An open letter to Michael McCormack
DEAR Mr McCormack,
I am writing in response to The Area News article from August 6, 2014 entitled "'No' to same-sex marriage vote - Federal MP".
In this article, you are quoted as saying that you "do not support it and that (you) would vote against it".
The article also states that you believe the topic is taking focus from "more pressing matters".
You also mention a 2012 survey of 60,000 homes in the electorate, from which "thousands of responses" were received, and that showed 78 per cent of respondents voting against a change of the marriage act.
I'll come back to these points shortly.
I have been a long-time supporter of the marriage equality movement, but I must admit that up until now I have played a fairly passive role.
As a straight person who is married, my rights are clear.
I can (and have) met someone I grew to love.
I asked her to marry me and she said yes.
Our wedding was one of the happiest days of my life; surrounded by friends and family (some of whom are now sadly gone forever), we sealed our bond in permanence through a simple ceremony and a little bit of paperwork.
We even featured on the front page of The Daily Advertiser the following day.
We're coming up on our five-year anniversary soon, and not one day of that time have we had cause to doubt that the relationship we are in is anything other than a capital-m Marriage.
Problem is, the way the law is at the moment, not everyone can say the same.
There are couples out there who have been together longer than I have been alive, yet I'm allowed to be married and they are not.
It doesn't make any sense on any level.
Your position that this issue is taking focus from "more pressing matters" is a perfect highlight of why this issue is of such great importance.
You, as a straight white male (like me), have absolutely nothing stopping you from living as freely as you please.
You can love whomever you like; you can ask them to marry you; they can accept and be granted all the legal and societal benefits marriage provides.
To you, there are many more pressing matters because your rights are just fine.
You have the luxury of being smack-dab in the middle of the group that specifically benefits from the current status quo.
Why change it if it ain't broke (to you, anyway)?
Well, because not everyone is like you and I, Mr McCormack.
There are plenty of people out there who see statements like yours as gravely insulting.
They see one set of rules for you, and another set for them, and they quite justifiably feel upset by the disparity.
These are not a creeping underclass of degenerates and perverts as your often-quoted 1993 editorial suggests.
They are teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, musicians, journalists, labourers, tradespeople and parents.
They are people, no more and no less, and they did not choose to be gay any more than you or I chose to be straight.
They don't have an agenda to push, they don't have some kind of gay brainwashing recruitment drive, they just want to live normal lives and be free to marry the person they love.
As an elected representative, you're supposed to represent all people in your electorate, not just the ones who line up with your own sexual orientation.
But you presumably already know that.
You mention a 2012 survey of 60,000 homes in your electorate returning "thousands of responses", in which there was an apparent 78 per cent stance against marriage equality.
I'm only studying Foundations of Statistics at the moment, but I can already see huge problems with these figures.
Who conducted the survey? How were the homes selected?
You mention 60,000 homes but only "thousands of responses".
Does this mean that not all 60,000 homes responded to the survey in general, and to the marriage equality question specifically?
Did the respondents have to opt-in to the survey and were they aware of who was conducting it?
Is that 78 per cent figure representative of the number of respondents or the total number of homes?
The potential for bias in the survey seems enormous, and the way your results are presented is ambiguous.
If I submitted those kinds of survey results to my lecturers, I'd be on the fast track to failing my statistics unit. (I'm doing surprisingly well at it, actually.)
We all know that this is a conservative seat.
It's very white, very straight, and entrenched in tradition.
You travel around the Riverina a lot. So do I.
The people I meet are not mean or nasty. Some of the most generous, compassionate people you're ever likely to meet live right here in the seat of Riverina.
I don't think people in this area get any pleasure out of the idea of subjugating and marginalising an entire group of people.
The country is a family place we're known for looking after one another.
I do think a lot of people in this area, despite having big hearts and sharp minds, don't know how to deal with the idea of homosexuality.
They're ill-at-ease with sex as a topic in general, let alone discussion of sexualities different to their own.
They find the idea of homosexuality a bit "squicky", because, at the very heart of it, they don't want to visualise gay people having sex.
(My advice to them is: don't. Just like you don't visualise me having straight sex. Nobody wants to see that.)
They may be uncomfortable with the idea of gay people because "in their day", homosexuality was kept behind closed doors and seen to be an aberration.
We now know this to be untrue, but attitudes can take a long time to change.
I think most people would agree it's wrong to discriminate against someone based on factors out of their control.
Why should sexual orientation be any different?
And why on Earth would you, Mr McCormack, vote against trying to rectify such an egregious injustice?
It just seems like spite and bigotry and fear.
Merely keeping things the way they've always been, just because they've always been that way, is no longer good enough.