Creating our own hope
Why is marriage equality taking so long in Australia? Why are we falling behind? What is wrong with us? These are the questions I have been asked in countless conversations and interviews over the last two weeks, as Britain, France and soon New Zealand move inexorably towards marriage equality.
Some of my interlocutors are genuinely mystified, some are deeply ashamed, some wave off their own concern with the vague idea reform is “inevitable”, and some already have an answer for their own question: gutless politicians, overbearing churches, apathetic citizens.
Regardless of where they’re coming from, my response is that they’re asking the wrong questions.
What can we do to achieve marriage equality? What has worked here and overseas that we can build on? Whence comes our hope?
These are the questions that lie behind any successful movement for legal and social reform.
I’ve written before about some of the things I believe will help achieve marriage equality.
One is taking a more pro-active approach to the upcoming federal election.
We must apply maximum pressure in key seats if we are to overcome the main obstacle to reform, the failure of the Coalition to live up to its own principles and allow a conscience vote.
Another catalyst for change will be state and territory same-sex marriage laws.
Critics talk about potential High Court challenges and a jigsaw of state laws, but that’s how critics always respond to new law reform initiatives.
When same-sex couples begin to legally marry, for millions of previously disengaged Australians the debate will cease to be an abstract or far-away one and become one about people just like them making vows just like theirs.
It is also important for supporters to talk more about why reform is important to them.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight, committed to equality or a believer in marriage, studies show personal conversations are key to achieving equality.
But if there’s one thing shared by all the world’s marriage equality success stories it’s an unshakeable belief that reform is achievable, not endless pondering on why it doesn’t happen.
Likewise, marriage equality will be achieved in Australia because enough people have decided to create their own hope.