According to the latest Galaxy poll, 62% of Australians support gay marriage and 75% believe it will be legalised. That's certainly reflected in the questions readers most want asked of the independent MPs in Parliament. A question on marriage equality from Shane Bazzi tops the ladder in the Crikey/OurSay Grill the Independents forum, which gives people the chance to post, vote and comment on questions that will be asked to the lower house independents by Crikey next week. He asks:
"Given that the majority of Australians now support marriage equality for same-s-x couples, as indicated by polls and the unprecedented submissions supporting marriage equality in the parliamentary inquiries, how will you vote when the legislation comes before parliament and how do you explain your stance? Should all Australians be given the same legal and social rights, and not discriminated against on the basis of their s-xual orientation?"
The prolonged and stagnant debate in Parliament over gay marriage frustrated many other OurSay commenters to also condemn the government for not representing the interests of the Australian public. Bazzi's question has received 2742 votes. In 2004, John Howard's government enshrined the definition of "marriage" as "the union between a man and a woman". Before this, "marriage" wasn't legally defined. This, Bazzi argues, is blatant discrimination. "It doesn't just affect gays and lesbians, it also affects straight people like our friends and families," he told Crikey. "They [the government] are saying we're not the same as them so we shouldn't have the same rights. They're essentially legislating discrimination and bullying." A national study earlier this year by La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in S-x, Health and Society and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria found that nearly 80% of the LGBT community suffered from an episode of intense anxiety in the past year and almost 75% of the participants were suffering from depression, 16% of which had contemplated suicide. Bazzi argues the legitimacy of marriage could combat the "epidemic" of homophobic discrimination and bullying, particularly among the younger generation. He feels that critics such as Bob Katter are obliged to give the voters a "logical" reason for publicly condemning the LGBT community and opposing bills allowing gay marriage. "He says things like that and then refuses to answer questions asked by others. Politicians can be some of the biggest bullies," said Bazzi. Bazzi believes the government is generally representing the views of voters on most issues. "So why not be fair and equal with us? I think this topic will affect the votes of a lot of people," he said.