A key issue separating the two main parties in the upcoming Federal Election is whether gay marriage should be legalised. Labor seem keen to bring marriage equality to Australia and are promising to legislate to that effect within the first 100 days. The Liberal and National Party Coalition favours maintaining the status quo, but have begrudgingly been drawn into allowing the Australian public an official say in the matter, via a national plebiscite.
On the surface, the Coalition's planned plebiscite seems good. Public opinion polls typically reveal a majority of Australians are in favour of allowing homosexual partnerships the same recognition as heterosexual ones. Discrimination in legislation between the two has been steadily phased out over the last decade as public perception shifted. It was no longer okay for "de facto" heterosexual relationships to enjoy rights above those of equally committed homosexuals.
The actual "marriage" bit, however, has remained a sticking point.
So if the public are generally supportive of the change, or at least won't care, why hasn't it happened? Religion, mostly, and a fear of change. A lot of the arguments boil down to, "God said Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" or that marriage has traditionally been between a husband and wife.
While there have been exceptions in history - notably, numerous instances of multiple wives for a single husband - for the most part it has been true. One man, one woman. And the lord or chieftain of the tribe gets first dibs on the wedding night. Tradition!
The outdated beliefs held by a minority of the population would not be an issue, but for the fact that organised religion has had a millenia to practice manipulating governments at the uppermost levels. They mobilise their communities and hold the condemnation of God over their heads to ensure obedience, getting desired candidates into positions of power.
A plebiscite cuts out the middlemen. No political branch stacking or dirty tricks, just a straight vote by the public. Marriage equality, yea or nay?
Nay, not quite. The problem with a plebiscite is it's not legally binding on the government. Even if the result came back with 95% of the public being in favour the government can simply ignore it, or cite the 5% as reason enough not to legislate.
Which is garbage. Completely legal but morally and ethically questionable, at best.
The only positive thing that could be taken away from that situation is that the public would finally have very solid, incontrovertible evidence that it should be legalised. And we will know exactly who to blame.
Which is why I am in two minds on the process. I kind of want the plebiscite to go ahead, because the apple cart badly needs to be kicked over on this, though it likely means a longer path ahead for marriage equality advocates.
But then, what if we hold a very expensive plebiscite and the public says no? Then it's an even longer path and possibly another expensive plebiscite in the future.
And all because some people think boys kissing other boys is icky.