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The same-sex debate is a debate which is being waged in almost all countries in the world, including Australia. While some countries have managed to resolve and settle the issue by passing legislation to recognize same-sex marriage, other countries are still struggling with the issue. Australia is one of these countries still locked in debate about this issue. There are two sides of the issue which have yet to be reconciled and in the meantime, the status quo in effect in Australia is that it is not legally recognized by the state. This paper shall consider the same-sex marriage debate in the Australian context with the end goal of providing a more objective perspective on the discussion.
First of all, same-sex unions in Australia are defined under their federal law as de facto unions and each state or territory can secure their own laws on the recognition of these unions (Keogh, 2015). Civil unions are nevertheless available options for same-sex unions in most states in Australia but under the 2004 amendments to the federal Marriage Act, same sex couples cannot marry (Keogh, 2015). There have been several bills filed before the Parliament of Australia, seeking to secure passage of law which would recognize same-sex marriages. A plebiscite was suggested last year to bring the decision of the issue to the people, but this idea was struck down by the Australian Senate (Keogh, 2015). More efforts are being presented within the legal sphere in support of same-sex unions; in the meantime, the debate on the issue persists.
We can do it today.
Same-sex unions should be legalized because in the similar context as the equal protection under the law, all individuals, all citizens should be allowed to marry (Denton, 2014). For all intents and legal purposes, there are protections given to legally-recognized heterosexual unions which should also be accorded to same-sex marriages. De facto relationships are the only legal protection granted to same-sex unions and their legal protection and privileges are not the same as those granted to heterosexual marriages (Denton, 2014). Some of these differences include property settlements as well as spousal maintenance where there are more stringent requirements indicated for de facto partnerships as compared to marriages. Individuals in de facto relationship are also often called to prove the legal existence of their relationship as next of kin before being allowed to claim bereavement payments following the death of a partner (Foster, 2016).
Marriage causes are also supported by several sections of the constitution while de facto relationships are not; the Commonwealth has to pass first legislation to cover de facto relationships in terms of financial matters and other applications of the law (Foster, 2016). Within this context, it is difficult to secure any legal support and recognition for same-sex unions even if the individuals in the relationship are more or less going through and experiencing similar feelings, issues, and carrying out similar activities as heterosexual couples (Bernstein, 2016). Such conditions of disparity should change and the legal mantle of protection should cover both unions because in their very essence, they are very much the same.
There are however arguments being presented by Australians against same-sex unions. Surveys conducted on Australians indicate some of their reasons for their opposition to these unions (Reed, 2014). Some point out that those who choose to be gay know that they cannot actually get married, therefore, they should not expect the situation to change. Others argue that homosexual couples can have their ceremony, but they should not call it marriage (Reed, 2014). This mostly relates to their belief that marriages are between a man and a woman. They also point out that the de facto recognition of their union should be enough, but as pointed out above, it is not clearly enough to support the similar rights enjoyed by married couples (Reed, 2014).
The debate on same-sex unions cannot also avoid the input from religious and similar lobby groups (Holmes, 2017). Australian aborigine groups have expressed their rejection of same-sex marriage, highlighting traditional requirements of having a man and a woman in a marriage (AAP, 2015). Other more progressive aborigines were however quick to counter such traditional views on marriage, arguing that same-sex marriage should also be recognized by the government (AAP, 2015). Among various religious churchgoers including Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian members, support for same-sex marriage was expressed, with a minimal 15% Muslim population expressing their support for same-sex marriage (Massola, 2015). The majority Muslim population opposed same-sex marriage because this type of marriage is redefining the true and legal essence of marriage (Massola, 2015).
The religious and conservative arguments against same-sex marriage mostly revolve around the perception that children need a mother and a father and same-sex marriages would likely break down that dynamic (Browne, 2016). Same-sex marriages under this context would serve to undermine traditional marriage and any moves to legalize same-sex marriage would likely mean encouraging the demise of traditional marriages (Browne, 2016). Those opposed to same-sex marriage further point out that marriage is a sacred institution and efforts must be therefore made to protect it as well as to comply with its specific religious mandates. Traditional marriages would also lose its value when same-sex marriage would be legally recognized and religious freedom would somehow be compromised under these conditions (Waggoner, 2016). Advocates of traditional marriages also point out the slippery slope theory wherein allowing same-sex marriage would also be opening up the legal waters to other practices like polygamy. There is a risk, they believe in allowing one previously illegal act to continue, where society would be headed towards a slippery slope where it would not be able to return from (Schuman, 2007).
In further evaluating the concepts presented above, a more prudent position towards the legalization of same-sex marriages is taken (Chamie & Mirkin, 2015). Same-sex marriages are a threat to traditional practices, but they are not a threat to morality. Instead, same-sex marriages help support the foundations of society, specifically those which relate to equality and freedom for all (Klaman, 2012). Sexuality and sexual preferences are personal choices and often unavoidable personal choices (Mazzochi, 2011). In effect, such choices should also be accorded with the same legal privileges as those granted to others who make traditional choices in their partners.
The principles of equality are protected tenets of local, domestic, and international law, and as such, they require application to all, regardless of sexual preferences. It is also important to recognize the legal status of these marriages in order to reduce the stigma often associated with homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, and similar individuals, especially their children. Without the protection of the law, these individuals would likely experience discrimination in their work life and their social life. Recognizing same-sex unions in short is set to promote the more equal and fair treatment of the minority, those with same-sex preferences, and those who are simply different.
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