Australians are normally early adopters. Our nation embraces change with often unbridled passion, yet there is one arena in which we are seriously dragging our heals at the moment and that is marriage equality. The overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in Ireland’s referendum last weekend has shown that even the most conservative dogma can be overcome and prejudice set aside for progress. Ireland will join a growing list of “rainbow nations” who embrace marriage in all its’ forms, irrespective of gender or persuasion. Yet here in Australia our political leaders toss the issue around like a hot-potato, repeatedly refusing to be drawn into debate and actively avoiding a conscience vote in parliament, let alone permit a referendum where Australians could make their own voices heard. Why? Do they not believe in equal rights for all? Do they believe the issue is so divisive that it could harm society in some way? Or is it simply that conservative factions in both main parties hold too much sway? Whatever the reason, our failure to embrace this change sweeping the planet is doing us no favours. Marriage equality would bring significant economic benefit to country. The rush of couples to the altar in forward-thinking countries such as New Zealand and the UK has seen a spike in wedding spending, together with longer-term flow-on effects of wedding-tourism. A shot-in-the-arm is just what our domestic economy needs right now too, and the benefits, especially in rural communities, could be significant at a time when many are doing it tough.
And what exactly is the downside? Not one single thing as far as I can see. People are already in relationships now and all we would be doing is allowing them to formalise their status, and enjoy the same rights as anyone else.
So let’s move forward Australia, embrace marriage equality and win back our status as one of the world’s most tolerant, easy-going and friendly nations.