Love is Love! Why Engage 2 Act backs a YES vote for marriage equality!

By Megan Girdler

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Why Engage 2 Act backs a YES vote for marriage equality

At our recent (un)Conference, E2A celebrated love. Our love for the practice of community engagement and the love we all feel for our own personal communities - and the spaces and places where we connect.

When the E2A board started planning this year’s event back In March 2017, we knew the theme of the conference would be ‘for the love of community engagement’.  

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With the federal government’s announcement about the marriage equality postal survey in August 2017, the themes of love and community engagement took on a whole new meaning in Australia.

Credit: picture from marriage equality rally via Anna Morath in the E2A facebook group

Credit: picture from marriage equality rally via Anna Morath in the E2A facebook group

In response, the E2A board changed our social media profile pictures to rainbows – coming out in support of marriage equality in late August. 

We later themed the (un)Conference after party ‘love is love’ and Becky Hirst, E2A President, spoke briefly about the postal survey at the beginning of the party - endorsing a yes vote.

Credit: photos via Amy Hubbard and Clare Murrell in the E2A facebook group. The board and volunteers also wore ‘love is love’ themed t-shirts throughout the (un)Conference event.

Credit: photos via Amy Hubbard and Clare Murrell in the E2A facebook group. The board and volunteers also wore ‘love is love’ themed t-shirts throughout the (un)Conference event.

During our panel on deliberative democracy there was also room for discussion about whether marriage equality was an appropriate topic for deliberation. Watch the panel's response to Steven Weir's question below (at 50 minutes into video), or watch the full recording of the panel here

The panel was chaired by Chad Foulkes, and included Geoff Vickers a community participant, Nicole Hunter (Director Fire Light Consulting and Co-Founder MosaicLab), Professor Lyn Carson and Crikey founder, journalist and former political advisor, Stephen Mayne. 

 

E2A board's position on marriage equality

In the lead-up to (un)Conference, an astute board member raised an important point - we had not consulted you, our collective, before taking a public E2A stand on a ‘yes’ endorsement.

It wasn't until that point, that we all weighed in on the E2A board's position on marriage equality. As many of us felt strongly on the matter, and had assumed many in the collective would at least be open to the idea of 'yes'. 

After a quick discussion, our consensus was - on this issue, there is no need for debate.

This is the board's position on marriage equality in Australia, but it may not reflect the views of the entire E2A collective: 

  • While E2A encourages rigorous public debate around complex issues that impact communities, we also champion best practice community engagement. We see the postal survey as an example of the practice we love dearly being poorly implemented on a grand scale. And costing tax payers $122 million!
  • Our view is that the postal survey engagement process is ‘inauthentic’ and does not adequately or appropriately deal issues at the heart of this matter of marriage equality. Let's remember that this entire process is voluntary and non-binding. 

  • Looking past the process... We recognise the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 16 for a legal definition of marriage:

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.  
  • When we encourage a 'yes' vote it's because we interpret the above statement to mean: 'anyone of full age should be entitled to equal rights as to marriage...'
  • International law experts are still debating how this statement should be interpreted in different countries. Does it mean... ‘Only a man and a woman’ of full age? Or, does it mean ‘men and/or women’ of full age? That’s really all we're being asked here. 
  • The current legal definition of marriage in Australia is: 
marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life
  • From a personal perspective, we advocate for a long overdue update to this outdated definition in Australia, and internationally. 
  • A 'yes' vote in the survey simply means that you also think the legal definition of marriage in Australia should be updated to be more modern and inclusive. 
  • 20 countries around the world have updated their legal definition of marriage to recognise same-sex partnerships (including the US, England, Canada, NZ, Ireland, South Africa and Brazil, to name a few).

 

Wrapping up

In the 2016 census, approximately 47,000 same sex couples were counted. This was up from 33,000 in 2011 (a 42% increase) and 26,000 in 2006 (an 81% increase). 

In 2014, over half a million people or 3.0% of the Australian adult population identified as gay, lesbian or 'other'.

For some of us, a yes vote might not make much difference on a day-to-day basis, but for others an update to the legal definition of marriage means acceptance, inclusion and access to a basic human right.  

After (un)Conference we’ve realised that many people out there are keen to help Engage 2 Act become the best organisation it can be. We look forward to involving and empowering you in more decisions about the future of Engage 2 Act later this year.

In the meantime, we're wishing you all love, health and happiness in your own personal communities. 

 

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