The failure of challengers to the postal survey on same-sex marriage at the High Court means the voluntary, non-binding survey of registered Australian voters will go ahead.
The debate surrounding same-sex marriage has flared since the federal government announcement of the survey, with the release of an anti-marriage equality television advertisement by the Coalition for Marriage.
We have seen the debate become visible in our own region.
Hepburn Shire Council voted to fly the rainbow flag on Daylesford’s main street in a show of support for the LGBTQI community.
Local businesses have followed suit, posting rainbow banners and “vote yes for gay marriage” posters on shop windows.
More recently in Newlyn, we have seen a “Newlyn will vote no” sign emerge in town, only to be replaced soon after with a rainbow flag by same-sex marriage advocates.
As the same-sex marriage postal survey is sent out to voters this week, it is time to remember the importance of ensuring a respectful debate.
A free debate in society on any issue is essential for democracy and each individual has a right to voice their opinion.
But we must keep in mind the debate on same-sex marriage is about people. It is about whether individual people - your brother, your friend, your neighbour perhaps - has the right to marry the one they love.
Voting ‘yes’ for same-sex marriage is a request for the LGBTQI community to be recognised as equal in the eyes of the law.
As Daylesford’s ChillOut Festival director Merryn Tinkler said it was essential all arguments made either for or against same-sex marriage must be based on verifiable fact.
For Michelle Roberts, seeing a sign reading “Newlyn will vote no” reminded her of a time she felt hated because of her sexuality.
“It reminded me of all the years I have felt ‘not good enough’,” she said.
Members of the community have made efforts to ensure the debate remains respectful and constructive during this time.
Many met at the Daylesford Hotel in August to discuss how to support the LGBTQI community during the postal survey.
There is an opportunity for the community to come together and strengthen if we avoid falling into a destructive and hurtful debate.
Healthy debate is good, but respect is vital.