I am neither gay nor religious so I feel that I can be a fair referee on the issue of who would be most damaged by a full scale battle by means of a plebiscite on gay marriage.
Clearly the gay community is overtly more vulnerable because such plebiscite is directly about their lifestyle. Penny Wong is right that, based on the past, much of the criticism will be very hurtful and some will be uninformed.
The very religious will not be criticised because of lifestyle. They can continue with their own lives. They must have a forum in which to express their views but as their views are to defend a belief structure, which many of us politely believe is false, they must not get precious about their views being any more special than those of anyone else. They must be prepared to hear robust criticism. It is to be hoped this is polite.
But even if it is not, those, like Scott Morrison, who belong to mainstream religions have tax payer assisted edifices and systems built into their lifestyle to assist them to cope if there is criticism of their belief system. The respect and freedoms these institutions may have been given over the years have perhaps given him a false idea about criticism.
For an atheist such as myself, I have to acknowledge that I am responsible for my own behaviour and the way in which I treat others. If I transgress I have to blame myself. I do not demand special privileges. Because I am an atheist, non gay without a public role, it will be very hard for me to have my opinions heard. In fact I rather expect that the usual would happen – “what would an old, widowed, atheist woman know about the matter anyway. Just typical!” That’s OK.
In 1964 when I was married it was only possible to get married in a secular manner, with witnesses only, in a registry office. It was not possible to have a ceremony outside a church. Ten years later Registry Offices had become more accepting of ceremonies and then there were Celebrants. Now non church weddings are frequent.
As family members were religious my then fiancé and I went to meet a mainstream church minister to request a wedding, with some trepidation. As an atheist I do not, and did not then, believe in telling lies so was ready for anything to occur, including a refusal to perform the ceremony. The minister who saw us and who married us, only talked to us about practical details such as the amount we would have to pay to various performers including himself and the choir boys. It was a financial transaction only. How much more completely secular could one get, and this was fifty two years ago! I still appreciate this churchman. Churches were then accepting their co-existence with secular tradition.
Much of what the major religions here, Christianity, Islam and Judaism have as their doctrine and injunctions to the believers, I agree with and appreciate. Kindness, tolerance, goodwill are all qualities I appreciate in humanity. So is love for ones’ neighbours, whether man and woman, man and man or woman and woman.
So as referee I say practise this love. Don’t send a plebiscite upstairs to a third referee. Go on with the game of life and be nice to each other.