky supposedly chucking a tantrum at our choices, has anyone, who’d last year unapproved, warmed to the idea of SSM in wake of the outcome? Have Australians changed their behaviour since SSM was legalised?

The postal survey, costing $AUD 80 million, was optional to part-take in. Held between the 12th September and the 7th November 2017, the poll revealed 61.60% that voted were in favour of SSM being legalised.

Of those I know in my age group, it was without hesitation that we voted in the non-compulsory survey, and voted in favour. Citizens were assured it was okay to vote no, in case the years of ingrained segregation and intolerance hadn’t yet solidified that.

Cartoon by Will5NeverCome

A notable reaction to such unnecessary reassurance was that of gay couple, James Brechney and Stuart Henshall. They turned You Can Say No campaign posters into Mardi Gras wedding confetti for their union.

Image courtesy of Jade Macillan, ABC. James Brechney (L) and Stuart Henshall (R) make confetti using No campaign poster.

“How disrespectful,” said my 62-year-old straight father of their recycling. “I’m slightly conflicted, I have gay friends… but I’m still with the Adam & Eve thing.”

The topic even being acknowledged by him evoked only from pure disgust at the thought of Same Sex Marriage being approved.

Resonating his ideals, middle-aged Writer for the Spectator, Mark Powell, had this to say of the postal survey and associated law-change back in July this year.

“According to Junkee, there have been “just shy of 2,500 same-sex marriages” registered in Australia since marriage was redefined.” This statistic being as of June 1st, 2018.

“And this,” Powell explained, “means that 94.3 per cent of same-sex couples within the ‘rainbow spectrum’ have decided to stay exactly as they are [unmarried], thank you very much… What we can see now… is that far less than the confidently predicted 50 per cent of same-sex couples have jumped at the chance to get married. Instead, the figure is more like 5 per cent. It makes you almost want to ask, “And why did they want to change this, again?””

So the institution of marriage relies solely on those actually getting married, Mark, does it? Let us juxtapose: How many in de facto relationships have been married while it was only legal for those of the opposite sex to marry? Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed in their most recent data report on the matter (2006), “Of all people in opposite-sex de facto relationships in 2006, 70% had never been in a registered marriage and 27% were either separated or divorced.” How’s the sanctity of marriage going there, Marky boy?

His article goes on to explain that the measure of benefit of the law changing, he argues, lies greatly in the boost of clientele to marriage organisations, florists, cake makers, and the like. Had Powell considered, though, that perhaps homosexuals and queers weren’t in it for fellow Australians to reap profit off their relationships? Vows needn’t read “til economic growth do us part.”

There has, I am grateful to reflect, been a development since the postal survey I can appreciate. So perhaps the non-compulsory tax-funded poll wasn’t of complete waste; it having shown majority of Australia was a-ok with gay marriage, and encouraging comfortability from those yet to approve. 

When I came out to my older brother as bisexual back in 2014, his reaction was frank. “Gross.” Then an abrupt topic change onto something he could stomach. We were in Sweden together at the time, and due to being in a foreign country, I chose to tolerate his response for the sake of the trip (I’d rather have not argued with him in the theme park, grabbed my belongings from the hotel, and jetted off back home).

I’d not expected last week to hear him explaining the vast spectrum of the LGBTQI+ community to his girlfriend of several years. “I thought she was gay,” the girlfriend interjected in the story he was telling. “No, no,” he explained, “she’s bisexual.”

He didn’t say it with disdain. He’d not made a snarky comment afterwards. The words didn’t seem to leave a sour taste in his mouth.

So maybe the best thing that has come from this, with the exception of the “Norms” or “Marks” of Australia, and aside, of course, from equal marriage-rights, is that people, even those less welcoming of homosexuality, have become comfortable with the idea that we do in fact exist, and the realm is indeed vast.

We have become a more accepting society, my brother exemplifying that. The outcomes of the survey and the law being in favour of SSM has hushed the rhetoric and opened the minds of those that were once narrow, as evident in the results of the HILDA Survey. Conducted by Melbourne University, HILDA asks respondents to indicate the extent to which they agreed with a statement on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Notably, in regard to same sex couples, there has been a positive development. 

“While there are exceptions, the direction of movement of attitudes between 2005 and 2015 is quite clear: attitudes have become more non-traditional over this period. Most strikingly, there has been a profound shift towards the view that homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Between 2005 and 2015, the mean agreement score for this item increased from 4.0 to 5.3 for females and from 3.3 to 4.8 for males.”

ABS reflects similar development. “The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS; 2016) estimated that there were 48,000 same-sex couples in June 2015, accounting for 0.9% of all couple families. ABS noted that the apparent rise might partly reflect an increasing willingness for same-sex couples to disclose their relationship.” I wager, the “willingness for same-sex couples to disclose their relationship”, will only increase with these law changes. 

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