Pretty lame effort from Lyle Shelton today in The Punch on gay marriage. In all probability it’s better not to waste the two or three minutes that it would take to respond to every outright lie, but I’m really bothered by the shameless and repeated falsehoods and distortions this group comes out with on a routine basis.
First we begin with the ludicrous gay marriage = polygamy red herring.
Most proponents assiduously avoid the consequences, such as those explicit in the comments of former Justice Michael Kirby’s testimony to the Senate inquiry into ‘marriage equality’.
Clearly admitting a wider agenda, he said questions of polyamorous marriage could be expected to be considered by parliaments or courts in the future, once same-sex marriage has been safely achieved.
“Clearly admitting a wider agenda”? I’m calling bullshit on that. What he actually said was that courts have to consider every proposition as they arise, and based on their individual merits. That’s the strictly legal answer you would expect any former High Court justice to give on any issue.
Of course you can dream up as many hypotheticals as you like, and try to form an argument out of whatever made-up fantasy you come up with, but in countries that actually have same sex marriage, the actual reality shows that the slippery slope theory is completely wrong. Not one country with same sex marriage has moved on to polygamy. In regions of the world where polygamy is legal, they tend to be places where gay people suffer the worst persecution of anywhere in the world.
By contrast, look at the countries with gay marriage – they’re generally the more advanced, progressive, liberal, secular democracies with strong records when it comes to respecting human rights. In the countries ranked highest in the UN Human Development index, all of the top ten countries except Australia and the US have either full marriage equality or an equivalent national civil union scheme.
As Professor Kerryn Phelps so memorably said, if the slippery slope argument is their trump card, it’s clearly a Joker.
Shelton then argues that gay marriage will mean churches and individuals will be forced to conduct same sex weddings, citing Denmark’s recent legalisation of same sex weddings in the country’s state church.
After 23 years of gay civil unions, Denmark is now forcing the state Lutheran Church to conduct homosexual weddings. Which churches will be next?
The key word there, Lyle, is “state” church. In Denmark, the Lutheran Church is the official Danish state church and the person in charge is a minister in the government.
Australia doesn’t have a state church (thankfully), and even if it did, there’s the little fact that we’re a completely different country to Denmark and with the marriage equality bill that’s been put forward, it’s been explicitly spelled out that no religious group would be compelled to marry gay couples. Religious freedom means respecting the churches that disagree with gay marriage, and it also means respecting those churches that are supportive and want to carry out these ceremonies. No matter which way I look at it, I don’t get why anyone would be opposed to that.
One of the other interesting points about the ACL’s constantly bringing up the Danish example is how they conspicuously leave out all the other countries with gay marriage which have expressly included protections for faith groups. Scotland is the most recent example and one on which I can speak with some personal experience, as I’m living in Scotland right now. The Scottish Government has announced it intends to move ahead with a gay marriage bill, pending an amendment to the UK Equalities Act that will set in concrete the right of churches to refuse to marry gay couples. You won’t hear the ACL mention Scotland, for precisely this reason.
Shelton raised one other example to fluff up this already bankrupt argument, referring to a Christian marriage celebrant in Canada who has been “dragged before the courts for refusing to perform same sex weddings.” I’ve entered about a dozen Google searches trying to find the case he’s talking about but I can’t find a thing. I somehow doubt he’s simply made this up, but the fact he hasn’t given any specifics suggests to me it’s a nonsense story that’s been twisted beyond recognition and filtered through anti-gay blogs, where Lyle’s likely read it and taken at face value. I’d love a link to a credible news story, Lyle.
Shelton then argues that gay marriage is a low-order issue for the public, and therefore politicians shouldn’t be spending their time debating it.
When the Greens’ Adam Bandt last year contrived a consultation process MPs, overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage was the feedback from electorates.
There are 150 MPs in the Lower House, and only 30 MPs actually released the results of their consultation. And we know that there are many Liberal MPs whose electorates support marriage equality – in seats like Wentworth, Higgins and Kooyong. So, to say this consultation showed “overwhelming opposition” is more than a bit dishonest, wouldn’t you say, Lyle?
On the subject of whether or not gay marriage is an issue that Australians care about, just look at the twin surveys conducted this year into marriage equality by the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both drew unprecedented numbers of submissions (outstripping previous consultations by massive margins), and both giving thumping majority support to amending the Marriage Act to include same sex couples. I wrote at the time that:
Over 64 per cent of the submissions to the House of Representatives inquiry and 58 per cent to the Senate inquiry supported marriage equality, a figure which largely matches opinion polling by Galaxy and Roy Morgan and others.
In unprecedented numbers for a parliamentary inquiry, more than 177,000 Australians indicated their support for same sex marriage, outstripping the opposition by 80,000, despite a huge effort by the Catholic Church to bully their congregations into opposing the change.
Shelton then tries to suggest that all of the polling showing majority support for gay marriage is wrong, citing a poll conducted by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty last year. Except that that survey also showed up to 64% of those surveyed believe same sex couples should be able to marry. Even when they pick the most friendly survey from the most friendly group which they commissioned themselves, they still return a pro-equality result. It’s almost as if Australians really do believe that gay and lesbian Australians should be treated equally under the law.
He tries to argue that marriage is all about having children, which obviously precludes gay people (but not couples that can’t or choose not to have children, for some reason).
While not all marriages involve children, having children and nurturing the next generation is of course the primary reason the State has any interest at all in law which defines marriage.
Where does the Marriage Act mention that the state’s primary interest in marriage is children? And what about the children being raised by gay parents already – if marriage is the best institution in which to raise children, why not let their parents marry?
Next, Shelton borrows an argument that featured prominently in the anti-gay marriage advertisements that aired during the Prop 8 campaign in California, the claim that children will be forced to learn about gay relationships in school. He cites the same case from Massachusetts as his evidence. Politifact has done the heavy lifting for me on this one, finding the claim that Massachusetts public schools teach kindergartners about gay marriage is false.
Finally, he ends on another spurious claim, oft-repeated by the ACL, that gay marriage is a Greens policy that is causing damage to the ALP.
An increasingly vocal group within the Labor caucus is demanding an end to this long-running saga. They rightly worry about the brand damage this Greens-inspired policy is inflicting on Labor.
It’s rather cute – and more than a bit pathetic – how the ACL flatly refuses to accept how widespread the support for gay marriage is. While the Greens were the early adopters of equality, it’s quite clear that the issue of allowing loving couples to marry and be treated equally under the law transcends all the political parties and is above the tawdriness of the left-right dichotomy in Australian politics. There are liberal reasons to support gay marriage and there are conservative arguments for it. My mum and dad are a good example – they both passionately support gay marriage and are lifetime Labor and Coalition voters respectively.
The Labor Party might be dragging its feet on the issue, but its official policy is that it supports gay marriage. A majority of Labor voters support gay marriage and want it to be passed. The ACL is in denial if it can’t recognise this.
I get that news editors are put in a difficult position when they publish criticisms of groups like the ACL, but nothing in my piece last week was incorrect, and this one is just a fat mess.
Lyle, I award you no points, and my God have mercy on your soul.