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"Same-sex marriage is a human right"
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"Same-sex marriage is a human right"

Sharlene SturkDenying same sex couples the right to marry deprives gays and lesbians of a fundamental human right. That is unfair and unjust, writes 19-year-old Sharlene Sturk from Australia.

One of the most controversial problems currently facing our society and government is the question of same sex marriage.

In Australia, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. A definition ratified by the Howard government in 2004. Under the Marriage Amendment Act, same sex marriages performed in other countries will not be recognised as a valid marriage in Australia.

In 2008, legislation introduced by the Rudd government however gave equal rights to same sex couples regarding their access to such benefits as medicare, health and taxation entitlements. But it still did not recognise marital status.

In contrast to the Labour and Liberal parties’ policies, the Australian Democrats and Greens have defended the belief that all Australians, irrespective of sexual identity or orientation, should have equal rights afforded to them in legislation.

Based on this belief, the Democrats aim to support the same sex marriages bill which promotes equal status recognition on par with heterosexual couples.

The Labour government continues to support the definition of marriage stated in the Marriage Amendment Act 2004.  I believe that it is time for federal legislation to reflect the community’s thinking by re-defining the definition of marriage.

The law needs to deliver true equal rights by allowing all Australians the right to marry. It is a human right to marry whoever we chose.  By denying same sex couples the right to marry, the law is not reflecting our human rights.

For many Australian’s marriage is a meaningful way to demonstrate their love and commitment to each other. Denying them the right to marry because of their sexuality is simply unfair.

Despite Australian pride in our nation’s commitment to give a fair go to all, the current legislation refuses to recognise the marriages of same sex couples, which are legally entered into in other countries.

A recent poll conducted by lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, which is campaigning to change the law so that marriage is made available to ALL Australians, found strong support for same sex marriages among voters.

Of the 1,100 respondents 60% were in favour of same sex marriage and 58% believed that Australia should also recognise the marriages of immigrating same sex couples. 75% of Green voters backed gay marriage compared with 63% of Labour voters and 49% of coalition voters.

Australian Green leader Bob Brown, who is openly gay, used the survey results to urge the government to change the marriage laws. The gay and lesbian rights lobbyists have for fifteen years campaigned for gay and lesbian equality. They argue that marriage conveys dignity and respect towards any couple who make a life time commitment to one another.

Denying same sex couples the right to marry deprives gays and lesbians of a fundamental human right. That is unfair and unjust.

Denying one group the right to marry has many emotional and financial consequences. For instance, the limiting of social security, medical benefits and denial of property inheritance, the right to visit a spouse in hospital, and making medical decisions on a spouses’ behalf.

Some religious groups oppose same sex marriage suggesting that marriage is a religious ceremony and if the definition of marriage is changed to allow same sex marriage. They feel they will be at risk of needing to violate their beliefs by being forced to marry same sex couples.

Many religious conservatives believe that children thrive best when they are raised in a home where the mother is married to a father, as they believe boys’ and girls’ needs are uniquely met by parents of the opposite gender.

The values of society have, however, changed and it is imperative that the law reflects society’s values.

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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