I’ve had my say…

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More from the world of the Postal Survey

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost. See my previous post for more.

I particularly can’t get – though John Howard can – the argument on religious liberty. Legal Eagle helps.

It’s true to say (as some of my Yes vote advocate friends have said) that religious freedom and freedom of speech are different questions from the question that is being asked in the survey. Part of the problem stems from the fact that we don’t even know what we’re voting on – they won’t prepare a Bill until we vote on whether we want the law or not. But I think that any provision for same-sex marriage should make it clear that it will not force religious groups to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. Some of my religious friends are worried about what the position may become if a Yes vote stands, and cite the example of the Tasmanian pastor and preacher who have been the subject of complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. They fear this is the beginning of a greater trend. They are concerned that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will mean anti-discrimination legislation can be used to make religious people suppress their views, and to have to conduct same-sex marriages against their will. And then, of course, there’s the services cases (involving flowers or cakes for same-sex marriages).

As an aside, I have never understood why a person would wish to force a reluctant florist or baker to provide for a same-sex wedding. If I were in that position, I would rather not give the service provider money, nor have them anywhere near my wedding. But this may be something to do with my private law background – as a general principle of law, courts are usually unwilling to specifically enforce contracts for services because of the coercive nature of such relief (see eg, JC Williamson Ltd v Lukey (1931) 45 CLR 282, 293 (Starke J), 297–98 (Dixon J); Byrne v Australian Airlines Ltd (1995) 185 CLR 410, 428 (Brennan CJ, Dawson and Toohey JJ)). The rationale for the rule with regard to contracts for services is that it’s inappropriate to force parties who don’t get along any more to work together. And I guess that’s a greater point. As my co-blogger Skepticlawyer has pointed out, you can’t use the law to force people to like you or accept you.

In today’s news we read Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook.

Presbyterian ministers and churchgoers are under clear directions to oppose same-sex marriage. Mr Wilson, who is also moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, published a blog post committing the church to the “no” case and calling on attendees to campaign actively.

“There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this,” Mr Wilson wrote.

However, other church sources suggested the Ballarat experience was uncommon. Darren Middleton, convenor of the Church and Nation committee and a Geelong minister, said it was the first such case he had encountered.

“This is a decision for individual ministers to make. My guess is most probably would have let the wedding go ahead,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s not normally a requirement to get married that you subscribe to particular views. I would want to talk to them about their views … but that wouldn’t be a bar to them getting married. That’s a separate issue in my mind.”…

On Facebook Trevor Khan MLC NSW (National Party) has commented:

So, let’s be clear:
1) This demonstrates that churches, now, have an absolute discretion (enshrined in the Marriage Act) as to who they chose to marry, and
2) Neither side has a mortgage on “crazy”.

My background, by the way, is Presbyterian.

And here is something else we can well do without.

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That is  former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s godson, bashed during an argument about same-sex marriage.

Now some personal notes. I am not TELLING people how to answer the survey. VOTE is apparently not the right word, by the way. But I am hoping that the majority do choose YES because, as I keep saying, it is the right thing to do. First there are all those same-sex couples I have known, not all of whom would have opted for marriage personally, though I suspect all would have supported the right of those who did so choose to have that option. Second there is my own relationship commencing in 1990 — yes, 27 years ago — with M. We did live together for over ten years, and still mean a great deal to one another. M was at my side at my mother’s funeral in 1996. One memory is of M sitting ensconced with my Aunt Beth at Kay and Roy’s place in Sutherland after that funeral. M’s own mother and younger sister have passed away this year.

Another highlight was the following year, when M, who is from Shanghai, gained his Australian citizenship. William Yang recorded it.

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Fast forward to 2012 here in Wollongong:

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Please! Ignore the Chicken Littles on “freedom of speech”, “freedom of religion”, and weirdness like the Revenant of Oz and her nonsense about not being able to call your Mum and Dad Mum and Dad! Choose a kinder Australia when you mark your survey form!

27 years since M and I moved into Redfern

Shared with Philip Costello and his then partner. Philip is now married to Timothy Klinger and they live in New York.

Here’s a recycle. While M and I no longer live together, much remains of what we began 27 years ago!

Redfern Visions 11: George Street

This is the second-last of the set from my walk yesterday. I mentioned I lived in George Street for a year. It has changed, especially on the other side of the road, with quite a bit of new development and some more in train, but what I have concentrated on are the things that have not changed much since 1990-1991 when M and I lived here.

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And here are some more related memories.

Redfern Visions 26: East Redfern 4

Now we are back near Cleveland and Elizabeth Streets, going towards the Surry Hills Shopping Village (aka Redfern Mall) through the back streets.

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This is Morehead Street, which I first got to know way back in 1985 when two of my first gay friends from The Britannia Hotel lived there – Philip and Dean. They were much younger than I was – 21 and 19 respectively — but took me, a neophyte, under their wing, as it were. Later, in 1990, M and I were to take a room at Philip’s place in George St Redfern, our first joint address.

Facebook does it for me again…

A couple of times in the past I have mentioned the Britannia Hotel and especially two friends I met there.

… Facebook has delivered both as “friends” in the past few days! Smile One lives in New York, and the other in East Timor – and bemedalled as well though I am not sure what that is about. And here they are as I first knew them, pretty much.

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Both have stories to tell and both I greatly admire and recall with real warmth. Good to see that they have got on so well these days.

Twenty and more years ago

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M in China pre-1989

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M in Sydney 1990

Reject Chicken Little!

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.

See also Legalise same-sex marriage for the ‘common good’, says Catholic priest Frank Brennan.

And here, courtesy of norrie, are my friends from South Sydney Uniting Church.

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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:

FOR JAY

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.

Update:

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.

 

Do vote YES! Because it is the right thing to do…

Some items. I have already mentioned the NO case being a farrago of side issues and Chicken Little arguments. One such argument concerns the – irrelevant really — matter of the Safe Schools programme, which if I were still teaching I would without doubt use. I have argued that before. Then all sorts of rather amazing things are being said about children and gender — also strictly irrelevant to the Postal Survey question. Nonetheless, if those items and more concern you, I commend the following — and that’s me using the Diggers Club free wi-fi, by the way.

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See Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal. Four stars from me! And see The Resident Judge of Port Phillip:

This Quarterly Essay is not about the SSM survey, but because of the advertising campaign prompted by the ‘No’ side, it has been drawn into the whole debate.  It is a good and, unfortunately, very timely read.

I find Benjamin Law’s essay has a strong and loud ring of truth about it. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Second item: you may have heard some on the NO side rabbitting on about the religious freedom of cake shops and florists. Well, if you want the TRUTH about one of their star examples, read Mike Seccombe.

Even if you don’t recognise the names Melissa and Aaron Klein you probably will have heard their story. It is told over and over again by opponents of same-sex marriage.

They were the couple whose Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Oregon, was forced to close due to a “smear campaign and boycott” and a $US135,000 “fine” imposed by the state because they refused to make a wedding cake for two lesbians.

That’s the short version, the one the anti-same-sex marriage people put out as an example of the intolerance of the queer community.

The full story of the wedding cake, however, presents quite a different picture…

Third item: the moving letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald by Tony O’Grady. I didn’t know his brother the late Paul O’Grady MLC, but I did teach the brother of Paul’s partner. Russell is now living in the USA and is a regular Facebook friend. The letter is worth quoting in full. The more who read it the better!

For all the uncountable words written about the marriage equality issue, Tiernan Brady hits the nail on the head when he writes that marriage equality is a confirmation of “those [family and community] values we hold dear” (“Lesson from Ireland”, September 8).

My brother Paul left home in 1976, at the age of 16, to live in a same-sex relationship. We were raised by conservative Catholic parents, and to say that we were  shocked  would be an understatement.  However, there was never any question about supporting a son and brother.  We helped him move,  and it was always a joy to have him visit (no matter how briefly). Like all families we had disagreements, and liked some of his partners more than others. We also lost contact at times, but whenever he needed us we were there (as he was for us). After Paul resigned from Parliament, he and Mum did an interview for a TV program. Mum was questioned about her support for a gay son and her reply was to the effect that, “He is my son. Of course you support your children”.

Paul championed equality and fairness across all areas of society, not just for the LGBQTI community. When he died in 2015, my siblings and I were amazed at the number of chance meetings with people who had been assisted by Paul: a former prisoner whom Paul had regularly visited in jail; a funeral director whose partner had been helped by Paul on an immigration matter; victims of domestic violence.

I doubt if Paul would have wanted to get married, but I do know that the core values instilled in us by our  parents, and which guided his life and work, were all about family and community. These values dictate equality for all.
Why do we need so many words?

Tony O’Grady Epping

Update:

A distant Whitfield family cousin emailed me from regional Callala Bay. Let’s hope there are more out there like him!

Neil just looked at your web site and I agree that we should vote YES… I have a nephew, who is gay and has cost him jobs because he is gay.

It  has to do with the DNA which you have no control over. If your DNA makes you gay, so what can you do to change that, NOTHING…

Jason has a masters in Business management and a lovely fellow. He has my support,and also one of his friends has become our friend. David is a lovely person and a solicitor with the Government here in Nowra. We hear from him regularly…

Hope the vote goes the right way.

From sunny Callala Bay