A splintering crack echoed around the world last week. It was the collective sound of hearts breaking. Australia now has the dubious distinction of joining Latvia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and a few other backward societies, in banning gay marriage.
Australia’s conservative national government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, successfully pressured the High Court into overturning its recent legislation allowing it. The new regressive ruling effectively invalidated the 27 marriages that took place during the five brief days of its originally progressive stand. The Australian High Court’s about face came one day after India’s Supreme Court struck down a lower court decision to decriminalize homosexuality.
While such retarded thinking doesn’t surprise anyone about India, a country well known for its misogyny (gang rapes, honour killings, abandoned widows, child brides, female infanticide), archaic caste system, and widespread poverty – a cesspool of questionable values under a paper-thin veneer of nouveau riche civility – Australia, one would think, would have held itself up to a higher standard.
If the decision to overturn the same-sex marriage legislation is possibly the result of their constitutional ambiguity regarding the separation of church and state, perhaps a more secular reasoning is required.
Researchers studying the effects of gay marriage have concluded that legalization isn’t just a matter of ethics and civil rights, but also has a significant financial impact for the country. Various scholars from the University of Massachusetts, UCLA’s Williams Institute, Princeton, and the Virginia Law Review (among others) have published papers touting the various economic benefits of same-sex marriage. From boosting government revenues through consumer spending to cutting reliance on social safety net programs (since marriage increases financial stability), the cumulative monetary influx is projected to be over a billion dollars. Add to that, a growing list of corporations that actively support LGBT rights, and the defining decision to legalize may not be in the hands of government at all but instead by a push from the business community.
As a highly developed and industrialized country, Australia has the world’s 12th largest economy and fifth-highest per capita income, beating out Canada, Denmark, and Sweden, all of which legalize same-sex marriage. Even the United States, number 10 on the income per capita list, is making significant inroads towards legalization, one state at a time. The only two other countries in the top ten with a high GDP that do not recognize gay marriage are Singapore and Qatar.
According to the United Nations’ Human Development Index, a standard means of measuring well-being based on such criteria as literacy, education, standards of living, quality of life and life expectancy, Australia ranked number two in the world. With such stellar accomplishments, Australia has a lot to be proud of … but not of this.
Those hearts breaking are not just in Australia … and not just for proponents of gay marriage. The sadness is global and is felt by anyone who believes in the value of human rights. Gay rights are human rights and the freedom to love who we want is the most human of them all.