One of the world’s most respected figures today came out of the religious closet and declared his support for gay marriage. The Dalai Lama, who was on a visit to the US, said that same sex unions were fine as long as they were “safe and consensual.“
As it happen, his brave announcement – the first such one by a Buddhist leader – coincided nicely with an invitation I recently received to my niece’s wedding in the UK. She’s marrying another girl on April 4 – just days after England’s new legislation allowing gay marriage comes into effect.
Hurrah for her! She’s a lovely girl and fully deserves her happiness with the person she loves. Unfortunately, I’ve just got back from an overseas trip and that, as well as work commitments, means I won’t be able to attend.
That’s a great shame. As a civil celebrant in Australia, I am presently barred from marrying same-sex couples. So it would have been a fascinating experience both personally and professionally to witness my niece’s wedding first hand.
Australia now lags woefully behind many other countries that have legalised gay marriage. That’s despite the fact that the majority (more than 60%) of Aussies support it. Many states in the US allow it. About a dozen European countries embrace it. Even religious countries such as Mexico and Israel recognise it. And, of course, our Kiwi neighbour has recently also taken a more enlightened view.
Last year Kevin Rudd famously reversed his previous negative stance on the issue. But Prime Minister Tony Abbott has consistently opposed same-sex marriage and in the 2012 parliamentary debates on the matter, Coalition MPs were not allowed a conscience vote.
And that, sadly, is how it stands. Interestingly, some states – New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia (as well as the Australian Capital Territory) – have all indicated a willingness to introduce same-sex marriage laws. It’s likely the Federal Government would veto this.
I have no doubt that same sex marriage will be officially sanctioned in Australia sooner rather than later. The momentum for change in the law is too great. If Mr Abbott doesn’t bend to public opinion in his time as Prime Minister and leader of the Coalition, then a future Labour government will undoubtedly make it happen.
The sooner the better. I look forward with pleasure and pride to the first time that I can officiate at a gay wedding here in Noosa. In the meantime, I wish my niece and her forthcoming partner in marriage every joy and happiness.