Kids need a mother and a father only so long as we keep those roles quarantined and artificially separated into rigid, airtight compartments. In this day and age it is safe to say that dads have resilience that enables them to do what mums do, and vice versa for mums. As I have grown older, I have come to see the wisdom of men like my uncle who was a stay-at-home dad, and always loved to do the cooking.
Fortunately, in my house, family is not defined by biology or gender stereotypes. I have learned this from two mothers that have taught me that women can be whatever they want to be, and that there are countless, exciting and powerful ways to ‘do’ femininity.
Whatever prejudices and misunderstandings gather around the same-sex family debate, one of the sustaining influences of such intolerance is a scarcity of stories. With this in mind, I got together with a friend, Charlotte Mclellan and we began making a film Gayby Baby - the first feature length documentary on this topic.
She’s getting tonnes of press about her upcoming documentary Gayby Baby after putting a question to the Q&A panel last week, when she put a face to the usually-not-very-visible children of gay and lesbian parents, and she completely, totally deserves it. People need to see this, because one of the biggest challenges for full equality is the persistent stigma surrounding families headed by gays and lesbians. When people like Wendy Francis say that “legalising gay marriage is the same as legalising child abuse,” what she’s relying on is the assumption that people are too ignorant and prejudiced to know better, and that people like Maya will slink away, intimidated and ashamed. I’m so glad she isn’t.
Maya’s now just a few grand shy of reaching the goal of $100,000 to finish the documentary. Check out the trailer/crowdsourcing video on that page, the kids in this doco are so cute it’s enough to melt even my crumpled, black Mr Burns-esque heart.
RELATED: In addition to Wendy Francis’ foul slur on gay parents (and their children) two years ago, the ACL regularly attacks gay parents as “selfish” and says that gay parenting is an “abuse” of children’s rights, as well as a crime on par with the stolen generation.
I don’t know quite what to call Joe Hockey. You wouldn’t exactly call him an “anti-gay voice” but it’s definitely stretching it to say he’s a “straight ally.” I’m even less certain after hearing his live Q&A the other day through OurSay, hosted by Deakin University and broadcast on Youtube. Hockey fielded five questions on a range of issues based on the number of votes each question received. The marriage equality question naturally came in with nearly three times as many votes as the question with the second highest number of votes.
The Shadow Treasurer is clearly still smarting from that question he received on Q&A, but he hasn’t taken the time to work out a position that even vaguely makes sense on this issue. At one point in the clip Hockey chides the host, Peter van Onselen, for trying to goad him into giving an answer that might actually be worth putting in a newspaper.
The question came from Australian Marriage Equality board member John Kloprogge, who pointed out that a clear majority of Australians, and a clear majority in Joe Hockey’s own electorate, believe that gay couples should not be banned from marrying. He asked whether Hockey was prepared to advocate for a free vote for Coalition MPs on marriage equality.
JH: Well, let me say I totally understand where you’re coming from, and this isn’t gonna be great news to you, but from my personal perspective that marriage is between a man and a woman. My comments have been Youtubed and considered and debated, but that’s my personal view. [...] From our perspective, the free vote is something that the Liberal Party did not consider at the last election. The party felt it was wrong to go to a free vote in relation to it after pledging at the last election not to have a free vote. [...]
PVO: I’ve written plenty of times that I’m pro-gay marriage but I can understand that you had this idea that you had a position before the election and therefore you’re not going to allow a free vote after it. But if you’re serious about wanting to have the free vote on this at some point, isn’t it important that you go into the next election not pledging to bind your MPs for the next three years and to therefore have the capacity to have a truly free vote like what Labor authorised in the current term?
JH: That is something that the party would need to consider.
PVO: What’s your view?
JH: Well I think my view on free votes is pretty well known.
Is his view on free votes well known? I don’t know it, and neither did Kloprogge and Peter van Onselen.
Hockey followed up by saying that he “would allow for, on important issues, free votes, but having said that I respect the view of my colleagues on this occasion.” What does that even mean? It’s just word-salad. It suggests (although who can be sure with a statement as bland as that?) that the Coalition is prepared to lash itself to the argument that they cannot ever countenance a free vote on same sex marriage because they promised not to at the previous election. Well, if they never discuss a change and if the party never goes to an election signalling that its MPs would be free to vote for the change without undermining the leader and being relegated to the backbenches, they’re trying to weasel their way out of ever having to confront the issue at all. So they can never consider it on its obvious merits because the debate will always be encumbered by circuitous arguments about what the position of the party is.
On the reaction to that profoundly embarrassing appearance on Q&A earlier this year, Hockey says he had been misconstrued and taken out of context. Then he relates a story about a set of three siblings who were taken from a pair of negligent parents and placed in foster care, one of the children with a gay couple. He says he did a “double take” when he heard about it and says he “wonders if I could have found a better environment.”
I had a case example in my local electorate where a father and a mother had three children. Because of the dysfunctionality of the parents, the Department of Community Services said the children are never to be returned to the parents. The two older children are going to a single man in his 40s in foster care and the younger child is going into the care of a male gay couple in their 40s. Now I did a double take, and I shouldn’t. It’s improper in a political sense to do it, but I did a double take as to whether that was the very best environment for those children to go into. The school principal has reassured me that she’s satisfied that it’s the best environment, but I still wonder if I could have found a better environment. And I don’t know the couples. So that’s why I’m reluctant to pass judgement, but I have to as a decision maker pass judgement.
On whether the community is behind the change to the Marriage Act, he then shifts the goal posts even further, suggesting that until the entire community supports the change then we should maintain the status quo:
The change is the one that flies in the face of the legislation. So what you’re asking us to do is to change the laws to accommodate what appears to be a change in the community. I don’t believe the entire community is there. I don’t think you’ll ever get the entire community, but I think there’s still some way to go.
Finally, the host points to the rapid change in public opinion on marriage equality, which strongly suggests that the issue will not go away and whether in five years, ten years or twenty years, it will inevitably change. To which Hockey replies “I suspect there will be change” and repeats the idea that there needs to be “community consensus” before marriage equality can be enacted. “You’ve got to take the community with you on some issues,” he says. “I’m not convinced the community’s there.”
And around and around in circles we go.
RELATED: Penny Wong’s “I know what my family is worth” moment on Q&A with a very uncomfortable Joe Hockey.