Black Dog Institute Chairman Peter Joseph calls for action on marriage equality
Published: 7 August, 2017
The marriage equality debate is also a matter of mental wellbeing, writes Peter Joseph.
"What ought one to do?" is the age-old Socratic question etched in the minds and hearts of those in the Party room of the Liberal Party as they today debate the question of marriage equality.
According to the polls over two thirds of us made up our minds ages ago to endorse equality under the law for all and support same sex marriage.
It's the delivery mechanism that we seem to be arguing over. Not whether the same sex marriage "parcel" should be delivered, but what route should be taken given the original route via a plebiscite has been blocked. Some see this as a reason to do nothing now.
As with homosexuality there are many different opinions about same sex marriage, with the variation reflecting a diversity of religious, ethical and cultural perspectives.
We understand that people can hold different opinions with sincerity and a thoughtful regard for others.
At the Black Dog Institute we are interested in everyone's emotional and mental wellbeing. We also seek to rise above matters of opinion and instead draw on the best science available in order to understand each phenomenon. And so it is with homosexuality (and marriage equality by consequence) where scientific knowledge has invited a genuinely new chapter of understanding of this dimension of the human experience. The scientific facts speak for themselves. And facts matter. For how can we ever discriminate under the law or condemn a person for being too tall, or for having brown eyes, or for any other attribute over which they have no control.
Moreover, there is demonstrable evidence showing that "equality under the law" changes in same sex policy improve the wellbeing of citizens living under these new policies and laws. As an egalitarian, generous and compassionate country we should wish for no less.
The Government came to us at the last election with the promise of a plebiscite on marriage equality. In other words, each of us would be required as a matter of conscience to formally respond to the question. We were promised action but that pathway through the democratic process has been closed. The parcel sits in the dead letter box.
It could be strongly argued that the Government could say they were not elected to do nothing and as The Ethics Centre has consistently submitted it’s now time to ask: what is the ‘next best’ ethical position to take? What action could properly be taken to deliver the same sex marriage legislation "parcel" in good condition and with the least harm to all?
The answer seems blindingly obvious that if the plebiscite is not going to occur, then the "people's representatives", i.e. the Government, should stand in our stead to examine the question and decide in Socratic fashion "What ought one to do?" as a matter of justice, as a matter of humanity and as a matter of inclusion, respect and love for all.
Peter Joseph AM is Chairman of the Black Dog Institute Board.
Read more about how marriage equality can improve mental health.
Media contact: Emily Cook, 0455 100 277 or send an email