The final battle for same-sex marriage is being fought in Australia - and it has implications for all of us

Turnout for the same-sex marriage survey has been extremely high

The battle for equality in Australia could soon be over

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A battle is being waged in Australia - and it has very real implications for LGBT people all around the world.

Australians are currently voting in the same-sex marriage survey, which could pave the way for gay marriage to be legalised. If the 'Yes' campaign, which backs legalisation, wins the day, MPs will be asked to vote on the issue in the Australian parliament.

Turnout has been high - broadcaster ABC said this morning (Tuesday October 24) that 12 million Australians, or74.5% of eligible voters, had cast their ballot. But some of the opposition has been truly mind-boggling (and we're not just talking about the razor blades some opponents have been putting in their voter envelopes).

One of the most vitriolic opponents to Equal Marriage has been the Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, whose church recently donated AU$1 million (£590,000) to the "No" campaign. Yes, one million dollars! One million dollars that could have been spent supporting Australia's nearly 3 million people living below the internationally accepted poverty line.

But no, Davies believes it is critical to prevent people in love from getting married. Furthermore, he stated that there would be irreparable consequences for society and for freedom if the 'Yes' lobby emerges triumphant.

We too in the UK had our fair share of doomsday proselytisers when the campaign for Marriage Equality was running. We too had warnings of apocalyptic consequences. The now-disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien once stated that gay marriage is like slavery that would lead to “further degeneration of society.” Four years later, no great catastrophe has befallen us following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

When same-sex couples are unable to marry, it is a sign of oppression and flagrant inequality. It is a statement from a society that says: "The love between same-sex couples is inferior to that of opposite sex couples." Legalising same-sex marriage is the recognition that LGBT+ people are of equal worth, equally part of humanity.

The Church in Australia is on the wrong side of history. But not everyone tows the official line. One of the lonely voices that dares to break the great wall of opposition is that of the Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller. He writes:

"Australian Archbishops have finally seen the rainbow writing on the wall.

"Like chain smokers having one last frantic puff before a long-haul flight, the Anglican and Catholic archbishops of Sydney have made statements giving the clearest indication yet that they believe marriage equality is on the way. [Archbishop] Anthony Fisher and Glenn Davies are singing a lonely duet from the same hymn sheet, but it is unlikely to stay on the charts for long.

"Their political backup singers, ex-prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott, are screaming their lungs out, the score is being held by Malcolm Turnbull and his government, but the critics have heard enough.

"It is humiliating and confronting to find the Christian tradition viciously parodied – like a pantomime dame all dressed up, in a poisoned pulpit with nowhere new to go and a villain in a melodrama boldly proclaiming his cashed-up evil intention to a booing audience.

"The church's production team is facing some uncomfortable truths at the end of a long season. Against the familiar ecclesiastical backdrop of silence in the face of human suffering human rights activist Peter Tatchell miraculously sounds more like Jesus than the paid-up prophets of an institution that has had its day. In earlier runs in the face of the church's opposition; when we discovered the earth wasn't flat, when slavery was abolished and women got the vote, the audience defied the director and claimed the stage in the name of traditional values of justice and compassion.

"Perhaps Margaret Court's serve about equality is actually right but just "off target". It does spell curtains, but only for the power of faith-based hatred to control national agendas.

"Marriage equality has outed the church as a social navigation system that has crashed, and like a tobacco company the secret is out, the warning is on the packet, but the future is looking healthier after generations of suffering and abuse which looks like the very happiest of endings."

The Archdeacon is right; the future does look brighter. LGBT+ freedom can long be delayed but cannot be denied. 

A victory in Australia (and we will know the result soon enough) will be a victory for human rights. It will electrify the millions of hearts and minds of the people of The Commonwealth (and beyond) living under the yoke of oppressive laws (Victorian laws in many instances). A victory in  Australia will bring hope that a better tomorrow is possible and within reach.

Pliny Soocoormanee is executive assistant at the Peter Tatchell Foundation working for LGBT and human rights. For all updates, follow him on Twitter @Allequal1.

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