Fight for the right to marry

August 16, 2009
Video: Same-sex marriage rights now! YouTube/peterboyle53.

A high number of homeless youth in Australia are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or intersex (LGBTI).

The Australian government tells LGBTI people we can't have the right to marry because "family values" need to be protected.

We are told marriage between a man and a woman provides indispensable nurturing to children.

Yet when parents kick their own LGBTI teenage children out of home, the rhetoric about family values starts to sound hollow.

Discriminatory laws do not protect children. They incite parents to kick them out onto the street.

Same-sex or transgender parents are not a threat to the wellbeing of young people. It is the very concept of the nuclear family itself that is often the threat.

The family, which we're taught is our natural safe haven, can be rife with domestic violence and child abuse.

The nuclear family under capitalism is supposed to be the emotional and economic bedrock of society. Yet it is too isolated and often too poor to shoulder that burden properly.

Instead of society acknowledging the pressures families are under, homophobic politicians and laws focus on LGBTI people, blaming us for apparently being a threat to this supposed loving and nurturing institution.

Some Australian politicians have even gone so far as to accuse same-sex marriage of threatening the survival of the human species. The Pope himself has compared the threat of homosexuality to the threat of deforestation.

This homophobia has severe consequences. In Australia, being young and queer is often unbearable. In particular, high school can be a nightmare.

The most appalling queer hate crimes have been reported in Australian high schools. Every now and then, there is a big media story about it.

One high profile case in 1997 involved 14-year-old Western Sydney high school student Christopher Tsakalos, who was beaten by groups of up to 20 students and had scissors held to his throat.

This is the sort of thing that happens to young queers who are out of the closet, or can't pass as straight, in high school.

Many more make an understandable decision not to come out. These students face the psychological consequences of their isolation. It is not surprising that the suicide rate among queer youth is so high.

Studies in the US indicate suicide rates for LGBTI people under 27-years-old range from 3.5 to nearly 14 times the rate for heterosexuals, said Wesley Mission.

Meanwhile, support for equal marriage rights for queers has never been higher among young people. A June Galaxy poll found that 73% of people aged between 16 and 24 were in favour of marriage equality.

As well as being the hardest hit by the prejudice in this society, young people are also on the forefront of the movement to change it.

In the US, one rally was organised by a third-grader in Colorado. Young people turned out in large numbers at the recent marriage rights rallies on August 1 and have also taken on leading roles in organising this campaign.

Sean Rich is one young leader of this movement. Rich organised the August 1 Lismore rally. He was bashed earlier this year, just for being gay.

After he got out of hospital, he began organising the rally. "I decided to turn something bad into something good", he told Green Left Weekly.

Rich said: "There should be more activism from queer youth. If the law discriminates against us it only gives other people the right to.

"There are a lot of extremely closed-minded people in this regional town. This is why gay people need to be out, loud and proud, to desensitise people to them.

"Queer activism is a massive thing for me. It's part of who I am. I'm definitely one for stirring up society."

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