As ever, the biggest hurdle to the progress of gay rights isn’t well-resourced religious lobby groups, but the apparent apathy of the people for whom those lobby groups claim to speak.Posts The Australian Christian Lobby might have an obsession with the gays that polevaults over “unsolicited” and lands in “creepy’ territory, but gay rights doesn’t really register for many people as an issue until it directly affects them or someone they are close to. That’s both the good and bad news in this whole stupid debate.
My dad’s a great example. Growing up I heard him use the word ‘poof’ in reference to gays, but it was mostly in a ”who’s that one on Big Brother? You know, the poof? David? That’s it” kind of way. Other than that, I’d struggle to tell you what his views on the gays were, if he even had any at all. When it became obvious that I was gay, he made a conscious decision to accept me as I am and not treat me any differently and that was that. I have no doubt he’d go to my gay wedding and cry at the ceremony and make an embarrassing speech at the reception, and on the same afternoon he’d vote for the Coalition.
So I get that there are a lot of people who don’t see gay marriage as an issue worthy of taking up so much time and energy. More than just getting it, it’s something I wholly agree with and have been saying for as long as I’ve been old enough to understand the issue. Wanda Sykes summed it up perfectly when she said that if you don’t like same sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex.
Arguing that gay marriage is a distraction from the “real” issues isn’t an argument against reform to the Marriage Act, it’s an argument in favour of getting it out the way now. If you think about it, it’s a kind of tacit admission that gay marriage is right and will happen eventually. Rather than attacking same sex marriage directly, the strategy is to delay it indefinitely, or until every other problem facing this country is resolved. Sounds reasonable!
The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald, and probably others, I don’t really care to trawl through it all, ran stories this week in response to findings in a survey conducted by the Sexton Marketing Group for the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty purporting to demonstrate that gay marriage is a low priority issue for Australians.
The Australian believes that consenting adults should be free to make their own lifestyle choices. But the ALP has nothing to gain by investing its scarce political capital in same-sex marriage given the sharp community divisions over what most voters regard as a low-order issue.
Just an aside: Uh, News Ltd? Describing homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” is wrong for the same reason calling black people “coloured” is probably not a good idea also.
Chris Meney in today’s Sydney Morning Herald picked up the thread in a pretty dull editorial cherry-picking some of the findings from the already slightly dubious survey. Meney is from the Life, Marriage and Family Centre in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, because nobody’s better qualified to comment on life, marriage and family than elderly male virgins.
Ordinary Australians seem to feel that this is a divisive issue, that there are more important issues to be dealt with, that the interests of children must be considered along with the rights of adults and that any hurried change has the potential for unintended and undesirable consequences – some of which strike at the heart of our free and open society.
“If gays have children they’ll be horrible freaks with pink skin, no overbites and five fingers on each hand!”
The Star Observer highlighted the fact that the survey, which was commmissioned for an anti-marriage organisation, the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty, showed 58% of Australians believe that gay couples should have the right to marry. Other than that, the reporting of the survey was typically poor. The survey itself is pretty bizarre, and some of the questions have a definite air of push polling designed to elicit a particular desired response. Here’s the survey in its entirety.
Some 64% believe that if same sex couples value marriage highly they should be allowed to share in it. Great! Except that in the same survey 58% said they believed same sex couples should be allowed to get married. So for 6%, gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married, but if they “value it highly” then all right, fine, get married. The fuck? More perplexing is that the percentage of Australians who believe there should be a change in the Marriage Act is around half, at 49%. How do these 15% of people who think gay people who value marriage highly but there shouldn’t be a change in the Marriage Act expect those gay people to get married? Special dispensation from a judge or something? The report itself theorises, and the media has picked up on that theme, that most people support gay marriage in principle but don’t actually want it to happen in the real world. Huh? I believe it may be just a simple matter of wording, like how surveys on attitudes toward gay marriage vary considerably depending on whether you use the word “gay” or “homosexual.”
Then it goes on to ask respondents whether they would support legal change to enact same sex marriage if certain hypothetical situations or some negative consequence came about, like if the issue were “divisive,” and, ridiculously:
If it became illegal for people to speak out against same sex marriage.
If strong evidence emerged that children raised by same sex parents were not as well adjusted.
If schools were required to promote the homosexual and heterosexual lifestyles as equally acceptable.
If traditional male-female marriage were ridiculed.
If sexual infidelity in marriage became more common.
If more young people entered same sex relationships.
Sadly, there was no data on whether people still supported gay marriage if it meant goblins emerged from underground cities and kept humanity as their slaves and forced us into sodomy/cannibalism/sodomycannibalism. I wonder also how people night feel if they were led to believe gay marriage would hasten the arrival of the zombie apocalypse?
For the ordinary person on the landline telephone answering these questions, perhaps a bit ignorant about what exactly same sex marriage will mean and what it certainly won’t mean, doesn’t this kind of questioning give the impression that these things that are, by themselves, completely unrelated to whether the Marriage Act is amended to include same sex couples, somehow likely to happen?
This is ostensibly to gauge how fixed people’s attitudes are to gay marriage when the respondents are given examples of various “consequences,” but it’s disingenuous and obviously very leading. Of course it won’t be illegal to speak against gay marriage, that’s crazy-talk. And why would anyone want to ridicule male-female marriage? Why would gay people be responsible if straight married people suddenly decided not to be faithful to one another? Why any of it?
Then it goes on to argue that same sex marriage is likely to have a net negative effect on voters’ intentions for the major parties, while concurrently maintaining that same sex marriage ranks very low on how important it is as an issue to voters. Go that? Gay marriage is such a low priority for people that if it happens those voters will turn their backs onwhichever party is committed to addressing marriage equality. Simple.
But! Clever tricksy push polling aside, I think this is a pretty good result altogether for the pro-marriage side. Take out the scary irrelevant hypotheticals and you’re left with a respectable 64% of Australians who support same sex marriage.
Provided they’re the gays that value marriage highly, of course.
So I thought I’d post the full column that I wrote for the Star Observer here. What went up was an abridged version because the original was a bit long, and while I think they did a good job of keeping in the salient bits and discarding some of my characteristic angry waffling, I’m much too lazy when it comes to writing to let good paragraphs be lost to the unkempt forest that is my email archive.
I’m not totally au fait with the etiquette surrounding posting one’s own work on one’s blog if the piece has been published in a proper opinion-dispensing site already. At any rate, here’s the link to the abridged article. Please note my civility in the comment section and determination not to feed the trolls.
The Anti-Gay Lobby Has A Wealth of Rhetoric, Nothing To Back It Up.
Arguing for marriage equality is a tedious indignity. Gay marriage proponents need to turn the debate around and demand the anti-gay brigade mount a decent argument against equality.
People who know me well enough know not to get me started on gay marriage. For the entire time we’ve been together, I’ve worn out my boyfriend’s patience and understanding, letting fly an angry polemic every time an anti-marriage campaigner is given column inches to make an arse of himself – Jeff Kennett, I’m looking at you. The knowledge that these dire warnings about same sex marriage will exist online for years after they’re all proved baseless gives me small satisfaction.
What’s most frustrating is that there are no real arguments being made, and certainly nothing that hasn’t been said and then refuted exactly nine bazillion times before. It feels like the more common the argument, the more vacuous it is.
Always, the onus is on gay marriage advocates to prove our worth, to convince politicians why we qualify for equality, to shoulder the burden of having to win the majority’s support. Yes, it’s great when people, gay and straight, stand up for their relationships and for the people they love, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t buoyed by recent Galaxy polls showing support for same sex marriage at 62%, and even a majority of Christians.
But the majority should not get to dictate the rights of the minority. The whole point of anti-discrimination legislation is to provide a legal framework to protect the few from the whims of the many. The Marriage Act should be amended to include gays because there are no sound legal arguments for why it should continue to exclude them.
Being personally opposed to same sex marriage for your own reasons, whether religious or otherwise, is absolutely okay with me. Holding an honest opinion certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bigot or a homophobe. But I look at personal objections to gay marriage the same way I look at differences in opinion on just about anything else, and if the idea of two blokes declaring their commitment to one another is so irksome to you, then you’re free not to get gay married.
I don’t buy into the anti-equality crowd’s absurd persecution complex when they complain they’re being unfairly maligned.
Lyle Shelton, the chief of staff of the Australian Christian Lobby, who I have interviewed, said this earlier this year:
‘Labels and slurs are being used too often to shut down legitimate debate. Yes it’s true that ACL does not support homosexual marriage, but neither do many Australians, including the Prime Minister. That doesn’t make us homophobic, bigoted or f***ing idiots.’
As I said, I’ve exchanged words with Lyle and I think he’s a decent person, even if I think his version of Christianity bears no resemblance to anything Christ actually did or said. But the ACL and their ilk are not just expressing a personal view about marriage.
Lyle Shelton and the anti-gay crowd will continue to complain about being called out on being bigoted all they like. The fact is the ACL has privileged access to the highest office in the land; churches in this country enjoy tax-free status and, for now, seem to have unbridled power over who gets to be married and who doesn’t. I had to chip in $20 of my own money just to get the prime minister to meet with gay marriage advocates.
Here’s the thing – I’m not interested in having anyone’s approval, making anyone comfortable or gaining anyone’s acceptance. As Dumbledore said to Hagrid, ‘if you are holding out for universal popularity, then I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.’
Gayness is a reality of life and another part of the spectrum of human sexuality, and in fact there are a few advantages to being gay. Not being sheepish about loving Born This Way is one of them. Having a problem with gays does not mean the ACL and others are bigots, it’s actively campaigning to ensure I have fewer rights than they do which does make them bigots.
This is why the gay marriage debate is so godawful. Having to put your personal life up for public debate, and give up your time and money and energy, just to convince some boring politician that actually you’re an okay person and you deserve the same treatment as everyone else.
All of the paranoid arguments against gay marriage crumble to dust when you apply a bit of logic to the discussion. Gay marriage is not a slippery slope to polygamy and paedophilia, as was suggested by Rebecca Hagelin, a guest speaker at the unqualified hatefest that was the “Don’t Meddle With Marriage” event in Canberra last month, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and a group calling itself the Australian Family Association. To say nothing of the highly offensive homosexuality = paedophilia undertones there, in the jurisdictions where same sex marriages are recognised, none of the dystopian scenarios of men taking a child as their lover have realised.
Ironically, in places where polygamous marriages, incestuous marriages and marriages with children are culturally accepted, in many strict Islamic countries for example, you’d be more likely to swing from a noose in the breeze if you are gay than sign a marriage certificate.
Marriage throughout history has undergone more changes than Bristol Palin’s face. Granting same sex marriage rights is not, as Barnaby Joyce declared, the same as calling a horse a camel. And Barnaby’s daughters will still be allowed to marry who they please – in fact they’ll have more freedom to marry how they see fit.
Marriage is not just about procreation. If the ability to procreate were a condition of marriage, then marriage between a brother and sister or father and daughter would be legal, and marriages between infertile straight couples would be illegal. Having two capable mums or dads does not deprive children of anything, and won’t cause the collapse of society. If we had any sense as a society we would be applauding gay parents who adopt children who are the product of incompetent and unprepared straight parents.
Churches will not be forced to marry gay couples. This argument is made by people who intend to mislead others because they don’t care about what’s actually true and what’s total bollocks. Obviously, churches can choose not to marry gay couples, just like they can deny people who are divorced, people who don’t belong to the religion, whatever. Besides, are there any gay couples who would even want to have their special day officiated by someone who is repulsed by them?
Jim Wallace on the Sunrise program earlier this month mounted a spectacularly awkward case against gay marriage, citing “the Scriptures.” This is probably the least compelling of all the arguments against allowing gays to marry, but our sensitivity to religious faith in Australia means we generally aren’t allowed to heap as much derision and scorn as it clearly deserves.
Wallace is perfectly entitled to believe that the Scriptures condemn homosexuals, but we’re not a theocracy in this country. We have religious freedom in defiance of the Ten Commandments, and we don’t stone gay people as prescribed in Leviticus 20:13, because we’re civilised people. Killing gays isn’t just a rhetorical flourish I’ve embellished, by the way – the Bible actually calls for gay people to be literally murdered. You don’t hear the ACL mention that very often.
To borrow a line from Bob Katter, the religious argument doesn’t deserve to be given any serious treatment, and deserves only ridicule.
Parenthetically, it was monumentally amusing when the Australian Christian Lobby “dismissed” the poll finding 53% of self-declared Christians support equality. How presumptuous and offensive of Jim Wallace to claim the right to veto the faiths of other Christians if they happen to support equality.
The reality is that marriage is a secular institution recognised by the government and can be as religious or non-religious as people want it make it. The churches don’t have a monopoly on marriage, much as it likes to think it does.
The law should demand a compelling set of reasons if it is going to discriminate, and the case for equality has been made again and again and again. It’s simply not persuasive enough to say “marriage is between a man and a woman because that’s the way it is!” In this debate, the anti-equality side has great deal of political influence and a wealth of meaningless words, but nothing at all to back them up.
I sorely want to shut up about gay marriage. I never want to watch another woeful television ‘debate’ where some anti-marriage numpty gets to talk down the thousands of terrific families headed by gays and lesbians. As much as I want to suspend my cynicism and believe that the prime minister can redeem herself on this issue, I am not optimistic about the Labor conference this December.
As odious as the whole process is, we will continue to put our personal lives up for debate, will continue to speak out, write to MPs, refute the tired non-arguments of the anti-marriage side, and bug the crap out of the people around us. The opponents of gay marriage need to present a convincing argument, or come right out and admit that they just aren’t so big on gay people being treated equally.
In any event, we’ll get there eventually.