Any number of idioms sum up the Liberal and National Parties' positions on marriage equality:
- Much ado about nothing
- Making a mountain out of a molehill
- The mountains laboured and brought forth a mouse
When it comes to marriage equality, the L&NP are making a simple matter as hard as possible.
To be clear, the plebiscite is to ask the majority of Australians to decide if a minority of Australians can marry because a vocal 'moral' minority have already decided that marriage equality should not be legalised. It basically breaks down as this:
One minority's choice being decided by another minority's choice.
So in 2017, rather than put forward a marriage equality bill to be debated, the government puts forward a plebiscite bill (for the second time), which is promptly debated and defeated (again) within an hour. Now, think about this. One hour. It could have been a marriage equality bill, debated and voted on within an hour. So rather than pursue this option, Turnbull decides that the Coalition government will uncharacteristically keep an election promise, namely the plebiscite ... even though the plebiscite was defeated twice. So he engages the Australian Bureau of Statistics to run a $120 million postal survey in place of the defeated plebiscite. The postal survey is neither compulsory or binding. The pollies will still have to vote on the marriage equality bill even after the $120 million is spent. Why not cut out the middle man, and just vote - that's what politicians are paid significant wages to do. $120 million could have been avoided by a one hour debate and vote. Think about that. The survey is non-binding, so regardless of the outcome, politicians can vote however they feel. This would have been the same with the non-binding $180 million plebiscite. So what's the point??
The point is to placate a predominantly religious minority who are hanging on ancient scripture from a book that many of them fail to follow anyway. Remember the clamour from the religious right about when the government abused asylum seekers, destroying families, abusing the poor, the widow, the refugee. No? I don't either. Because most of them justified it and voted for the ongoing abuse by good Christian politicians of the ilk of Tony Abbott and John Howard, who reveled in hyperbole and lying about, demonising and abusing people fleeing war and persecution. ... 'whatever you do to the least of these ...'
The religious right, whipped into a fanatical frenzy by the Australian Christian Lobby and a number of fundamentalist pastors whose beliefs are founded in Absolutism ... the belief that everything is black or white; there is only good or bad, there is no relativism. Funnily enough, relativism requires context, Absolutism requires obstinance. Absolutists believe that their personal interpretation of 2000 year old scripture is the only correct one. However, as Leon Trotsky nicely explained, 'There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or in war. Everything depends on circumstances'.
The No campaign, if not rooted in religious fundamentalism, is concerned about irrelevant issues, such as children, 'traditional' marriage, religious freedom, fear-mongering that it will be a slippery slope to people marrying their pets or inanimate objects ... but none have a reason why two loving people should not marry.
'Traditional' marriage isn't the domain of Christianity even though some have argued that it is a covenant before God. Funnily enough, people tailor their vows to suit their beliefs. Non-Christians have a right to marry whether or not they believe or say it is before the eyes of God.
'Traditional' marriage has not always been between one man and one woman ... heck, even in Australia, 'traditional' marriage once included one adult and one child; girls as young as 12 were able to marry until 1942 (1).
One of the arguments of the No campaign is that children have a right to a mother and father. The biggest threat to the family unit is divorce. Marriage Equality doesn't deprive anyone of parents, divorce does that - yet, I haven't heard any Christian campaign against divorce and funnily enough, many of the people in the No campaign are divorced - and that's the real issue they don't want to contend with.
However, children are not an issue in this debate for numerous reasons. People do not necessarily marry to procreate, otherwise infertile couples wouldn't marry. Many LGBTI people already have their own children and can adopt - so that ship sailed long ago if the No campaign wants to focus on children. LGBTI people with children are often in committed and stable relationships with the only thing missing being the ability to marry the person they love. Surely, the No campaign isn't advocating that they be forced to marry someone of the opposite gender or remain single all their lives. This would be a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) which states that consenting adults have the right to marry and found a family - it doesn't specify gender as a restriction(2).
Arguments abound that children of same-sex parents are more prone to self-harm and suicide. Yet, what impacts them the most is rejection, bullying and criticism (3). Numerous studies have demonstrated that children of same-sex parents are no worse off than those raised by heterosexual parents, and have high self-esteem and low levels of depression and anxiety(4). Quality of parenting is more important than the gender of parents.
People are born gay, people are born intersex. If God doesn't want gay or intersex people then he should stop making them. Of course, this doesn't fit the Christian narrative that homosexuality is a sin, because that would require choice. For most LGBTIQ people, it is not a choice, but an inherent orientation (5). Even the bible acknowledges people were born gay. Matthew 19:12 says 'For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it'. Way back then, eunuchs were men who were not interested in women which made them the perfect choice to guard high ranking women. As Jesus himself pointed out, some were born like that (born homosexual), some were made by men (castrated) and same made themselves like that (self-castration). Eunuchs were often considered effeminate and homosexual.(6)
Some Christians believe their religious freedom will be violated if same-sex marriage is allowed. It has already been stated that the marriage equality bill will allow churches to refuse to conduct same-sex weddings if they so choose. So how is this a violation of religious freedom? Perhaps its because people want the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, for instance not baking their wedding cakes. So, say a religious absolutist works in a large supermarket and a same-sex couple wishes to buy stuff for their wedding, is the religious fundamentalist going to risk their job by refusing service? Even now, do they check the sexual orientation of the people they serve, or of their doctor, mechanic, hairdresser, baker? It is fundamentalists wanting the right to discriminate. Not surprisingly, these same people then get upset if accused of being bigots or homophobic. If a person wants the right to deny someone else their basic human rights, then bigot is probably the politest word that can be used. Religious freedom does not mean the right to deny someone else's freedoms.
As for homophobic, the Oxford Dictionary describes phobia an 'irrational fear or aversion to something'. Clearly the rabid opposition to same sex marriage indicates irrational aversion to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
As for the other arguments about same sex marriage leading to polygamy or bestiality - remember these claims by the corybantic Cory Bernardi (7) and others like him ... seriously? Desperation much? Anyway, where's the consent in this? Marriage Equality is about choices being made by consenting adults.
Dozens of countries have legalised marriage equality and the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. The world hasn't ended.
The No campaign conflates and confuses the argument with irrelevancies. They come to conclusions without mapping the links between the start and end point. For instance, how does same-sex marriage rob children of a mother and father if the parents aren't together anyhow?
There are those on the No side who claim to love LGBTIQ people, but state they are just opposed to same-sex marriage, usually for one or more of the reasons covered above. However, what is often missing in their argument is the impact on LGBTIQ people. Currently they face systemic discrimination through not having the choice to marry. A recent study by the Centre for Social Research In Health at Uni of New South Wales concluded that marriage equality lessens the impact of this systemic discrimination and 'positively impacts their health'. The study called out the potential negative impacts from holding a potentially harmful plebiscite because of the extended debate on the issue and the negative impacts this will have on LGBTIQ people, whose health and well-being should be a primary consideration, yet is being completely ignored by the No campaign. (8)
This study reflects others that have been done which indicate that discrimination is associated with 'increased psychological distress and increased rates of psychiatric morbidity, such as increased rates of depression and anxiety'. Marriage is one way to legitimise a person's sexuality, which is extremely important considering how critical sexuality is to identity. Not having their sexuality legitimised 'creates problems for lesbians and gay men with respect to stigma, self-acceptance and lack of support from family and communities'. For those concerned about children, the failure to legalise same-sex marriage also has a flow-on affect to the mental health of children of same-sex couples who are denied the stability and structure that comes from a formalised marriage.(9) These are the real consequences of marriage equality that we should be concerned with, the positive consequences that we should be focused on.
The issue is one of consenting adults choosing to marry the person they love in order to have a normal, loving family - just like anyone else's. It is simple. We don't need a costly and damaging postal survey, we don't need rabid debate that inflicts further pain, suffering and stigmatisation on LGBTIQ people and their children.
We just need Marriage Equality.
Update - 30 August 2017
The No Campaign released their television advertisement on 30 August 2017, and got off to a flying start when they were busted lying. The ad claimed a school said a young boy could wear girl's clothes to school. The Principal of the school has publicly stated that this is not true (10). As kids learn by example, it appears the No campaign is comfortable teaching children that it is ok to lie in order to make a point. This ad claims that removing gender from the Marriage Act will remove gender from the classroom, however, education is not linked to marriage. Same-sex marriage is about allowing people of the SAME gender to marry ... so how is this genderless marriage? It isn't. What it is, is the No camp fabricating information ... lying.
As many predicted, the No campaign will focus on scare-mongering, conflating irrelevant issues and outright lying rather than addressing the real subject, namely marriage between two consenting adults. The No campaign has no substance to their opposition to marriage equality, so grasps at straws to manipulate the gullible. Clearly this is going to be a dirty campaign.
1. ABC News, Kathy Gollan, Marriage in Australia: A timeline of how love and laws have changed in 130 years, 17 April 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-17/marriage-in-australia-how-love-and-law-have-changed-in-130-years/8430254. Accessed 27 August 2017.
2. United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf.
3. Daraganova, G., (2017), Self-harm and suicidal behaviour of young people aged 14-15 years old, LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2016, Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, http://www.growingupinaustralia.gov.au/pubs/asr/2016/asr2016f.pdf, accessed 27 August 2017.
4. RMIT ABC Fact Check, Fact or fiction: A mother and father is better than same-sex parents, 21 August 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/2015-07-24/same-sex-parenting-fact-or-fiction/6616352. Accessed 27 August 2017.
5. The Guardian, Qazi Rahman, Gay genes': science is on the right track, we're born this way. Let’s deal with it, 24 July 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2015/jul/24/gay-genes-science-is-on-the-right-track-were-born-this-way-lets-deal-with-it. Accessed 27 August 2017.
6. Ringrose, K.M., 2003. The perfect servant : eunuchs and the social construction of gender in Byzantium, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (p. 21)
7. ABC News, Simon Cullen, Bernardi resigns after bestiality comment, 19 September 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-19/controversy-over-cory-bernardi-bestiality-comments/4269604. Accessed 29 August 2017.
8. Hopwood, M., Treloar, C., Kolstee, J., Koonin, J., (2016), The Impacts of Marriage Equality and Marriage Denial On the Health of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people, Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW, Australia, https://csrh.arts.unsw.edu.au/research/projects/marriage-equality-evidence-review/
9. Kaplan, A., (2006). Same-Sex Marriage: Mental Health Perspectives. Psychiatric Times, 23(9), p.1.
10. SBS, Rashida Yosufzai, 'Untrue' says school principal of mother's claims in 'No' marriage ad, 30 August 2017, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/30/untrue-says-school-principal-mothers-claims-no-marriage-ad. Accessed 30 August 2017.