A people’s vote on redefining marriage has been promised. Many of us have same-sex attracted friends and family. Is it possible to love them whilst saying no to same-sex marriage?

Not everyone thinks so – or would like you to think so.

The media in particular fan the flames of ‘unlove’ by regularly labelling those opposed to same-sex marriage as ‘anti-gay’. This is incredibly unhelpful.

A prominent gay leader has described the upcoming plebiscite as, “a national vote on whether their country accepts them [same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people]”. This rhetoric, I believe, is very dangerous. It only casts ‘no’ in a negative light.  It does nothing to encourage the “high-quality debate” he says he desires and, in fact, reinforces any rejection LGBTI youth may already be feeling.

I believe saying ‘no’ to same-sex marriage is a way of showing love, not rejection. Here’s why:

1. It is not unloving to tell the truth about marriage. Marriage is clearly different to a same-sex relationship – for reasons of biology, sociology and anthropology. To call them the same thing is to deny the truth. As Aristotle said, “The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal.”

2. It is not unloving to put the rights of children first. As a society we see it as a tragedy when, due to events like desertion or death, a child misses out on the love and care of both their mum and dad. For a government to make a law that mandates this loss is not putting the rights of the child first. It is loving to ensure, where possible, every child is raised by their mother and father.

3. It is not unloving to fully consider the consequences of an action before taking it. Atheist columnist Brendan O’Neill warns, “everywhere gay marriage has been introduced it has battered freedom, not boosted it.” Whether it is freedom of conscience, speech or freedom for parents to remove their children from ‘sexual diversity-celebrating’ sex education classes, all have been further restricted to some degree in countries that have redefined marriage.

Here are a few other important considerations:

1. True tolerance: To reject someone else’s view is not to reject them. It is possible to strongly disagree with someone and still be friends. A healthy and mature society can have these conversations without personal vitriol and name-calling.

2. Marriage is precious. For thousands of years across all cultures, religions and countries, marriage has been solely a male/female thing. In the last 15 or so years 23 of some 200 countries have changed the legal definition of marriage. Redefining the age-old institution of marriage is no small thing. Many are legitimately concerned about the consequences. Its impact will likely take generations to fully assess.

3. Don’t believe everything you hear. In general the Australian media are very supportive of redefining marriage. The prominence and focus of the issue is therefore often overrated. Get-Up!, the so called progressive lobby group, when it surveyed its nearly 1 million Australian supporters last year found the issue to be of lowest priority – it was number 16 out of 16 in importance!

4. Isn’t the result inevitable? The Brexit vote, like our republican referendum, are important reminders not to take for granted the silent majority.

Whether the upcoming plebiscite shows support for redefining marriage or not, the issue will continue to be the subject of debate.

Whether you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it can be said in love.  

This article was originally published in the Examiner.