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On Wednesday, Israel Folau took to Twitter to put forward his stance on Australia’s upcoming same sex marriage survey.
I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.✌❤?
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) September 13, 2017
I’m not going to attack Folau for having an unpopular opinion or an opinion that I disagree with. People do have a right to have their own opinions, though contrary to popular belief, that does not mean they have a right to freedom from criticism, as any writer or commenter here on The Roar could tell you.
Some have even labelled Folau’s decision to speak out about his beliefs, going against the grain of popular society and the public stance of the ARU, as a courageous one.
To put forward an unpopular opinion can be a courageous act, certainly. But for it to be so, the opinion-holder must accept the reality and consequences of that opinion, which Folau has failed to do.
I love and respect all people. I will not support gay marriage. These two statements are mutually exclusive, so one of them must be false. You do not love or respect all people if you believe some of them should have fewer rights than everybody else.
It’s not hard to see why Folau feels the way he does – the man has #TeamJesus in his Twitter bio, after all. And again, he has every right to do so.
But this is the problem with religion in a nutshell. It teaches people to put the whims of a hypothetical deity above the rights of real living and breathing people. That has often led to war, hate, intolerance and division, and it will never stop doing so.
The genuinely courageous thing for anyone publicly opposing gay marriage would be to say: I am putting my own personal opinion above the rights of others in the grand scheme of my priorities. I believe the freedoms of other people should live and die on whether or not I approve of them.
It’s a dislikeable position to take, but at least it would be more honest.
Some make the argument that denying same sex marriage is not denying equal rights. They say that homosexual people have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex just like everyone else, and that is ‘equal’.
But if a paraplegic person asked for the right to own a wheelchair and use access ramps, would you tell them no, sorry, you have the same equal right to walk with your legs and climb stairs, just like everybody else? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.
Everyone has the right to move about the world, and the law caters for this by providing handicapped people with the assistance they need to do so.
Everyone, too, has the right to love and be loved. It’s not something the law can give or take away. It’s something we were all born with.
If consenting adults choose to do so, they should be able to exercise their right to love by entering into a marriage – and the time is long overdue that the law provided the equal right for all to do so.
That is what equal rights are. If you do not support people having them, that is your decision and you are entitled with it, but you must face the reality of what it is you are deciding. If you vote no you are voting for inequality. It would be difficult to claim to love and respect the people whose rights you are voting to deny.
That is not love. That is not respect.