What’s actually going on in Australia regarding the marriage movement

By Ellie Felderman

*just so you know, for this article I’ll be referring to what many people and news sources call same-sex or gay marriage as equal marriage. As a gay woman, it frustrates me that the LGBT+ people’s marriage needs to be qualified, distinguished, and separated like that!

There has been lots of buzz, campaigning, excitement (and maybe a little confusion, if you live outside of the land of kangaroos) regarding the potential legalization of equal marriage in Australia. I’ve even been lost a little bit along the way despite keeping up with news sources, especially articles about the movement, so I thought that it would be helpful for many people if I had a little overview of what’s happening down under.

  1. The Survey

On November 14 of this year, the results for a survey distributed to all registered Australians were released. The survey asked if Australians were in support of legalizing equal marriage or opposed to it. 61.6% of the country voted in support of the legalization of equal marriage, 38.4% voted against it, but it is estimated that a relatively large portion of the country sent back blank ballots. Some misunderstood this and thought that it meant that equal marriage was legalized across the country, but it really meant that the Australian government 1) Knew that the majority of the country wanted to legalize equal marriage, and 2) Could go forth with that process 🙂

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  1. The Bill clears the Senate

The afternoon of November 29, the bill to legalize equal marriage went to Australia’s Senate– and it passed! The votes were as follows: Ayes, 43, and Noes, 12. (Yes, this is the actual, ridiculously aussie terminology, basically just a yay/nay, yes/no kind of deal). Though it would be wonderful for this to be the end of the line for the equal marriage law, it still has to pass Phase Three: passing in the Lower House. This could happen as soon as next week!

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  1. The Bill will hopefully clear the Lower House

This is the final step in the process of the legalization of the dream of hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ Australians and their allies. It’s not definite yet, but it is looking good, so if you’re in support please keep your fingers crossed!

There are definitely negatives that came along with this whole process– though these past two weeks have been incredibly uplifting, the two-to-three month period leading up to the vote negatively affected LGBT+ Australians in many ways. The No campaign, opposing the vote for equal marriage, was harsh and many people felt attacked. People are suggesting that the $20 million the government saved from their budget for the survey should be spent in promoting mental health and allocating resources to LGBT+ Australians.

Some of the arguments that the No campaign included were:

  • Equal marriage denies a child the right to be born to a mother and father
  • Equal marriage allows and promotes dangerous gender & sexuality education in schools
  • Religious freedom will be endangered

A spokesman for the No campaign, Lyle Shelton, said the following after the Yes was announced: “We will now do what we can to guard against restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, to defend parents’ rights, and to protect Australian kids from being exposed to radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education in the classrooms,”

It goes without saying that for LGBT+ individuals, particularly Australians, that the No campaign was harmful and hurtful.

Some people believe the following:

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I, along with LGBT+ people everywhere, are sitting on the edges of our seats waiting for the results to come in. Even though equal marriage is legal in the U. S., the legalization of equal marriage anywhere is a huge step forward for the global LGBT+ community. An advancement for LGBT+ people anywhere is a step forward for us all!

Also, I’d just like to give a quick shoutout to LGBT+ people who have kept fighting no matter what, and anyone who believes that equality is the only way to go 🙂 Love you all lots!

Let’s keep going until everyone has just as many rights as everybody else.