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The human rights of saying I do

By John-Ernest Dinamarca - posted Friday, 28 October 2011


I am a 22-year-old student. I am straight. I have been in a relationship with my girl friend for nearly three years. I also support gay marriage.

Decades ago my stance would have been considered ludicrous, even among my peers. Fast forward to 2011, and the story is quite different. Recent studies show that 60% of Australians now support gay marriage. In the words of Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin'.

Hang on. I'm straight. So presumably are many of that 60% of Australians who support the right of homosexuals to marry. I could be dismissed as a naïve leftie Arts student from an inner-city university, sipping lattes by day and swilling chardonnay by night. But this criticism cannot be levelled against 60% of Australians. Why is same-sex marriage so important to us?

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The answer, in a nutshell, is respect. R-e-s-p-e-c-t.

In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council passed an historic resolution to protect the rights of gay people to be free from violence and discrimination. As Peter Splinter of Amnesty International remarked, the resolution is 'very significant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in their struggle towards the full enjoyment of their human rights that such violations of their human rights are recognised at this high level.'

The rising support of Australians for same-sex marriage reflects the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We acknowledge that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve to have their dignity and autonomy respected. This involves acknowledging that gay Australians, as consenting individuals, have as much right to make a marriage commitment to their partner as anybody else, and have that commitment recognized in law.

Jerry Matthews Matjila offered a thoughtful insight into South Africa's decision to support the UN Resolution on gay rights. He said: 'the resolution before us today does not seek to impose values on other states… it seeks to initiate a dialogue which will contribute to us ending discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity'.

Matjila's idea of 'dialogue' resonates with me. 'Debate' connotes a sense of competition between two sides. 'Dialogue', on the other hand, implies an open exchange of ideas from a number of perspectives. For too long, the debate surrounding gay marriage has oscillated between two stereotypes – the sensitive New Age, inner-city lefties who support it, and the conservative, fuddy duddy troglodytes who oppose it.

The dialogue around same-sex marriage however is much more complex. Support can come from what might seem like unlikely sources. Over half of Australian Christians in fact support gay-marriage, a Galaxy Poll found. According to Rev Rowland Croucher, a Sydney based Baptist minister, 'Marriage is not a club restricted to some. Like the Gospel, it is a blessing to be shared.' Likewise, Former NSW Premier and devout Catholic Kristina Keneally recently expressed her support for same-sex marriage; describing homosexual couples in mutually loving relationships as "mirroring Jesus' love for us". Conversely, opposition to same-sex marriage can come from gay people themselves, who are concerned that the issue is a distraction from what they see as the real issues facing homosexuals.

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The gay-marriage question isn't just about the Left and Right. It is more than just a clash of religion versus homosexuals. It is a complex dialogue made up of a variety of community voices ranging from the oppositional to the supportive, and everything in between. We as Australians need to be engaged and respectful of each other's opinion regarding same-sex marriage.

I support the legalisation of gay-marriage because marriage equality goes beyond politics, and strikes at what it means to respect someone's humanity and their freedom of choice.

Australia is a liberal democracy that prides itself on the equality shared among its citizens. It is strange then that the choice of two consenting adults to make a commitment to one another out of love and fidelity should be denied recognition based solely on their sexual preference. Gay Australian citizens pay taxes, participate in the workforce and join the military just like other fellow Australians. Why is it then such an issue to respect their choice to marry?

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About the Author

John-Ernest Dinamarca is a student at the University of New South Wales majoring in Fine Art/Arts.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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