Opinion //

Face off: Should the LGBT+ community prioritise marriage equality?

With the postal plebiscite on marriage equality being a looming reality, we asked two writers: should the LGBT community make this vote a priority?

Connor Wherrett — For

The simple fact of the matter is that the question of marriage will be the single biggest LGBTQI rights issue in Australia for the foreseeable future. We might be tired of it, we might feel frustrated and we might pray that the community spoke out about, for instance, the shocking rates of suicide among transgender Australians. We also cannot deny the fact that funds used towards this campaign could be better spent. However, the simple existence of this topic forever burdening our minds demands that the fight for marriage equality must be stronger than ever, louder than ever and resolved more quickly than our current government can manage.

Importantly, asking someone for their particular view on the question of marriage equality normally allows one to gauge  their general opinion surrounding LGBTQI issues. Apart from nuanced answers concerning the role of the marriage, it is almost always the case that those who do not think that same sex couples should marry can also be found to have a whole swagger of backwards views on LGBTQI issues. Such a person will also snicker at other LGBTQI issues, decry the destabilisation of traditional binary gender norms and rail against the brigade of the left.

I will agree with one point that the Australian Christian Lobby makes; that changing the definition of marriage has a drastic effect on our society. It has become commonplace to hear that focusing attention on marriage equality ‘dilutes attention from real issues’. However, it must be noted that once legalised, such a reform provokes an acceptance in the societal zeitgeist that non SSM countries cannot match. This renewed sense of acceptance and equality has the effect of improving the lives of queer Australians, for example by reducing deaths among LGBTQI teenagers (including suicide rates). Those are the real drastic effects of marriage equality in our society.

Thus, marriage equality is not simply about the pragmatic question of marriage itself, but a symbol of society’s acceptance of LGBTQI people as human beings. Some may question the necessity of the LGBTQI community’s support in the general populace, but it cannot be denied that such acceptance allows for the LGBTQI community to exist in its purest form: without difference.

Marriage equality therefore, concerns more than the mere specifics of the marriage act. It is about ensuring the fundamental human rights of a populace, lifting the community from its second-class status; a move that resonates with acceptance and support.

It is also frequently argued that such movements represent conformity to heteronormative ideas.  However, the values associated with marriage — such as love and commitment —  are not innately heterosexual or capitalistic values, but values of humanity.

Above all issues, LGBTQI Australians should seek individual liberty through a universal acceptance of their humanity. It is only from this that the real struggle for LGBTQI rights can begin.


Madeline Ward — Against

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for marriage equality. If my fellow queers want to marry the person they love (and have it legally recognised) then great! Good stuff! You do you.

It’s just that I don’t think that we, as students, should make it a priority in our activism. Large activist groups such as Get Up have championed marriage equality for several years now, as well as single issue organisations like Australian Marriage Equality. Global brands such as Airbnb and Ben and Jerry’s have also been running their own campaigns in Australia. These organisations all have something the student movement is lacking: cash.

AME as an organisation exists solely to campaign for marriage equality, and receives a shitload of money to do so. They don’t need additional support from smaller queer activist groups that are generally run by students and young people and receive little in the way of funding. Our friendly campus queer collective, for example, only receives $3000 in funding per year. Aside from the financial aspect, I feel that there are more important causes to get behind, ones that are more pressing than legalising same sex marriage.

The recent ARHC report revealed that 44 per cent of bisexual and 38 per cent of lesbian or gay students were sexually harassed on campus in 2016, compared to 23 per cent of our straight counterparts. This to me seems a more urgent issue to organise around, perhaps because the only people doing so at present are students.

Saving Safe Schools also seems like it should be more of a priority at the moment, since it is the only anti bullying program that’s specifically aimed at improving the lives of queer school students.

Aside from all this, and perhaps contrary to what I wrote earlier, marriage as a concept kind of sucks. It’s a historically patriarchal institution that has only very recently had anything to do with love. It’s an institution that privileges the middle class and that, by way of existence, makes things harder for us heathen types that prefer to live in sin.

Marriage equality is also kind of inevitable — it even has the support of members of the Liberal party, and Labor has vowed to make it a reality. Obviously people can care and organise about more than one issue — it’s just that as students with a finite amount of resources and time, we should have a hard think about which ones most need our help.