On Saturday, a nationwide Australian organization, Muslims for Marriage Equality issued a press release announcing their support for Australia’s upcoming #marriage equality plebiscite. A plebiscite is a national, non-binding survey which measures public opinion on an issue.
“There is a diversity in belief and opinion on equal marriage within the Muslim community,” said founder, Fahad Ali. “The notion that all Muslims are opposed to equal rights for same-sex couples is absolutely incorrect. There is a strong thread of egalitarianism and social justice within the Qur’an and we think that it is very applicable to the question of same-sex marriage.”
According to the Guardian, the Australian government pledged not to legalize marriage equality via parliamentary vote without conducting a plebiscite. Supporters of the “yes campaign” object to the direct voting process, noting that votes are cast by mail, which may decrease turnout from younger voters. Marriage equality supporters are also concerned that regular election rules may not apply and that such a vote on minority’s rights is unprecedented.
In an interview with Australian news outlet, Sky News, Ali said he doesn’t think there is much support among Muslims for marriage equality, but there also hasn’t been much discussion on the issue yet.
“I think that this is a conversation that we haven’t really had within the Muslim community,” explained Ali. “Which is why I think a group like ours is so important because we’re finally starting to have these discussions and I think that will lead to greater support for the issue.”
Ali said that for many, it’s not easy to be a gay Muslim in Australia. He explained that gay Muslims often face violence and rejection from their families and struggle to find acceptance within their religious faith. Ali, who was raised as a Sunni Muslim, shared that as he began to realize that he was gay, he couldn’t reconcile it with the views of his faith community.
“When I came out to my mother, she started crying and said ‘You’re gonna get AIDS and die.’ Thankfully that hasn’t happened,” he said.
However, he also clarified that these are generalizations and do not necessarily characterize everyone’s experience.
Turning to the controversial plebiscite, Ali criticized the direct vote as a “waste of time,” arguing that the Australian Parliament should hold the legally-binding vote instead.
“There’s enough support in Parliament for us to just take it to Parliament and have an outcome.”