(Apologies for the length of this post. I really wanted to be brief but once I get started, I just can't seem to stop.)
In Queensland, we currently have Civil Partnership Laws enabling couples (hetero and same-sex) to register their relationships. It's a step down from marriage, and isn't recognised in all states or federally, but it's a start.
The new LNP government has decided to leave the registration part of the law as it stands, which is a sigh of relief for those of us (609 couples at last count) who registered.
The LNP have decided, however, that the bit that upsets the Christians (the Premier's words) is the state-sanctioned ceremony, currently only able to be performed at specific courthouses around the state. They've decided to scrap those ceremonies, but still allow the filling out of forms and the paying of money for the priviledge of having our relationships recognised.
On the surface, nothing changes. We still could have ceremonies, and then fill out the paperwork later, or do the reverse - fill out the paperwork and have a celebratory ceremony after the fact.
We still get the extra legal protections, regardless of whether we have the ceremony or not.
All good, on the surface. Seems like a nice compromise.
I have two problems with the reasoning put forward for the change.
The first is the offence caused by this legislation to various churches and religions. I understand the thought of gay marriage, or indeed gay partnerships, are offensive to some people of faith. But not all religions or churches feel that way.
Using this reasoning sets a precedent for other faiths to lobby the government to demand changes to things that cause them offence. That's their right of course, but should offence be a reason to change laws that in reality only affect those who would choose to use them?
The second is that the government has given a clear indication on where it stands on recognising same-sex couples, and indeed LGBTI people individually, whether it meant to or not.
They can say nice words about how much "we're" respected, but it's their actions that really count. And like it or not, the way they treat people, or seem to treat people, sets an example for the rest of us.
By not allowing a simple ceremony (when the whole point of Civil Partnerships is for state-based rather than church-based recognition) sends the message that our relationships aren't valued by the people we have charged with governing over all of us.
In light of the changes, I sent emails to each of the LNP members (which, incidentally, bounced back, but I don't want to scream "conspiracy" just yet), telling them my thoughts.
It took me a long time to put into words why I thought changing the laws would be a step backwards, but when I'd finished and read it over, one sentence stood out above all others.
"The new law sent a clear message to those of us who struggle with our sexuality, as most of us do at some stage in our lives, that we are valued."
I have railed against the arguments against gay marriage, from religious reasons to blatant disriminatory reasons, but it wasn't until now that I was able to actually put how I feel into one word - VALUE.
It comes down to how much we value our fellow human beings.
For those of you who are against gay marriage, for whatever reason, or are non-committal, and don't think it affects you in any way, and for those of you who have gay friends or family members and are still against gay marriage, I ask you to consider this:
Think about your sons and daughters, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and friends.
Are you happy to see them hurt? Would you be happy to hear them called "pedophile", "not fit for parenting", "mentally unstable", and "diseased"?
Would you stand by while someone says they should all be shot?
How would you feel reading comments to articles on gay marriage and civil unions that say things like "the worst thing the government in Queensland did was make being gay legal. they should be put in jail for their perversions." (A real comment believe it or not).
How would you feel to get a phone call or visit from a police officer, informing you that your loved one is in hospital, or worse, simply because someone else took offence to their sexuality? Or because your loved one committed suicide because they couldn't deal with the stress of being gay or lesbian? Because they were bullied for being different. Because they were told they were inferior.
You may think I am being extreme. "These things don't happen all the time," you say. I'm sorry to tell you that they do.
Why? Because those who say and do those terrible things don't value others. They feel they have a right to punish those of us who are a little different.
How will allowing gay marriage change that?
It shows that at the very highest level, we are valued. It takes away an excuse for marginalising and discriminating.
It shows us that we are valued as human beings, and as citizens of our great country. It makes a statement that we are no different from our heterosexual friends and family, and it acknowledges that we too, can fall in love and make the decision to make a formal commitment to the person we love.
A civil partnership is not marriage. It's the furthest a State may go with regards to legal recognition of relationships, but it's a start.
So I ask you:
How much do you value your friends and family?
How much do you value me?