Opinion | Focus on the question

A VOLUNTARY, NON-BINDING, VERY EXPENSIVE POSTAL VOTE: One of my mates joked that most people under 30 would need to be trained how to use a letterbox, or just not vote in the survey. Hmmm. Might that be the point?
A VOLUNTARY, NON-BINDING, VERY EXPENSIVE POSTAL VOTE: One of my mates joked that most people under 30 would need to be trained how to use a letterbox, or just not vote in the survey. Hmmm. Might that be the point?

CAN YOU remember back to 1999 when the “No” campaigners warned us that if Australia became a republic we would no longer be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games?

Plenty of Aussies believed that claim.

But not the billion or so people in India, the largest republic on earth, who happily cheer on their teams at the Commonwealth Games.

It was a fear-mongering load of garbage.

We’re already hearing a lot more fear-mongering loads of garbage this month as the same-sex marriage plebiscite, whoops I mean survey, hits us.

Going by some of the claims we've heard so far, the survey is all about whether we force boys to wear dresses, teach gay propaganda in our schools, remove freedom of religion and speech from Australia, or even if we allow people to marry their pets.

Not quite. The question is actually pretty straight-forward: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? Not a word about cats or dogs.

But that doesn’t stop certain politicians, and even archbishops, whipping up all sorts of extremist scenarios that “may” happen if the Marriage Act is changed.

Well, we can all do that.

Three things I can add to the list:

1. The oceans may turn pink and ooze with glitter.

2. Hordes of Dothraki may invade Macathur.

3. Our government MPs may grow a backbone and make a decision without an $122 million survey.

(Yes, I know, that last one does sound a bit far-fetched.)

But let’s ignore the fan fiction for a moment and consider the actual question being asked in the survey.

We might start with a solid fact in a sea of crap: we have two kinds of marriages in Australia – religious and civil.

The first kind is embraced by people of faith as a sacrament, or vows under God.

The second kind has not a thing to do with God or religion, it is a civil contract made under the state.

It is that second one, civil marriage, to be changed and every motion we’ve seen tabled in parliament has included safeguards for religious marriages. As it has around the world.

So, could this be churches saying to the state, ‘Leave us alone, you have no right to dictate how we do our weddings’   – and I agree totally with that, by the way  – yet at the same time the churches are refusing to leave the state alone and dictating how civil marriages are conducted.

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy, it fails to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Civil marriages, by their very definition, have nothing to with religion.

And, as for all the “mum and dad” arguments about same-sex couples suitability as parents – that’s not the question, either.

The fact is, thousands of children are legally being raised by same-sex couples across Australia, and the plebiscite will not change that one bit.

The ONLY thing that will change is whether those loving parents can get married under civil law. That is what it all boils down to.

I’ve seen no better answer to that, than from former British PM David Cameron: “Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”

I’ll be ticking “Yes”, too.

I wish you all well making your own decision.

NOT GAY RIGHTS, HUMAN RIGHTS

We have two local federal MPs to guide us through the stormy waters of the SSM survey, but they are at opposite ends of the boat rowing in opposite directions.

Anyone who knows the MP for Macarthur, Dr Mike Freelander, knows he is passionate about equality (his great-grandmother was actually one of Australia’s suffragette leaders who fought for women’s right to vote).

Dr Freelander believes Aussies who work, pay taxes and obey the law should share the same legal rights “It’s about equality ... it’s a human rights issue,” he said.

Hume MP Angus Taylor thinks its about religious freedom and he has lobbied hard for a plebiscite.

“Same-sex marriage is an issue for the people, not the politicians,” Mr Taylor said.

Great. Except, I would have thought sending our soldiers to a war over (non-existent) “weapons of mass destruction” would have been a classic issue for the people. Nup, politicians took that decision.

I would have thought John Howard’s WorkChoices, ending a century of collective bargaining for workers in favour of handing the bosses all the aces, would have deserved a plebiscite. Up yours.

Or billions cut from schools/hospitals as billionaires got tax cuts. Get stuffed.

Those topics affected the wellbeing of many Aussies, but we got no say. But we do get asked if some Aussies can share the same legals rights as other Aussies. It’s telling.