Why Australia’s Same-Sex Marriage Vote Is Just The Start

LGBT+ rights aren’t just about the cherry on the icing of the cake, we need the cake, too!

Australia’s Same-Sex Marriage Vote Is Just The Start

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

What glorious news to wake up to. Following an arduous and protracted debate over giving LGBT+ citizens the same rights as its straight populace, 61.6% of Australia’s population has voted in favour of allowing same-sex couples to get married.

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The vote was a plebiscite - rather than a referendum, because it was a non-binding postal vote on public opinion rather than a binding instruction - and a bill to change the law accordingly has now been introduced to the Senate as a result. Amendments will now be up for debate, but the main gist is that LGBT+ people have got some more rights than they used to have.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the legislation should be passed by Christmas, reports the BBC. He explained: ‘[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality

‘They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love.’

There’s loads of celebration going on right now, and so much cause for it - finally, Australia’s Marriage Act will be accessible to any two adults in love.

However, this is just the beginning, because getting married is the cherry on the icing on the cake that is life: an unnecessary but lovely way of cementing a committed relationship. Meanwhile, for so many - even those in countries where same-sex marriage has long been legal - the cake beneath this fabulous dressing up is crumbling.

Take, for example, the UK, where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013. According to Stonewall, one in five LGB employees have been bullied in the workplace, and over 10% of trans employees reported being verbally abused at work. Nearly 45% of LGBT pupils - rising to 64% of trans pupils - are bullied at school, with 48% of trans youth attempting suicide.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2008, 56% of LGBT people experienced discrimination at school, with 11% saying this entailed sexual abuse or rape. A shocking 41% of people - this rises to 49% of black LGBT people - know someone, personally, who has been murdered because of their sexuality. So-called corrective rape aims to ‘cure’ lesbians of their sexuality.

Australia has its very own political eco-system, true, but 61% of same-sex attracted and gender-questioning young people have experienced verbal abuse because of their sexuality or gender identity, with 18% reporting physical abuse for the same reasons. On top of this, 39% of Australian adults are closeted at work!

Same-sex marriage isn’t really available to everyone because it’s only ever available to the sorts of couples marriage has always only ever available to those able to get over their own crap and fall in love, live happily enough to continue a relationship long enough to get married. Hell, even people rich enough to get married.

Same-sex marriage will do loads to tell and prove that LGBT+ people deserve equal rights to their straight cohort, and the activists who have campaigned for this deserve a hefty slap on the back. But to truly topple homophobia, countries enacting same-sex marriage legislation need to ensure they’re making moves to dismantle the racism, sexism, classism, transphobia and ableism that helps prop up homophobia.

Yep, turns out there’s a lot of ways to be a prick to someone, to obstruct and delay their happiness, and they’re all entwined in hate.

Allowing people to get married - should they choose - is an important first step, but if Australia’s government truly wants to help LGBT+ people reach the point where they can even think about getting married, they might need to get the cake ready as well as the icing. Celebrate that a majority of Australians think LGBT+ people deserve the same rights as everybody else, but the fight here - and elsewhere - isn’t over yet.

You might also be interested in:

Taiwan Has Become The First Asian Country To Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

Germany Finally Legalises Same-Sex Marriage

Today's The Day America Legalised Same-Sex Marriage Forever

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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