Marriage Equality Debate Deserves Respect

Cassandra Pullos says the Government's decision to put marriage equality to a postal ballot should not be a signal to unleash hate attitudes on the subject of same sex marriage.

She urges Australians to discuss legalising same sex marriage free of ugly or divisive abuse from people holding strongly opposing views.
As a family lawyer Cassandra feels a voluntary, non-binding postal ballot at an estimated cost of $122 million is not the best way to determine marriage equality.  Instead, Australia's politicians should do what they were elected to do as our representatives in government - introduce legislation to the parliament and vote on it.
She recognises, however, that the argument on that point, for the time being, is over - we now have a postal "vote", that is not binding.  It isn't a "vote".  It's an opportunity to express, in a poll to be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, individual support or opposition for marriage equality.
Former High Court Judge and marriage equality advocate Michael Kirby is quoted in media reports saying "It's a completely novel, voluntary, non-binding, non-compulsory vote of a few citizens and it's just something we've never done in our constitutional arrangements, and it really is unacceptable."
In the days since the issue erupted in the media, people holding opposing views have voiced strong opinions both for and against legalising same sex marriage here.
Cassandra says sadly, some of those views are extreme and personal with social media forums such as Facebook especially vulnerable to hateful and bigoted attacks.
"Many people feel the fact that same sex marriage is still not legal in Australia is discriminatory and a breach of fundamental human rights and we are lagging behind many nations that now have marriage equality.  Others reject this view."
"What matters is everyone is entitled to an opinion on this subject.  Everyone's view deserves to be regarded with respect, whether you agree with it or not."
As a family lawyer Cassandra notes that Australian law already recognises same sex couples in many areas, including under the Family Law Act in recognising that a defacto relationship includes a relationship between two people of the same gender.
Cassandra believes now is the time for the Australian community to show we can have the marriage equality debate in a respectful way without descending into insults and, worse, disrespect and hate speech.
"We need to have a balanced and reasoned public debate conducted with respect and dignity."
Now there are reports that supporters of both sides of the issue plan to spend up to $30m each on their respective advertising campaigns.
"In the face of such campaigns with that sort of reach it is our responsibility as citizens of a civilised nation to maintain the capacity to respect each other's views and engage in informed and reasoned debate."
"If we can't have the ability to step into the shoes of people with opposing views and see the issue from their perspective - whilst not agreeing with them - we risk dividing our nation in a way that might take us as a society many years to recover from," she says.
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