Who supports gay marriage?

Gays and lesbians certainly want the option, if our Twitter straw poll is any guide. “Yes I do,” said one today, “and as a marriage celebrant I want to marry same-sex couples rather than the second class ‘commitment ceremony’.” And another: “I don’t want to marry right now, but I do want the right to do so should I choose to in the future. It’s equality. Simple.” And: “Gay here, yes I do! Legal rights ahoy!” And: “hell yes I want & deserve the right should I meet the right fella.”

And of those who weren’t keen on walking down the aisle, as one said: “It would be nice to be unmarried by choice rather than because I can’t.”

There’s a bunch of lawmakers who believe in the cause, too. Like new Labor MP Stephen Jones, who rose in parliament yesterday to lecture his party on why the issue goes to “core Labor values of equality, fairness and dignity”:

“…marriage is an important institution in our society. It is a special relationship where two people say to each other and to the rest of the world that they agree to be bound together in love, exclusive of all others, for life. I believe it would diminish us all as a society if we were to say that we may exclude gay and lesbian couples from this celebration. That marks them as somehow less worthy or even as biological oddities. I respect the right of religious organisations and others in our community to disagree with this view and to continue to practice in accordance with their beliefs. Indeed, no motion or act of this place can of itself change those beliefs. But it is an entirely different thing to ask of the state to enforce it.”

He’s not alone. Labor ministers Mark Arbib and Anthony Albanese are on the record supporting the notion, with back-benchers Michael Danby and Sharon Grierson. Among the opposition Warren Entsch, Mal Washer and Simon Birmingham have all expressed support by our count, joining the Greens and independent Andrew Wilkie. Many more will come forward if their parties let them.

Australians generally, the surveys tell us, support the notion. Crikey had the Essential Research findings yesterday showing 53% believe people of the same sex should be allowed to marry, while just 36% still oppose. The generation that rejects gay rights — the result was essentially reversed in the 65-plus group — is, frankly, dying out.

Roy Morgan put out some data of its own yesterday, mapping pockets of homophobia around the country. The results aren’t really surprising.

But turn the question around. Of those who said homosexuality is ‘immoral’, how many of them are influenced by the fact our state and national governments collectively enshrine marriage discrimination, in the face of such widespread and emphatic political and community support?

Sometimes the symbolism alone is important.

Peter Fray

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