The equal marriage vote is getting personal in Australia – and for no one more than 24-year-old Russell.
As the country holds a vote on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, the country’s LGBT community has faced a tidal wave of homophobia and hate crime incidents.
The vote has created a ton of societal divisions, including for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott – whose family have condemned his anti-gay marriage views.
But his is not the only family divided.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation brought together gay 24-year-old Russell and his own father Harold, who has voted against same-sex marriage.
In the clip, the pair discuss their opposing views.
Harold explains: “My belief is that marriage is for a man and a woman to get married and have children.”
Speaking about why he wants to marry his partner, Russell says: “I grew up in a family where my father got married twice, and is very happily married with his current wife.
“I have grandparents who have been married for 65 years, who are also very happy. The fact I get excluded from that sucks, because as a gay person I can’t even donate blood.
“I feel like I shouldn’t be excluded from being married just because of who I’m attracted to.”
But Harold insisted: “As the letter of the law, I think marriage needs to be kept separate, for a man and a woman.
“It’s probably not [fair]. I think it’s unfair that you’re not allowed to be a legal couple with your partner.
“I think you should be allowed to be with the person that you love, and be united with that person, but marriage is between a man and a woman.
“Why do gay, lesbians, and the other sections need to be labelled with all these names? You’ve already labelled yourselves as different anyway, so what’s wrong with your union being different?
“We don’t run around going, oh I’m normal, oh I’m straight!”
Russell said: “Being able to marry means I can say, ‘yes, I am married’, and people instantly understand and recognise the weight behind it. This is why it’s such a hot topic.
“So many people have so much love and respect for this term, and we want a part of that.”
Despite their disagreements, Russell’s dad confirms he would go to his wedding if equal marriage becomes law – and would be happy to walk him down the aisle.
However, Russell adds that he wishes his father would support him.
He confessed: “It would be nice if you fought a little harder for me.”
But Harold said: “You can’t make a decision for what I should and shouldn’t fight for. I’m my own person. I choose to make the decisions I make in life.
“Tracey and I have created some great children, I’m very proud of all three of you. But we’ve created adults, who do their own thing. You do a good enough job for all of us.
“But at the end of the day I’ll be at your wedding, and if you want me to walk you down the aisle I’d do that. I’d like to see you happily united with your partner.”
Check out the clip:
It was confirmed today that more than 10 million votes have been cast so far in the postal survey, out of the 16 million ballots sent out.
With 17 days left until the date recommended to return your survey, the Australian stats bureau has confirmed that 62.5% of Australians have returned their marriage equality survey.
Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign, Anna Brown, said: “This steady increase in survey returns is another reminder of how much Australians care about marriage equality and how the country wants this resolved.
“Australians understand that this is simply about fairness and they know that voting YES won’t take anything away from anyone but will make a profound difference to the lives of LGBTI Australians.
“We have an opportunity to reflect the values that we already live by, but to do that we need as many surveys as possible returned.
“There are still millions of surveys that need to be posted back to the ABS, we want every Australian to have their say and post YES for marriage equality,” Anna Brown said.
New South Wales Field Director, Georgia Kriz, said: “There are only ten days left to request a replacement survey form from the ABS.
“There are also over a million Australians overseas who need to get their surveys in either electronically or by post. It is vital every Australian has their say.
“It is so important that Australians of all ages return their surveys, young people have played such an important role in this campaign, however, this is not the time to be complacent. There are still so many surveys to return so post yours and remind your friends and family to do the same.
“Remind your friends and family to get this done, don’t delay vote YES today.”
However, the Equality Campaign warned: “The rate that people are returning their survey forms is slowing down, with only another 5% posted back in the last week. This means around 6 million Australians still haven’t voted.
“We simply cannot afford to be complacent. This is too important to sit on the sidelines. While turnout figures are looking great we still don’t know the percentage of YES votes.
“So we’re going to need every YES supporter helping to achieve the strongest YES vote possible.”