I’m pretty sure The Australian didn’t become an Onion-style satirical website overnight, except that might be the best explanation for how dumped Labor MP Robert McClelland was quoted in a story about a speech he gave to the ACL. This is the speech that PM Julia Gillard withdrew from because Jim Wallace said some pretty dickish things about gay people, that smoking is more healthy than a “gay lifestyle.” Apparently it hadn’t occurred to her until that point that Jim Wallace actually makes a living saying dickish things about gay people. That’s like pulling out of a KKK event because you found out the grand wizard had told a black joke this one time.
Anyway, the former Attorney-General Robert McClelland, obviously a subscriber to the the ACL’s blatant up-is-down-and-black-is-white approach to reality, decried the tone of the debate about gay marriage, which he said was “un-Australian.”
During his speech Mr McClelland lamented the “rapid deterioration in the quality of political debate”.
“I have found the personal vilification that has come into parliamentary debate and public debate to be more than unseemly. It is un-Australian.”
Mr McClelland said people should “play the ball and not the man”.
“You can always get a line by vilifying someone, abusing someone, attacking an organisation but at the end of the day you’re going to be judged on what you’ve achieved,” he said.
Yes, why not judge the ACL on what they’ve achieved with that $2 million per year budget of theirs? If only there was a way to see how much the ACL has focussed its attention on addressing the problems Christ might have been concerned with, or on frivolous crap like trying to use the law to discriminate against gay people, like a graph or something like that.
He described Jim Wallace as a “fair-minded man” and said the ACL was communicating “decency of character.” If only that handful of dirty gay ferals protesting outside knew how totally reasonable Jim Wallace is! For example, he supported the Labor Government’s removal of 84 pieces of discrimination against gay people. Isn’t that enough? (Actually, the ACL asked for amendments and didn’t get them, so it’s a bit of a stretch to say the ACL supported the changes.)
Just in the last week, Jim Wallace has spoken at length about his own personal involvement in trying to convert people from gay to straight, which is an abusive and discredited practice that all psychological organisations have recognised as such. In a speech to mostly young worshipers at Bridge Church in Richmond, Jim Wallace used quotes from Leviticus, Romans and Corinthians to argue that gay people are morally evil sinners on par with thieves, liars and adulterers, and that gay people suffer from “shameful lusts”. The ACL’s chairman Tony McLellan was let loose on Lateline, telling the ABC program that the proponents of gay marriage are motivated by Satan. That’s just in the last week, remember.
It truly says something about this organisation that, despite all their bitching about mean gay activists “demonising” the ACL and other gay marriage opponents, they can casually and quite literally demonise supporters of gay marriage, and then without a hint of shame go back to complaining about how they’re being vilified. As my friend Sam Butler frequently points out, you won’t find any examples of pro-equality campaigners Alex Greenwich, Rodney Croome, Shelley Argent or Geoff Thomas saying anything even vaguely nasty, let alone anything as offensive as the stuff the ACL regularly puts out.
There’s a part of me that sees their point about how the words “homophobe” and “bigot” are thrown around too much. Although I do think that a statement like “gay people are motivated by Satan” is textbook bigotry, when the debate descends to name-calling we’re not doing anything to persuade the many good, not-bigoted folks who for whatever reason are just not quite there on gay marriage yet.
American author and ethicist John Corvino has an excellent series of videos addressing various arguments against gay marriage, and in one of them he explains why it’s unhelpful to simply slap the “bigot” label on everyone who doesn’t support marriage equality. The word “bigot”, he argues, is one we should use carefully, because when you label someone a bigot you’re cutting off the dialogue, when what is needed is more productive dialogue, not less.
So yes, it’s wrong to instinctively put down all opponents of marriage equality as unreconstructed bigots. However. It’s not a competition between which side has used its power to hurt the other side most, because we all know who wins that argument. And really, even the most unhelpful “hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go!” activist-types on the pro-gay side have never argued that Jim Wallace deserves fewer legal rights than they do, only the same rights. That’s the difference.
Australia is meant to be the country of the fair go for everyone, and the ACL does practically nothing else but campaign against the fair go. Their contribution to public life has been lobbying for a system in which some people are more equal than others for no good reason. A system in which gay Australians have all of the same responsibilities that come with living in this country, but not all of the same rights.
I’d call that un-Australian.