We must vote YES!

The same sex marriage debate is not about freedom of religion or political correctness, it is about the recognition and validation of relationships between people of the same gender. And to live in the normality and humanity of these relationships.

I attended a beautiful wedding in Sydney on the weekend. The ceremony and celebration wasn’t a recognition of gender, it wasn’t a celebration of heterosexuality or the capacity to make and bear children, it was a celebration of relationship, commitment and love.

One of the witnesses to this marriage was my beautiful sister, who has been in a relationship with her partner and love of her life for over thirty years. This relationship has outlasted any of the heterosexual marriages in our family of five, yet is not recognised in our society because the two partners are female.

As a couple, my sister and her partner have both contributed energy, time and money to both their community and the community of my family. All my nephews and nieces have benefited from their generosity, love and support. Indeed, at least my children would not be the thriving children they now if it weren’t for consistency and love of Bel and Heven.

Among the No Vote arguments there seems to be a fear that legalising same sex marriage will endanger our children and influence them toward same sex relationships. Yet the anecdotal evidence from my own family suggests quite the opposite.  my children have been exposed to same sex partnerships and even attended Mardi Gras, and no harm has come to them.

In addition, none of the evidence from the Royal Commission into institutional response to childhood sexual abuse suggests people in same sex relationships are responsible for harming children. In fact, the opposite. It appears some of the institutions with strong No Vote stances have been implicated in harming children rather than protecting them.

Another No Vote argument is that de-facto relationships have the same rights as legalised marriages, so why can’t people in same sex relationships be satisfied with common law status. Sadly, this is not the case and even if it was, the logic is still flawed – if we are content to extend the right of common law then why not extend the full protection of legal status.

People in de-facto relationships do not have automatic partner transfer when one of the partners is transferred for business; and there is a much greater burden of proof in legal matters of social security, insurance, superannuation and legal guardianship in palliative and chronic care decisions, as well as death certificates and the honouring of wills.

When my sister came out to me she felt nervous about my reaction, and even more nervous when she came out to my parents. What I will never understand is why anyone should have to go through this potentially humiliating process to simply be themselves and love who they love.

My sister and her partner are not outliers. Through her friends and my own, I have met and shared many long-term friendships with same sex couples in stable relationships that were worthy of full validation and recognition. Beyond relationship every individual, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, should be afforded dignity, recognition and respect.

Our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, fathers and mothers need to be shown their love is equal, natural and valid. Legalising same sex is the next step along this path. That’s what the same sex marriage debate is about and that’s why we should vote YES!