Australians have voted in favour of legalizing gay marriage after at least two decades of waiting on the subject. Gay sex was finally made legal in Australia in 1997, and as far back as 2007, polls showed that Australians were in favour of marriage equality. The poll that was just completed showed that 61.6 per cent of those who voted were in favour of marriage equality. 79.8 per cent of Australians chose to participate in the vote. Voting was voluntary, unlike other elections in the country which require citizens to participate. To give that number context, only 68 per cent of Canadians voted in the last federal election, and that was the highest voter turnout in 22 years. Either Australians are just used to turning up to vote, or the subject was important to a great number of people.
In Canada, marriage equality has been legal since 2005. In the US, federal laws legalized it in 2015 despite the objections of several states,. In the UK marriage equality has been legal in England, Scotland, and Wales since 2014. Overall, marriage equality is law in all or part of 24 countries worldwide.
The question that comes to mind is why are people voting on this at all? Isn’t the right to be married and to have that marriage recognized by the government of the country you live in a basic right? It falls under the same international laws as freedom from religious persecution.
It may be a product of my Canadian, and therefore incredibly privileged, upbringing, but I don’t understand why there should be a public vote on basic human rights. We don’t get to vote on whether someone has the right to clean drinking water, food and shelter, so why should anyone get to vote on this? A common way for marriage equality to become law in a country is a review of that country’s citizen rights.
In Canada, looking over the charter of rights and freedoms, which is the real law of this land, made it clear that not allowing marriage equality was a violation. Therefore, the government, despite their own conservative stance and possible objections under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, simply corrected what might be called an earlier mistake in law which had excluded non-heterosexual couples from getting married.
While there might be a partial victory in Australia for LGBTQ+ individuals, and those of us who considered Australia as a potential place for relocation or graduate studies, there is still a long way to go. To begin with, Australia must make this vote into law. And then, we have the rest of the world to deal with. We also have to address the reluctance of some world leaders to support their fellow humans on the basis of religious freedoms.
In the same way that we fight for women’s rights all over the world, we have to keep fighting for the basic human rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the fact that we should not get to vote on someone’s rights, it’s part of the world we live in. One basic truth of humanity still persists: until all of us are free, none of us are free.