Today, the Typewriter interviewed Rodney Croome, Director of  Australian Marriage Equalityand LGBTQI activist on the socio-political topic of same-sex marriage in Australia.

Same-sex marriage has been a controversial socio-political topic in recent times, especially with the Irish Referendum and Supreme Court of the United States legalising such activities. The push to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia gained momentum with attempts to introduce several private members bills into Parliament to debate the issue.

However, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, which control the numbers in Parliament, have reiterated that the government’s official position on same-sex marriage is unchanged and maintain that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.

In an attempt to understand more about both sides of the same-sex marriage debate in Australia, I contacted the Australian Marriage Equality (AME) and the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) to hear from their respective perspectives on the issue. Responding to my interview questions from Australian Marriage Equality is its national director and same-sex marriage activist Rodney Croome.

The Australian Christian Lobby declined repeated requests for an interview or comment. The nature of the interview and this article in turn surrounds the nature in which the debate has been carried out, as well as the role of government regarding this socio-political situation.

“Australian Marriage Equality is committed to respecting the deeply and sincerely held beliefs of those who oppose marriage equality. We will always debate the issues at stake in a mature way that does not denigrate the views of others. We ask opponents of marriage equality, including those from faith backgrounds, to reciprocate by refraining from attacks on others that inflame prejudice, stigma or hatred. Just as we acknowledge that it is possible to oppose marriage equality without hating homosexuals, so we ask those who differ with us on this important issue to acknowledge that it is possible to support marriage equality without seeking to undermine marriage, family or religion.” – Australian Marriage Equality’s Commitment on its website

In the current same-sex marriage debate, have opponents of same-sex marriage presented their views without inflaming prejudice, stigma or hatred?

We believe that it is actually a small minority of opponents of same-sex marriage that continually use prejudice towards the LGBTQI community on this issue. It is important that everyone moves beyond the stigma and generalisations when debating same-sex marriage. It is possible to have a valid debate about same-sex marriage without entering into hatred.

Speaking of hatred and generalisations, it has become popular to label opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots and homophobes, what do you think about this?

It is unfair to claim that all opponents of same-sex marriage are bigots or homophobes. Sometimes the way that people have presented their views on this issue have incited bigotry or homophobia, but it is wrong to say that everyone that oppose same-sex marriage is a bigot. Declaring everyone that does not support same-sex marriage a bigot is just as unfair as the generalisations that society has placed on the LGBTQI community.

Regarding the Coalition Government’s refusal to offer a free conscience to its members or to allow for a debate of same-sex marriage in the caucus and Parliament, does this border on being ‘un-democractic’?

Australia is a liberal democracy and regarding the issue of same-sex marriage which many Australians feel strongly about, it is time that the government allow for a debate of this firstly in the Liberal Party room and then to allow for a free vote among its members in Parliament.

It is disappointing that the government will not allow either to happen regarding this issue as individual freedom is a fundamental part of our society.

Some opponents of same-sex marriage have claimed that terminology such as ‘Marriage Equality’ is riding on populism and that a genuine debate into the issue has been lacking, what are your comments on this?

The use of the term ‘equality’ is an attempt to reflect human reality, because without being able to be married legally, those in same-sex relationships are at risk of being second class “citizens” because they cannot access spousal entitlements. Equality in itself is a real and profound issue.

On the progression of the debate into same-sex marriage, there has been a lot of rapid change over the past decades. The recent political and legal decisions overseas do not signify an end to the debate. It is hoped that over time Australia can move towards greater acceptance.

How representative of the Australian pro same-sex marriage camp and LGBTQI is Australian Marriage Equality?

Australian Marriage Equality is the largest national group in favour of same-sex marriage. AME is also part of the grassroots campaign that works with other LGBTQI and same-sex marriage activists.

From speaking with Rodney Croome, the director of AME and leading same-sex marriage activist; it is clear that the issue of same-sex marriage is far from resolved. Even with the major political and legal decisions taking place overseas, the debate continues and it is hoped that both sides of this issue treat each other with dignity and respect.

For the pro same-sex marriage and LGBTQI community, an opponent to your views is more often not hateful so to assume that their position is one of bigotry or homophobic brings no benefit to the debate. For the opponents of same-sex marriage whom often do so with the best of intentions, please try to be ever so more cautious with your approach and to avoid racing to the bottom with how you present your views.

What is really needed is genuine debate into this socio-political issue that places more emphasis on the social rather than the political.