This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald has a Chicken Little from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose sister, you may recall, wrote an excellent but opposite piece in the same paper recently. She wishes to marry her partner and hopes the law will change to allow that to happen. Be interesting for Tony going to that wedding; indeed I gather brother and sister do in fact get on quite well.
Before saying more about Tony Abbott’s piece, which is absolutely typical of the way the NO case is being run, let’s remind ourselves of the fact that we are being asked in the Postal Survey a very simple question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? The NO case I have called Chicken Little-ism, and we have had case after case of it from the Australian Christian Lobby through ex-PM John Howard to last night on The Drum where we had ponderous journalist Paul Kelly and some Canadian Catholic academic whose name escapes me. Everything short of earthquakes and asteroid strikes it seems will follow if YES gets up!
Tony Abbott seems to have looked at Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay, to which I referred in the last post. Or rather, he has mined it for a telling quote: “it might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the in the battle against homophobia.”
Indeed Benjamin Law does say that, though hardly as the threat Tony Abbott makes it appear by quoting the line out of context. Go to pages 41-42 of Law’s essay and read on. Let me offer just a sentence extra to clarify:
…in the United States, where same-sex marriage is legal and consistently supported by the majority of Americans, the organisation GLAAD found 29 per cent of Americans are still uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and 28 per cent would be uncomfortable if they learnt their doctor was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It might be stating the obvious, but same-sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.
You can see this has no relation at all to what Tony Abbott is suggesting!
I think a point well worth repeating is that the Postal Survey is NOT about Safe Schools, or “gender theory”, or religious freedom, or the possible existence of the thylacine in the 21st century. It is about whether the STATE should recognise those same-sex couples who wish to commit to marriage to a life’s partner. Some will, maybe many won’t. But they will have the option. They do not at this time have that option in this country.
And whatever the outcome of the Postal Survey, refining the way we talk about and understand sexuality and gender will continue. Voting NO will not stop NO RELIGION as being the greatest religious growth area in Australia, nor will it stop people questioning whether “male and female created He them” is any longer an accurate formulation of the facts of human diversity.
What we can be sure of is that voting NO will profoundly affect the lives of quite a few families in our country that are still struggling to gain full dignity in the eyes of the law.
And that reminds me. Tomorrow is R U OK Day. To me that this should be 14 September is particularly poignant. I wonder, were he still alive, what Rob would have had to say about it all, and I reflect on the fact that his mother and her partner were, in 1989, among the first same-sex couples I met – but under such sad circumstances in which homophobia had undoubtedly played a role. In my story Rob is “J”.
Did you know J was bashed last year?
Yes, he told me.
So much hate.
You know he told me a year ago he didn’t think he was going to win.
The most he could hope for was to live with it.
So much love.
When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:
Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989
‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’
AND FOR LUKE
WHO LOVED HIM
Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.
But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!
Come to think of it, how many same-sex couples do you know/have you known? I can think of at least ten off the top of my head. And you? When I reflect on it, I would say the first couple I met was in the 1940s! They were friends of my aunt.
I must be careful how I put this, as I have met the person involved and liked him for his eccentricity. Since writing the post I have read David Flint’s piece in today’s Daily Telegraph. It saddens me. I have also read Miranda Devine’s version of Benjamin Law. I find it, to adapt her characterisation of Law, utterly unhinged.
If that is the best the NO camp can do, God help them! And us, if they succeed.