Yesterday I chatted to my ten year old daughter about gay marriage.
"What do you think about it?" I asked her. We'd listened to a news story about the PM's proposed conscience vote on the issue and I was genuinely interested to hear my daughter's opinion.
"I think gay people should be allowed to get married," she said, and I agreed. And then she continued.
"Eli's mums are gay, aren't they?" she asked, referring to a school friend of hers.
"Yes," I told her.
"Well, at first when I met them, I thought it was a bit weird, but now it's just normal to me." I nodded.
"You know, Australia still won't let gay people get married," I said. My daughter frowned.
"But Mum," she asked, "isn't not letting gay people get married just like not letting a black person marry a white person? In the old days black people and white people weren't even allowed to sit on the same bench. Now we'd think that was terrible!"
And I looked at my daughter and I thought, why? WHY can't adults think the way she does? Why can't adults be as clear and untainted and as lacking in prejudice as a child.
There are two sets of lesbian parents in my daughter's year at school, and to the best of my knowledge they have been as warmly embraced by the school community as any other set of parents. And whilst some of the kids may have initially thought it was 'weird', that sense of difference faded incredibly quickly.
I genuinely believe that kids are born without inherent prejudice. They will notice differences - different colour skin, scars, disabilities, family structure - but they don't attach meaning to those differences like we do. They may notice that their Asian friend has different shaped eyes, but they don't make assumptions about their friend's personality or attitude to money or ability to drive based on that eye shape. They may notice that their classmate has two mums, but they don't make judgements about the morality of that situation - they are far more concerned with what treats the mums keep in the pantry, and whether they let them stay up late during a sleepover.
We are the ones who pass on moral judgements to our children. We are the ones who teach them what is 'right' or 'acceptable' or 'normal' or 'appropriate' or 'God's will. Which means that if we stop - if just one generation stops indoctrinating our kids into believing gay marriage is 'wrong', or people wearing burqas are 'dangerous', or that refugees are 'criminals' - we can begin to eliminate prejudice.
Sure, this is simplistic, but you don't see a lot of kids from open, accepting homes wanting to ban the burqa, or stop the boats. We need to listen to our kids, and stop filling their heads with prejudice. And maybe one day, what was once as 'weird' or 'scary' to us as blacks and whites sitting on the same bench will be completely normal.