A disturbing trend is emerging in the same-sex marriage debate. Reminiscent of a child throwing a tantrum, individuals and representatives of organisations opposed to equality are stamping their feet and resorting to more desperate threats. While it may be easy to write these people off as educationally challenged, for the most part they are not. So what on earth makes grown men and women resort to infantile tactics to fight the prospect of gay marriage being legalised in Australia?
Marriage is presently only legal between a consenting adult man and woman. If marriage equality were achieved, the only part to change would be the man and woman part. It would be replaced with something gender inclusive and non-specific, like ‘two people’ or ‘two persons’. This automatically removes any of the absurd arguments that a change would lead to legalising polygamy or the marriage between a man and his dog.
The Marriage Act also sensibly requires adult partners, who cannot be a direct blood relation or legal guardian, to voluntarily enter into marriage, quashing the ridiculous notion that if marriage is about ‘love’, parents will suddenly be able to marry their children.
After clearing up these points on definition, the remaining arguments against marriage equality are somewhat illogical and ever-increasingly desperate.
People who are not personally impacted by same-sex marriage (assuming they are not secretly gay and commitment-phobic), are resorting to bizarre threats to attempt to stop what they perceive as legitimising the ‘homosexual lifestyle’.
But what is this ‘homosexual lifestyle’ and why is it such a threat to the vocal minority?
Are they afraid that gay love and gay sex and gay household distribution of chores and gay financial support and gay parental responsibilities and gay picnics at the park or gay walks along the beach will become the norm?
Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister, is one of the conservative white men standing in the way of same-sex marriage. He famously stated in 2010 that he felt ‘threatened’ by homosexuals and that homosexuality challenged the ‘right order of things’. Abbott preferred a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach to gay relationships.
However traditionally stereotyped gender roles are the only things threatened by same-sex marriage. For someone like Tony Abbott, who believed the biggest achievement for women was the repeal of the carbon tax, it is conceivable he would be confused about which of two women in a same-sex marriage would do the ironing.
Same-sex marriage is about equality. It is about social acceptable and approval. It is about removing institutionalised discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is about removing different laws for people based on who they are. It’s about taking the ‘gay’ out of the debate and making it irrelevant to the right to marry the person of choice.
In the latest petulant threat, the Presbyterian Church of NSW has discussed withdrawing from performing legal marriage ceremonies if equality is achieved.
It’s not clear what the Church hopes to gain from this, other than to make a statement of its support of discrimination and outdated beliefs based on selected text from a religious book.
But in reality, boycotting legal marriage will only impact on heterosexual couples of that religious denomination who actually desire a legal marriage. It will have no impact at all on same-sex couples. Much like opposite sex couples threatening to divorce.
A random woman, angry that committed, adult couples might be given the right to celebrate their love with marriage, is calling for the boycotting of businesses who publicly support equality. No Australian has yet threatened to self-immolate.
The childish threats amount to pouty foot-stomping in reaction to the rest of the country moving forward and desiring to update the rulebook in line with a modern, progressive nation.
But these threats, while hardly effective, disclose a nastiness that cannot be ignored. Attempting to force personal (religious or not) ideology and bigoted beliefs on other people in the community reinforces discriminative and dangerous views. Those who identify as LGBTI already suffer more violence, bullying and harassment than other groups in society.
The concept of moving forward with equality seems lost on senior Government Ministers, in particular, Nationals Leader, Barnaby Joyce, who alleges that Asian countries will see Australia as ‘decadent’ if it achieves marriage equality. He is afraid legalising same-sex marriage will threaten the livestock trade with Asia, despite New Zealand having seen no adverse consequences. It’s surprising he hasn’t called for the reintroduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for gays to win favour with Australia’s trading partners.
However the most harmful of arguments comes from those who believe same-sex marriage will damage children. This is a favoured argument from the Australian Christian Lobby, who is demonising every parent who has raised non-biological children. The Catholics are also weighing in, ensuring children are further stigmatised by distributing an anti-same-sex marriage booklet to its private schools.
Outspoken opponents, relying on religious arguments while ignoring that the majority of Christians support same-sex marriage, argue for the ‘rights of the child’. They discard studies which show children of gay parents turn out just fine. They point out that children of gay couples might be subject to bullying, without acknowledging that it is their own bigoted views and institutionalised discrimination that supports this. They fail to accept that if they demonstrated Christian values, like empathy, compassion and unconditional love, perhaps children of gay couples would cease to be targeted.
Australia is one of the last western democracies to legalise marriage equality after the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favour of same-sex marriage. But Abbott is unperturbed. He states there is little chance of a marriage equality bill being debated or put to the vote on his watch.
Same-sex marriage isn’t the threat.
The threat is turning to outdated religious codes to justify inequality, intolerance and discrimination. The threat is people who live by those same religious codes, persecuting and vilifying people because of sexual orientation. The threat is allowing fundamentalists and extremists to push their own views on the rest of the Australian public, fuelling more hate and discrimination.
And then there is Abbott, ensuring his personal beliefs remain entrenched in legislation to lessen the discomfort he feels about same-sex relationships. Abbott proclaims that he stands for ‘all of us’, that his party has always been the one to ‘turn on the lights’ and he ‘seeks hope, reward and opportunity for everyone’.
Unless that hope and opportunity threatens his personal ideology. Then he will stand in the way of equality and attempt to turn out that light.