Let us marry

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Let us marry

SOUTH Gippsland’s gay community has welcomed a bid to legalise same sex marriage in Australia, despite the mixed views of local MPs.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten last week introduced a bill for marriage equality in Parliament, saying the current law “discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love”.
“This is a long overdue change. Together we can tell the world Australia thinks it’s time. Together we can make marriage equality a reality,” he said.
The bill was supported by Phil Ashton of Mirboo North, a co-founder of the South Gippsland Gay and Lesbian Social Network.
“Until the Liberal and Nationals parties decide to have a free vote, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
“In today’s society, we have heterosexual couples that live together, heterosexuals that are in de facto relationships and heterosexual couples that are in marriage, and gay couples are just looking for the same equality.”
Mr Ashton said the current law was discriminatory and did not recognise that same sex marriage could strengthen society.
“Where you have two people who are going to support one another and care for one another, it gives more stability to a society,” he said.
Australia does not need a referendum, he said, as unlike Ireland, where a recent referendum voted in favour of gay marriage, marriage is not defined in the Australian Constitution.
Mr Ashton rather believed members of parliament should vote on the issue via a conscience vote after “seriously consulting with their electorates”.
“If the MPs come at it with an open mind, it will go through,” he said.
“If this was an issue of race discrimination or gender discrimination, we would not leave it to a referendum.”
The South Gippsland gay network has 130 members, with about two thirds of those living locally. The group recently celebrated its first anniversary and holds monthly dinner gatherings for the region’s gay community, as well as people from further afield.
Mr Ashton said about seven per cent of 20 to 29 year olds associate with being gay and about 2.9 per cent of over sixties.
“That, to my mind, says a lot about people being comfortable with their sexuality, that they will be accepted, along with the younger generation knowing they have good gay role models,” he said.
Polls of Australians’ support for marriage equality have returned results varying from 72 per cent to 59 per cent in a poll released last Thursday.
McMillan MP Russell Broadbent said he was present at Mr Shorten’s address out of respect for Parliament.
“I have long maintained I believe marriage should remain a union between a man and a woman. That being said, I also support a conscience vote on the issue,” he said.
Flinders MP Greg Hunt supported same sex marriage.
“I am a firm believer in equal rights and I have made my views on this known publicly,” he said.
“I anticipate the party room will consider the issue in the near future and I am very comfortable with a free vote (a conscience vote) taking place.”
Gippsland MP Darren Chester said same sex marriage should be decided by a conscience vote of MPs.
“I will seek to balance my personal views with those of my electorate and to act in the national interest,” he said.
“To that end, I have endeavoured to gauge public opinion in Gippsland over the past seven years and although it remains divided, I believe public sentiment is flowing towards supporting a change in the Marriage Act, particularly among younger people.”
Born in England, Mr Ashton was married to a woman for 32 years and they raised four children. He knew he was gay but felt pressure to hide his sexuality.
“I spent a large proportion of my life denying my sexuality, trying to be ‘cured’,” he said.
“I wanted to be the same as everyone else. I wanted to be accepted.”
But his decades of presenting a façade proved futile.
“The illustration I use is that if you are born left handed, you want to use your left hand,” Mr Ashton said.
“People have gone to gay counselling to try to stop being gay but most of the gay counselling organisations have started closing down because of the recognition they cannot change people’s orientation. It’s orientation, it’s not a lifestyle choice. I tried for 32 years not to be who I was. I think I’ve given it a fair go.”
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Holding hope: Phil Ashton of Mirboo North, a co-founder of the South Gippsland Gay and Lesbian Social Network, in Leongatha last Wednesday, is hoping gay Australians will one day be able to marry.

Holding hope: Phil Ashton of Mirboo North, a co-founder of the South Gippsland Gay and Lesbian Social Network, in Leongatha last Wednesday, is hoping gay Australians will one day be able to marry.

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Posted by on Jun 10 2015. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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