The news on Friday that the Supreme Court of the United States had declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional sent a tidal wave through the internet. The White House, Google, Facebook and many other organisations and companies responded positively to the ruling. #LoveWins trended and, at least for those who believe in equality, the day was one of elation.
I watched as tweet after tweet congratulated America on this momentous occasion. Facebook was full of news articles about what had happened. And I read it all, including the positive affirmation from the justices, and felt a lump grow in my throat.
But why should what happens in America be so important to me, an Australian living in Canada? Why should it matter to many other citizens around the world when their own country has either enacted similar legislation prior to this, or is still waiting for it to happen to them?
Perhaps it has to do with America’s prominence as ‘the leader of the free world’. Or the fact that it dominates news cycles. Or that the companies we interact with on a daily basis are American and therefore have a US-centric worldview. I’m sure these things have something to do with it but it’s not the whole story.
Why I teared up is because every gay and lesbian in the world is connected, just like every Jew is connected or every Armenian. It’s a community, a sense of belonging, and in that you share joys as well as sorrows. And that’s why we celebrate with America.
Of course, this ruling also had its detractors and Twitter and Facebook was no doubt filled with vitriolic hate. I intentionally didn’t go looking for it. Nevertheless, I did see a post about all the Americans saying that the country was now going down the toilet and that they were ‘moving to Canada’. We laughed, a little sadly, because Canada has had marriage equality for 10 years.
Having lived in Canada for two years and seeing how integrated LGBT people are into the society (on the whole), I believe that granting people equal rights under the law has encouraged this to happen.
I’m certain gay hate crimes still continue. There are still parents ashamed of their gay children (or children ashamed of their gay parents) but the public discourse, at least, is one of positivity and inclusivity. One hopes that as America grows in this new direction, it too will experience greater equality.
So now, what does this mean for my home country of Australia?
After Ireland’s historic referendum returned a vote in favour of marriage equality – and let’s take a moment to recognise how momentous that is in such a deeply Catholic country – it seemed that its momentum may lead Australia’s politicians to enact such laws.
Alas it was not to be.
Our conservative government, unhappy with the whole idea anyway, will not be pressured, particularly when the Opposition, who introduced a bill, pipped them to the post. Will America’s ruling make a difference? Honestly, I can’t see it happening on anyone’s timetable unless it’s one dictated by the Government.
The old arguments will be trotted out. Australia is not ready for it. The sanctity of marriage must be upheld. There are more important things to be getting on with like increasing emissions, cutting the public service and public services, and victimising and demonising refugees. All important stuff.
But maybe there is a chance that this will be sorted before the year is out. That this action will increase the government’s popularity in the lead up to an election. I can’t tell you how thrilled it makes me feel that equal rights are treated in such a manner.
I would love to say that when the time comes that I’m proud of my country, but that would ignore the fact that marriage equality has been a reality for more than 10 years. And that the government, whichever one is sitting, has had the opportunity to take the lead on this and make a declaration for equality, but didn’t.
Having said that, I will rejoice with my brothers and sisters when the day finally comes, and look forward to days of greater equality, of when I can walk down the street holding my husband’s hand and not fear that I’m going to be ridiculed, jeered at or beaten. I look forward to the day we can feel safe and equal in our own country.