Comment: Marriage plebiscite - not everyone fits into a box

File photo Source: SBS

Even if a same-sex marriage plebiscite succeeds, it's still won't guarantee all couples the right to marry, writes Sally Goldner.

Much has been written about the proposal (pun intended) for a marriage plebiscite. There are many doubts already discussed about the plebiscite approach, yet one more needs to be added in.

First, I affirm the many doubts discussed already. We didn’t need a nationwide vote to change the Marriage Act to become so clearly discriminatory in 2004; so to have such a vote now to supposedly affirm changing the law to be fair and equitable is a blatant double standard.

We’ve seen the effects on LGBTI people of all ages and their families of the vicious nastiness expressed by those opposing a fair go for LGBTI people during this year in numerous debates. We’ve seen totally private citizens, including parents of trans and gender diverse (TGD) children and grass-roots employees, have their social media pages trolled by people with anti-LGBTI attitudes and have seen vilifying electoral material produced. Rather than play the ball, we’ve seen anti-LGBTI types play the person.

We’ve had some MPs trying to find excuses to thumb their noses at a pro-marriage outcome to a proposed plebiscite. Yet even if, repeat if, we could somehow overcome all this, there is still no certainty that we would be able to have marriage equality for all loving couples done and dusted.

This comes down to the wording of the question. Currently marriage is defined as between “a man and a woman” or, to go one level of detail further, marriage between one person with an “M” on their birth certificate and the other with an “F” at the time of the marriage – clearly far from fully inclusive. However, “same-sex” marriage - 2Ms and 2 Fs - still won’t cover everyone and means the debate will go (with apologies to Abba) “on and on and on.”

We already have people with birth certificates in Australia issued with something other than M or F, the groups affected (each in part) being TGD and intersex people. This means, right now, they can’t marry anyone at all.  Currently some intersex people – born with sex characteristics that do not fit stereotypical definitions of male and female - cannot marry anyone at all. One such person is Tony Briffa.

For TGD people, the ACT has had legislation since 2014 recognising more than M and F. Victoria and South Australia have similar bills before their state parliaments, Queensland and Tasmania are investigating similar proposals and eventually the Northern Territory, NSW and WA would need to follow if only for reasons of uniformity and simplicity. So merely achieving same-sex marriage would be obsolete before it even started.

Some people might say “let’s get a foundation laid now and fix up the rest later.” I would respond by saying that if we have to go through all this pain, let’s do it all. l also query how long “later” would be - and why duplicate all the effort?

Fairness, equity and love are more important than a letter in a box on a birth certificate or label in a box on a marriage certificate. With full marriage equality in Australia, let’s just get it done with the best possible process for the best possible outcome.

Sally Goldner is Executive Director of Transgender Victoria; the views expressed are her own. 

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