By Samantha-Jane Rose
It’s a crisis most people will unlikely have heard of but it’s something that is entering its critical phase, the point of no return, the point at which it will be too late. I speak of course about the pressing issue of marriage equality and how it affects our “queer elders”, as it was comically coined at the Australian Marriage Equality Forum. These are our friends who have been waiting, committed to those they care about for far too long. While Malcolm Turnbull procrastinates loudly in Canberra, our Queer Elders continue to wait, as they have for decades, for the chance — the right — to marry the ones who they have loved for longer than I have lived.
It saddens and hurts, dare I say wounds me, that these people are deprived of the chance to live their lives married and committed to each other. These men and women who have paid taxes their entire lives, have endured abuse and bullying at the hands of a government, which is supposed to serve them. Malcolm Turnbull not only owes these people a debt he cannot repay, he owes them marriage equality. He owes them an apology on behalf of this nation for the government has supported and enabled this discrimination to continue for as long as it has.
Malcolm Turnbull knows what he must do. He knows what is expected and required of him now if he wants to preserve any shred of respect from our community; he needs to immediately banish the plebiscite to the dustbin of history, forever. He needs to stand up to the far right among his party and he needs to allow a conscience vote for Coalition members of parliament and senators. Not only is this the morally correct course of action, it is a course of action which makes the most sense, politically speaking. It would end an issue which has caused the Coalition to haemorrhage votes to the Greens and Labor and it would deny Labor an important political achievement should it win government next year.
It amazes me that the far-right faction within the Coalition cannot see that its dwindling political fortunes can potentially be reversed to a degree. If only they would come to their senses and fulfil the wishes of the Australian people, even if these wishes are incongruent with the backward, socially conservative mantra that has become the hallmark of the Abbott faction within the Coalition. The lesson has seemingly gone unlearned; the answer to the plummeting fortunes of the Coalition is not more severe doses of conservatism and austerity but, rather, the adoption of policies that reflect the Australian value of a fair go for all.
While our government continues to sit on its hands concerning marriage equality, our Queer Elders continue to lose time that they do not have. The tragedy of passing away before they have the opportunity to commit to one another in marriage is something that we have had to witness Something their loved ones and families have had to experience. It is an abhorrent, preventable tragedy that could be resolved with a simple parliamentary vote. We know the numbers exist, we know that it enjoys overwhelming and consistent public support among men, women, Christians and even Coalition voters.
To put it bluntly, what the bloody hell are you waiting for, Mister Prime Minister?