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Human

 Friday, 6th July, 2018

Words by Michelle Witton

 

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Mending Wall by Robert Frost 

 

November 2017 Sydney, Australia. 

Australia is putting the question of adopting same sex marriage into national law to a postal vote. In the lead up to the closing date for voting – there is more social more frenzy than, to use a local analogy - sharks jumping for live bait. Anyone venturing to turn on the radio, television or to check their social media is immediately barraged by campaign messages vying for their vote. We are inundated with moving life stories of same sex couples asking for recognition of their right to marriage, equally by fear-mongering lambasts from the conservative evangelists and the Right about the perils of the same to Society As We Know It. The Sydney Anglican church donated $1million to the “No” campaign. The ferocity of the ‘No” campaign and its tactics – frequently out-right lies - was extremely distressing. 

All because one human loves another. 

Humans can express their love for one another in innumerable ways. The ways in which we express love must not be mandated nor constrained. To do so strikes at the very core of human rights. One way humans may choose to express their love is in marriage. They want the commitment they wish to make, as an expression of love, to be formally recognized by the state and some, by the church. With this commitment come both legal protections for both parties and commitments. Wanting, for example, to provide for the person you love in their old age through your pension. Under Australian law, and the laws of many countries, the right to marriage was provided to mixed-gender couples, denied to same sex couples. There have always been same sex couples, their rights not recognized in parity by law. 

All because one human loves another.  

The outcome of the November 14th vote was a resounding ”Yes” in favour of marriage equality. “Yes” returned 61.6%, “No” 38.4%. Participant turnout was the highest for any Australian referendum or postal vote to date – a record-high of 80% of Australians on the electoral roll. Voter participation was high in all states and all gender-categories – the highest by women in the age bands 18-19 years (80+%) and, somewhat bizarrely, highest for women 70-74 years (85+%). But then. women in their 70s are more used to using the post than voting ‘Like’ on social media. They still use stamps. 

The result was welcomed with rainbow flag-festooned street parties, tears of joy as same sex couples hugged one another, kissed and, some - immediately proposed marriage. Federal Senator Penny Wong, herself a partner in a same-sex couple and mother, expressed tears in Parliament and spoke movingly of the need for greater social acceptance of same sex couples and of their families. The ‘No’ campaign expressed disappointment at the result yet, graciously, conceded the will of the majority Australians had clearly been expressed in the vote. Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, then called for same sex marriage to be voted into law before the end of the Parliamentary term. 

I was surprised, though joyous, that the ‘yes’ vote majority was so clear. I had hoped the result would be ‘yes’. However, with the morning of hearing the Brexit result still vivid in mind was reminded never again to blithely assume our Facebook friends constitute the will of the majority. Though Australia may have an image of carefree beach-side life and liberalism, and the inner-cities reflect this, suburban Australia is deeply conservative. Australians had however clearly voted for change and, with it, hopefully, a growing acceptance of greater social diversity and variance of thought and lifestyles. We are mending. 

We’re living in a time of walls, whether it be the physical border wall between Mexico and the United States or the legislative wall of Brexit. Fear of ‘the other’ is pervasive, whether ‘the other’ be gypsies, immigrants or refugees, because ‘the other’ by virtue of its lifestyle is, irrationally, perceived by some to constitute a threat to ‘mainstream’ society. Somewhat incredibly, and magnificently, countering this trend, we see the growing acceptance of the LGBTQI community and adoption of marriage of same sex couples in to law. Some walls are being mended. Some walls are coming down. As I write now, 7 months after the social media frenzy and vying campaigns - same sex marriage is now protected by Australian law. 

All because one human loves another.