Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not represent to those of the Ke Alaka'i or BYU-Hawaii. The article below highlights the opinions of BYUH students from Australia on the subject of legalizing same-sex marriage in their home country.
A recent Australia national poll about the legalization of same-sex marriage has Australian BYU-Hawaii students worried about the long-term effects on families and society, though they said they respect the opinions of those in their country who want to make it legal.
Sam Mangakahia, a sophomore from Australia studying graphic design, said he worries about the perception of families in Australia. He said, “Australia is very traditional. These ideas are brought from somewhere else. It will change the way of workplace, social life, and raising children at home."
Although she's worried about the potential outcomes of legalizing same-sex marriage, Lucy Ritiata, a senior from Australia studying peacebuilding, expressed, “There could be positive effect in legalizing same-sex marriage. At least, it could be an opening for people to express their true opinions. There will be more freedom for people to stand up and voice up their true belief.”
According to CNN, the Marriage Act in Australia was changed by John Howard, then-prime minister, to define marriage as only between man and wife. In 2015, then-prime minister Tony Abbott announced there would be a plebiscite, or national vote, on the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, the government needed money to hold the plebiscite, which requires the proposal pass through legislation from parliament.
After two failed attempts at passing the proposal, current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull decided to hold a national postal vote. According to ABC News, the results of the vote will be made known Nov. 15.
Legalizing it could lead to other untraditional ideas becoming acceptable, said Ritiata. “Different things are going to be legalized–polygamy, underage marriage, getting rid of family names, and different labels for genders. A lot of unknowns are going to happen.
“The Australian society will be less unified because children who are being brought up differently [in families with same-sex marriages] might find it uncomfortable to fit in with other children. There have been a lot of divisions in Australia. People have been verbally putting down each other. People would be called homophobic if they don’t agree with same sex marriage.”
Aleigha Noney, a freshman from Australia studying business management, mentioned the LDS chapel in Australia has been vandalized with spray paint. Noney said she thinks that the contention surrounding same-sex marriage has become too extreme.
The news and media have been biased in pushing Australians to approve of same-sex marriage, said Mangakahia. “People are tricked by the media.” Timula Matautia, a freshman from Australia studying business management, agreed with Mangakahia. “There is too much excitement from the media. It’s over advertised. The public has made it a lot bigger than it’s supposed to be.”
Though Latter-day Saints have their beliefs, Noney said we shouldn’t interfere with other opinions. “I have two different mindsets – I have my belief, but there are also a lot of people involved in this. I don’t think we should tell people how to vote.”
She added, “I don’t think it’s going to affect me as long as I’m not involved in that relationship.”
According to a 2013 Pew Research poll, about 80 percent of Australians are accepting of homosexuality in general. Tiernan Brady, exectuvive director of the Equality Campaign, told CNN, "Australia has a higher approval rating for marriage equality than some countries that have marriage equality."
Matatia and Noney both said they think the law will most likely pass this time. “The rest of the world has changed. [Australians] will need to follow along sooner or later. I will be very surprised if the majority of the people vote no.”
Mangakahia explained, “Australia is a multi-cultural country. There are a lot of different ethnicities, different religions, and different values. The Australian society might have predominantly been against same-sex marriage, but times are changing. People have become more accepting.”