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Op-ed: Shame on Australia for Putting Equality to a Vote

Op-ed: Shame on Australia for Putting Equality to a Vote

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This gay writer says his nation is failing him and the world.

There is no greater shame than knowing your government does not respect you as a human.

For me, this happened Tuesday night. Australia is weighing marriage equality at the moment, and the governing conservatives decided to deny a debate and consideration of a vote in Parliament. Now, with antigay Prime Minister Tony Abbott leading the charge, conservatives are pushing a voter referendum. The referendum is risky, as it would change the constitution to legalize same-sex marriage; understandably, Australians are wary of altering their government's blueprint, and the conservatives know this.

As a gay man, I have been denied the dignity of full equality before the law. The failure of leadership is at odds with the Australian value of a fair go. With its feet dragging, Australia is cementing its place as a regressive and out of touch nation, just as places like the United States make bold strides in the opposite direction.

We'll now likely follow Ireland and vote on the issue, even though our highest court said politicians themselves should provide for marriage equality. Even though Irish voters supported marriage equality, minority rights should never be put up for a vote.

For many LGBT people this is an assault on their being. By not granting us equal status or decency and kicking the can to voters, the government is sidelining Australian LGBT people as second-class citizens.

Since the government fumbled the ball on marriage equality, straight and LGBT Australians has been enraged. Consistently, opinion polling has shown that a majority of Australians want marriage to be extended to same-sex couples; even the majority of Christians do.

Momentum to achieve marriage equality has been palpable for months now, but Abbott has stuck his head in the sand, and his government has subsequently taken a dive in the polls. He and his conservatives (they're part of the "Liberal Party," which is actually the main conservative party Down Under) want this issue to go away, but it isn't going anywhere. To resolve the issue of marriage equality, the parliament must allow a free vote.
In the 1960s, when the developed world was struggling with racial issues, Australians were encouraged to not follow South Africa and end segregation and apartheid. We rose to the challenge. Fifty years later, when it comes to LGBT equality, we're failing. The government must act; Australia's national character is at stake.
Conrad_leversi02x100_0_0CONRAD LIVERIS is an Australian writer focusing on issues of gender equality and diversity.
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