Marriage equality will not destroy children or religion. Sherele Moody writes it make a fundamental difference to the lives, and deaths, of same-sex couples.
THIS week, a woman told me all queer people are pedophiles. And if we are not pedophiles, we are supportive of pedophiles.
Hours later, a bloke said to me same sex marriage was the first step on a slippery slope that would end in adults marrying kids, people having multiple wives, others tying the knot with livestock and brothers marrying brothers or sisters marrying sisters.
And not long after that, I was told gay people should not get married because they'll be "flaunting their homosexuality" in public and that lesbians like myself pressure straight women into sex they don't want.
In 24 hours a bunch of people I barely know labelled me a "pedophile who rapes straight women while advocating for incestuous and polygamous unions involving kids and animals".
All because I am gay and I reckon I should be allowed to marry my partner.
In the wake of the postal plebiscite decision, it's been amazing to watch how emboldened people are becoming and how they are no longer afraid to express opinions that are truly abhorrent.
My well-meaning friends, family and colleagues tell me you can't argue with stupid and to switch off and not give the naysayers oxygen.
But if we all stick our heads in the sand instead of setting a few things straight (pardon the pun), how can we possibly have respectful debate about same sex marriage?
Are children safe with gay people?
HERE'S a quick fact: Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex does not equate to raping children (or anyone else for that matter).
There is no evidence that queer people assault children more than straight people do.
The gay community detests child sex abuse (and all other violence against kids) as much as the straight community does.
The acronym I in GLBTIQ means intersex (that is a person who is born both male and female). It does not mean intergenerational (or relationships between adults and kids - as I've been told so many times over the past few weeks).
I do not want to have multiple wives, I do not wish to wed my animals and I most certainly do not want to marry a child.
Linking same-sex marriage with these issues is reprehensible.
It is certainly not the "respectful debate", Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged our nation to have.
If you think it's appropriate to combine these discussions, please do us all a favour - pause a second to think about the ramifications your arguments will have on the mental health of the gay community, particularly young people who are trying to come to terms with their own sexualities.
Why does marriage equality mean so much to gay people
This why I want Australians to say "yes" to changing the Marriage Act and for the Federal Parliament to act in line with that vote.
I have been with my partner for more than four years. We've weathered many challenges in that time including navigating a relationship while living in different states.
Yes, de facto relationships are granted similar rights to married couples and, for all intents and purposes, we are a de facto couple.
We consider our relationship an enduring one but because we are not married, we are not afforded equal protection under the law.
This means if I am in hospital dying or unable to make decisions for myself, my partner can be denied the opportunity to make decisions on my behalf. She can even be banned from being by my side because we are not married. My mother and father - with whom I have no relationship - would have more rights over my dying body than my partner. In other words, my wish to donate my organs can be over-ruled. My wish to be cremated can be disregarded. My wish to die with dignity can be denied. My wish to leave this world with my partner watching over me may never be allowed.
The status of our union can impact our property division and inheritance rights. If I am married to my partner she will have "undeniable" rights to my insurance, superannuation and belongings on my death. I know that what little I have will be hers and hers alone. Without a valid marriage, she may have to fight a long and costly court battle with my siblings or parents if they choose to go down that path.
We are both Australian. But if my partner was born overseas, she would have automatic citizenship rights on our marriage.
At the end of the day - and most importantly for me - being married to my partner means my blood relatives cannot deny her rights.
How same-sex marriage will impact children
IF you're voting no FOR. THE. CHILDREN, that horse has already bolted.
Much of the argument opposing same-sex marriage revolves around the care and safety of children or the impact of being raised without parents of two genders.
There is nothing in the Marriage Act about married people having children as a result of their union.
Just because two people get married doesn't mean they are going to have kids. And if two gay people do marry and have kids, this is not a new thing.
Gay people have been raising kids since the world began.
There is no respectable research that shows gay parents or kids raised in same-sex households are any worse off than kids raised in straight households but there is research that shows kids of gay families are A-OK.
For example, Melbourne University's Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families showed the children of same-sex parents scored higher for good behaviour, physical health and family stability than kids from straight families.
If you're voting no because same-sex marriage will mean flow-on issues with commercial surrogacy, IVF or adoption, you might want to take a deep breath and do a bit of research.
Commercial surrogacy in Australia is illegal but altruistic surrogacy is allowed. Changing the Marriage Act will not impact these laws, just like it won't change rules regarding in-vitro fertilization. Women of all sexualities have been having IVF in Australia for a very long time. Some of those women are in straight relationships, some are single and some are gay or bisexual. Some are older women and some are young. IVF is an expensive and traumatic process for most recipients and it's not something people do because they have a marriage certificate. They do it because they want children. Period.
Adoption laws have been around for quite a while. The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia where same-sex parents cannot adopt children. Western Australian gay couples have been able to do this since 2002, it's been legal in the ACT for 13 years and in NSW for seven years. Tasmania allowed it in 2013 and Victoria and Queensland rolled out same-sex adoption laws last year. South Australia lagged a little but it said yes to same-sex couple adopting this year.
How same-sex marriage will impact your spiritual beliefs
CHANGING the Marriage Act will not impact anyone's religion or their religious beliefs because the act itself is secular.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows celebrants perform most valid marriages in Australia, not ordained people.
The Federal Attorney-General's department bestows the authority to perform marriages on celebrants.
Ordained people use the same documents as celebrants for marriages they perform.
The Official Certificate of Marriage that Mrs and Mr Jane Smith signs is nothing more than a statutory declaration (a very short legal form).
In other words the basis of all marriages is a simple civil ceremony based around a simple contract between two people.
None of that will change. The only difference will be that two people of the same gender will be given the right to sign that statutory declaration and receive a marriage certificate in return.
How same-sex marriage will impact your relationships
UNTIL 2004, Australia's Marriage Act did not mention gender. It described marriage as between two people.
Deciding to eradicate the possibility of gay marriage in Australia, 13 years ago John Howard's government - through a speedy and inexpensive legislative process - changed the Act to define marriage as the "union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others".
"Certain unions are not marriages," the amendment says.
"A union solemnised in a foreign country between a man and another man; or a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia."
At the end of the day, Mr Howard's amendments did not fundamentally change the nature of Australia's marriage laws.
Gay people were not allowed to marry then and we still cannot marry now.
All the same-sex amendment will do is provide immediate legal recognition for same-sex couples who wed.
Where there's a will, there's a won't
- It will not eradicate the terms "wife" or "husband" from our language.
- It will not imply a straight man is marrying anyone but a woman (and vice a versa).
- It will not change the nature of legal relationships between consenting adults.
- It will not allow legal recognition of polygamy, incest or child marriages.
- It will not result in a generation of abused and neglected children.
- It will not increase surrogacy or IVF rates.
- It will not have an impact on adoption laws.
- It will not force ordained people to perform marriages for gay couples if this is against their beliefs.
- It will not force homophobic people into being 'politically correct'.
- It will not force people opposed to same-sex unions to do marriage business with gays (FYI: We are happy to give our money to people who support us).
How same-sex marriage will change gay lives
THIS postal survey will cost $120 million - a steep price to pay for a simple change most Australians want.
We are not trying to bring down society - all we want is the same rights as straight married couples.
To put it simply - when I'm on my death bed I'd really like to know that the person making decisions about my final hours on Earth is the person I love and trust above all others. And that she will follow my dying wishes and that she will be the only person who receives everything I leave behind. Is that too much to ask?
Sherele Moody is a News Corp journalist. Her article Margaret Court, This is What It's Like to be Gay has been nominated for two 2017 Clarion awards.
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