The number one song in Australia this week is an anthem for same-sex marriage, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Same Love featuring Mary Lambert. It’s a great song with a powerful message about equality and civil rights. So why are our political leaders so out of touch?
Macklemore and Lewis’ chart success comes at a time when both the Australian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are steadfastly opposed to marriage equality, as are the vast majority of our politicians. Marriage equality bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives were comprehensively defeated last September. Attempts to get same-sex marriage legalised on a state-by-state basis (which I have some issues with) seem to have foundered.
Australia seems no closer to achieving marriage equality today than eight years ago, when Labor and the Coalition combined to pass the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which first defined marriage with those “one man and one woman” words we’ve heard so many times since.
But public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high. Every time a survey is conducted, the percentage of people in favour of marriage equality creeps ever higher. Across political lines, and across almost every demographic, a clear majority of people is in favour of removing this arbitrary barrier to equal treatment before the law. So why are our politicians so out of touch?
Throughout the history of civil rights, courageous politicians have stood up for what they knew was right, even when doing the right thing was not doing the popular thing. From the abolition of slavery in the US to the abolition of the White Australia policy in Australia, courageous politicians have stood up for what is right and just, because that is what they are there to do.
Twenty years ago, in 1993, I was one of a small crowd of queers who sat, outside the NSW parliament, into the night to support a conservative politician, Ted Pickering, who that night provided the deciding vote needed to pass anti-gay vilification laws in that state. A small step on the road to securing our rights, and one that could not have been taken without one man stepping up to do what he knew was right, even though his party and the majority of his constituents thought otherwise?
Where are the Ted Pickerings of today? What became of the politician with a conscience, who saw past his/her next reelection bid and had the courage to do what was right, instead of what was popular or, worse, what the church, or industry, or x powerful lobby group, happy?
We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Some would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
It’s young people, of course, who mostly listen to new music, and they’re the demographic most clearly in support of equal marriage rights. They have lived their whole lives in a world where acceptance of different sexualities and genders is more-or-less normal. They have grown up with the internet, which opens minds, and social media, which, at its best, opens hearts.
And they are the politicians of the future. I hope they still have this track on their music playlists when it comes time to take the oath of office.