Politics: An (opinionated) letter in support of marriage equality

Dear –

I’m writing to ask you to stand in support of marriage equality.

I’m writing because I am married.  Because I’m a woman and married to a man, this is an easy statement to make – one which carries no particular political message or weight, except, perhaps, a message of normality.

I have gay friends who are not married and don’t want to be married.

I have gay friends who are married, because they love each other and want to be together for life, and because they live or lived in countries where they were allowed to express this.

I have gay friends who have had commitment ceremonies, because they love each other and want to be together for life, but Australian law sadly refuses to allow them to say to their families and friends “this is my husband” or “this is my wife”.

The anti-gay-marriage lobby is correct to say that these words are special, and mean more than words like ‘partner’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘flatmate’.  They carry a message, not just about the relationship between two people, and the shape of a family, but about the society in which that family lives.  They carry a message about what is acceptable and what is less acceptable – about what is legal and what is illicit.  And by making these words the exclusive property of people in formal, heterosexual relationships, it gives acceptability and credibility to the attitude that gay relationships are less formal, less acceptable, less normal.

Like it or not, making gay relationships intrinsically and legally different to heterosexual ones sends a message that it’s OK not to treat gay people the same as straight people, because that is exactly what the government is doing.  Not only is this the sort of thinking that leads to bullying and discrimination, it also allows well-meaning people to stay secure in their prejudices.  Gays must be different – the law says so.  That’s why they can’t marry.  It also makes it easy for less well-meaning people to compare consensual gay relationships to pedophilia or bestiality, because they are all seen as illegal or illicit.

As long as we refuse to allow our gay brothers and sisters to marry the people they love, we encourage these attitudes.

The government’s role is to lead society forward, not be dragged backward by its most prejudiced elements.  It has been shown over and over that gay people can have the same sorts of relationships as straight people, that gay parents can raise happy and well-adjusted children, that, in short, the gender of the people we love has absolutely no relationship to our other qualities.  There is no great social good to be had from limiting marriage to heterosexual unions, but there are plenty of evils in allowing this to continue.

I ask you to support the 60% of Australians who believe that gay marriage should be legal.

My marriage does not need the kind of protection that comes from denying marriage to others.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine

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