The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

For the love of god, just be honest

And so, it would seem, the Safe Schools program has ended in NSW. For while our Victorian counterparts vowed to fund the program themselves after Federal funding ended, here in NSW the government is apparently Fred up with it, and has sent it sailing down the Nile.

But fear not! According to Education Minister Rob Stokes, it will be replaced with another program with a broader focus:

Bullying will never be tolerated in NSW public schools — whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason.

Well that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? School can be a horrendous experience for people who are a little different, and we should do whatever we can to eliminate the bullying elicited by such differences. And not just for LGBTIQ students, obviously. As the good minister says, children who are overweight or not white enough or who like golf are bullied, too. And if we’re serious about eliminating bullying from schools, we need to cover all these differences, right?

Well, yes, of course. But there’s a problem. Why is it that the loudest voices advocating for change are also the biggest bullies when it comes to the LGBTIQ community?
_____

You may have noticed lately that there are a few ostensibly contentious issues floating around. Now, I say ostensibly contentious because, really, they aren’t contentious at all. They are rendered contentious, however, by a typically small, but always influential, minority. The most contentious issue of recent times has been, to my mind anyway, the debate around Marriage Equality. But there are, and have been, a multitude of others. The debate around abortion rights, for example, never seems to go away, not to mention the sporadic agitations for euthanasia. Then there is the teaching of scripture in public schools, vaccinations, same-sex adoption and surrogacy, the gender pay gap, climate change, changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, corporate tax cuts, gun control, treatment of refugees, the decision to axe Renegade – and that’s just off the top of my head. The list, it seems lately, is endless.

Thinking about all these issues, and how we debate and decide on things as a society, I was struck by three thoughts:

  1. In most cases, the resistance appears to be geared towards maintaining the status quo;
  2. There is normally a single, core belief at the root of such resistance, which, paradoxically, is never mentioned;
  3. The decision to axe Renegade was the worst decision in the history of mankind. (You should all take a moment to watch the link before proceeding. You will thank me later.)

Thought #1 is not new, and has been observed by countless observers who observe things worthy of observation. Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit, and old habits die hard, with a vengeance, sometimes. Thought #3 is also fairly obvious. I mean come on, he was a cop and good at his job. Why would anyone axe a show like that? Thought #2, however, deserves some attention, if you can spare it.

Let’s look, for a moment, at Marriage Equality. While a large number of nations have embraced it with open arms, and have not yet descended into debaucherous anarchy, in Australia the resistance to change has been as fierce as it has been needlessly prolonged. Countless polls show public support has hovered around 70% for almost a decade, and yet still the opponents of change drone on and on with the same old tired arguments that were debunked on day one. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman, you see. So we can’t possibility change it now. And it’s all about the children. Don’t forget the children.

There’s a problem, however – these arguments fall apart at the smallest nudge with a logic stick. For starters, when you’re in a debate about changing the legal definition of something, you can’t just appeal to the current definition and pretend it’s an argument. Oh, and if you are going to stubbornly point to the legal definition, you can’t claim that marriage is all about children when your cherished definition doesn’t mention children at all. Silly, right? And yet here we are, in 2017, and same-sex couples still cannot marry.

The truth is that there is not a single, logical reason to deny marriage equality. Not one. And yet still people oppose it. Why is that? Why are people still opposed to euthanasia and abortion? Why do people still deny climate change, when there is such overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
_____

In the case of marriage equality, the reason should be obvious – the overwhelming majority of opponents are religious. A survey of some 40,000 Americans conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that, while around 55% of Americans were in favour of marriage equality, 91% of the people who oppose it identify as religious. This can’t be a coincidence. And if it’s not a coincidence, it means that the reason they are opposed to marriage equality is not because of some disingenuous claim like children do best with their biological mother and father. It’s because they view the existence of gay, interesex and trans* people as anything from slightly distasteful to morally reprehensible, depending on affiliation.

This is not, however, a slight on the religious in general. How could it be, when the same survey found that, for every four people who support marriage equality, three of them belong to a church of some kind. Clearly there are a lot of people who are able to either reconcile their decision with their faith, or set it aside for the sake of their LGBTIQ brothers and sisters (and everyone inbetween).

Likewise, this is not an attack on the right of people of faith to oppose marriage equality because of that faith. I don’t agree with it, but if that is their choice according to their conscience, then so be it.

What I do take issue with, however, is deception – if you’re going to deny LGBTIQ couples the right to marry, at least be honest about why.
_____

So how does all this relate to Safe Schools? Well, why don’t we have a look at what some of our favourite people have to say about it, shall we?

“Good that NSW is scrapping so called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying,” said Tony Abbott.

Apparently Tony doesn’t like social engineering presented as something else. Which is interesting, given the $250m his government set aside to put trained chaplains counsellors in government schools.

The Australian Christian Lobby can always be relied upon to fulfill Jesus’ central mission of making life miserable for gay people 1, so let’s see what they have to say:

Make our schools safe for all students
The federally funded ‘Safe Schools’ initiative is supposed to be an anti-bullying program. [But] this radical program is being used to introduce children from primary school age up to sexual concepts that are not age appropriate.

Well they sound like legitimate concerns, don’t they? We must teach children that all bullying is wrong, and the material should be age appropriate. I wonder if Lyle Shelton, the head of the ACL, would change his mind about the program’s LGBTIQ content, if those concerns were addressed? What say you, Lyle?

Despite the rainbow carpet being rolled out in schools, gender theory is highly contested with leading feminists such as Germaine Greer scathing. Women and girls should feel safe in their toilets and change rooms from male-to-female transgender people who have not undergone a sex change, they rightly say. And there is no scientific evidence that anyone is “born gay” or that little boys and girls have been born in the wrong body and that surgery, hormones, tucking or binding are the solution.

Needless to say, your intellectual rigour is on shaky ground, if you’re resorting to “leading feminists such as Germaine Greer”. In any event, we’re getting closer to the crux of the matter – it seems like Lyle is not so much concerned with the program’s specificity or age-appropriateness, as he is with the existence of gay and transgender people themselves.

Even people like Fred Nile can’t seem to just come out and say what’s really on their mind:

Naturally, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of such programs which are ideologically driven with the aim of recruiting children.

To nobody’s surprise, he is happy to follow Tony’s lead, and merrily support the ideological teaching of Scripture in NSW public schools with the aim of recruiting children. But that’s for another time.

Unfortunately, we need to stoop to Bill Muehlenberg to find out what all of the above people are thinking, but are too afraid to say (some LGBTIQ people may want to skip this one):

The war against reality, against biology, against who we are as human beings is getting out of hand. For those of a religious persuasion, it is a direct assault on our Creator and the way we were created. In the beginning God made us male and female. He did not make us with gender fluidity or with a smorgasbord of sexual expression and choices.

And there you have it. Thought #2 in a nutshell. People like Tony Abbott, Lyle Shelton, and Fred Nile exert an extraordinary amount of energy opposing social change. They have thrown up all manner of arguments against marriage equality, euthanasia, abortion and “Safe Schools”. But no matter how many of their concerns you assuage, no matter how many of their arguments you prove misplaced or wrong, their opposition will never waver. For neither Tony Abbott, nor Lyle Shelton, nor Captain Christian himself, Fred Nile, seem to ever mention the one thing – the only thing – on which their opposition is founded.

Their god 2.

Which, when you think about it, is simultaneously a little weird, and perfectly understandable. But also really annoying.

So, to Tony, Lyle, and Nile… I, for one, wish you would talk about your god. Don’t tell us it’s all about someone’s child, unless that child is Baby Jebus. For not only are you denying your own faith, much like Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, and not only would it save us all a helluva lotta debate time, but it’s downright cowardly.

Bill Muehlenberg may be an ignorant buffoon, at least he’s honest.

– Tim
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Footnotes
1. I don’t think this was Jesus’ central mission, but the ACL seems to, judging by the focus of their media releases.
2. Or rather, their own personal interpretation of their god.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Delusions of Adequacy

Australian Christian Lobby

This is the ACL’s idea of an ‘argument’. Note the complete absence of logic of any kind.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is a frustrating organisation, not least because of its militant parochialism and refusal to accept that positions based on a combination of Christian revanchism and bigotry are, in fact, revanchist and bigoted. Its tendency to bleat out an utterly fabricated narrative of persecution, its insistence on blaming some amorphous ‘left wing media conspiracy’ for reverses generally caused by its own media incompetence, and its startling inability to pursue or even to form any kind of logically coherent argument are all extremely annoying. And Lyle Shelton, their managing director, is the kind of attention-seeking, self-pitying, incompetently grandiloquent noisemaker who makes the fists of all right-thinking folk become seriously itchy.

So, given just how annoying they are, it’s not hard to understand why someone blowing up a van in their carpark could immediately be put down to a targeted attack. I myself thought it highly probable, given how I feel every time Shelton opens his stupid gob or mashes ineffectually at his keyboard. And I wasn’t alone in this. There are huge sections of the voting public who apparently take ghoulish glee in attributing any and every act of non-domestic violence to Muslim terrorism or Muslim immigration or Muslims in general, possibly because a narrative as inherently irrational as Islamophobia requires quite a lot of fodder to sustain. Within twenty minutes of the first run of the the story, thousands of comments claiming that this was definitely the work of Islamic State and that the leftard libtard media was deliberately suppressing any mention of this, had engulfed certain pointy-headed and ill-spelled corners of the internet. Incontrovertible, iron-clad arguments like: “It was a quiet area, so it must have been a terrorist attack” were helpfully formulated, presumably to assist the police in their investigation, and not to muddy the waters with irrational reactionism. Quite a valuable contribution given that the poor, helpless counter-terrorism and  security experts of the world tend to be stuck with the idea that mass casualty attacks are generally conducted in busy areas at busy times of day. In order to cause mass casualties. Such narrow, blinkered thinking was obviously much enriched by the public’s insightful contributions.

In any case, during the initial phase of this story, the ACL actually had my sympathies. It doesn’t matter how mendacious, petty, bigoted or deluded one’s beliefs are – no law abiding organisation deserves to be the target of political violence. Shelton’s initial Twitterings were mostly generous and politic, though his comment, “hard to believe this could happen in Australia” sounded an ominous warning of the stupidity to come. And my word did he deliver. It appears that in the wake of the explosion, his first and admirable priority was to see to the welfare of his staff, which meant cutting short his holiday and returning to Canberra. In view of the fact that the building was empty at the time, and that none of his staff were injured or killed or, presumably, present at the time, this seemed a little odd. But then, if someone blows up the front of your building, it makes sense that you should repair immediately to the scene. It appears, however, that upon his return he did little other than stand in front of cameras and say stupid things stupidly to the media.

Australian Christian Lobby

Lyle Shelton, proclaiming his organisation’s suspect martyrdom.

By the end of the day, the ground was laid out as follows. The Canberra police had interviewed the suspect, who was unknown to police, and therefore presumably to domestic intelligence, and who said that his sole aim was to “blow myself up”. This, and the host of other factors militating against the interpretation of this event as an attempted mass casualty attack led the police to conclude that there was “no ideological or political motive” behind the explosion. Shelton, of course, wasn’t at all happy about this, and by evening he had proclaimed that the police had been too quick to jump to conclusions, jumped himself to the conclusion that the ACL was the victim of a terror attack and blamed the Greens and other parliamentarians for inciting anti-Christian terrorism by using the word ‘bigot’ to describe his bigoted views.

And then, of course, the story faded from view. This is partly because the only sources of credible information are a tight-lipped police command and a man with burns to 75% of his body, but mostly because the ACL is basically not all that important. Sure, it’s loud in its claims to represent the Christian community, but there isn’t any real evidence that it does. Its base, purportedly largely made up of Pentecostal and non-conformist churches, does not in fact support its views on marriage equality. Its measurable impact on elections is negligible to non-existent. To an informed observer, the ACL’s principle role is to be trotted out in front of the cameras whenever journalists want to provide the appearance of balance by padding out a panel with a talking head from the lunatic Christian right. And this represents, for me, the single most frustrating thing about the ACL – their persistent and unfounded delusions of adequacy. On no level do they actually contribute in any meaningful way to the debate on any issue, but their notoriety and fatuous self importance means that they have a profile which is all out of proportion to their relevance.

So, in the unlikely event that there’s anyone out there who actually is planning an attack on the ACL, I would urge you to reconsider. Not only would such an action be illegal, immoral and inhuman, it would also be of material assistance in backing their delusional narrative of persecution. They’re just not important enough to attack. In fact, I’m convinced that they’re not even important enough to respond to. Like every other screaming toddler, I firmly believe that the best tactic by far is to simply ignore them.

Stop the plebiscites!

It was a crisp winter’s morning in Canberra, much like any other. A thin layer of frost was doing its best to hide the lovely brown grass, no one was visiting the Mint, there were weird, circular bus shelters everywhere, and most of the city was on their way to Fyshwick to buy some porn. But this particular morning was different, for one very special reason. Tony Abbott had an idea.

Needless to say, no one was more surprised than Tony himself. There he was, getting ready for his reasonably important job, in the same way he always did. “Stop the sleep!” he said to himself as he woke up. “Stop the shower!” he said to the shower, which never seemed to listen to him. “Stop the toast!” he said to his wife, who was thinking about the price of carbon while ironing his toast. “Stop the boats!” he said randomly because he couldn’t help it. And then, it happened.

“Margy, my brain hurts,” he said as he rubbed his head.

“Now Tony, I told you not to overdo your morning slogans. Save some energy for later.”

“I don’t think it’s that, Margy. I think… wait… OMG… Margy! I have an idea!”

Margy looked stunned, and had a sudden urge to request permission to gently remove her husband’s blue tie in an uncontrollable act of Catholic passion. “What is it, my captain? Tell me!”

Tony then started nodding his head in silence for several minutes, before his wife reminded him that he wasn’t saying anything.

“Well, ah, Margy, I, ah… I have a new, ah, slogan,” he said finally, trying to control his excitement. “We’ve stopped the boats, let’s have a vote… on marriage equality… sometime after the next election!”

“Oh that’s brilliant, Tony,” said Margy. “And so catchy. You will definitely be able to implement that idea when you’re still Prime Minister sometime after the next election.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Or, at least, it should have been. For, unbeknownst to Tony, he wasn’t the only one who had an idea that morning.
_____

Sadly for Tony, Malcolm’s idea was to get rid of Tony, which he did earlier this week. And sadly for Tony’s idea, Malcolm was on the record as saying that holding a plebiscite was stupid, given that the issue could “be resolved in this Parliament one way or another in a couple of weeks”.

On the plus side, however, Malcolm is a politician, and politicians are nothing if not masters at manipulating their own words to suit someone else’s agenda. Thus, a plebiscite was suddenly a perfectly fine idea, and free from the apparent intellectual burden of being Communications Minister, Malcolm could now communicate that “each approach has its advantages”:

One, I suppose, is faster and costs less. The other one gives every Australian a say and it has a cost; democracy has a price. Giving everybody a say on an important issue is surely a very legitimate and reasonable approach.

I would like to thank the honourable member for his comment, because it perfectly encapsulates why a marriage equality plebiscite is the worst idea a leader of this country has had since Harold Holt went swimming with a sore shoulder in rough surf with no lifeguards.

On the face of it, it seems like a reasonable approach to take. Countless polls have shown that the Australian public is largely in favour of marriage equality, so if our parliamentarians can’t get their Marriage Act together, why not legitimise the will of the people with an official national vote?

Well, there are a number of reasons, which Malcolm very helpfully raised while explaining his recent about-face.

1
There is, of course, the cost. The Australian Electoral Commission has estimated that holding a plebiscite after the next federal election, which was Tony’s preferred method, would cost upwards of $150 million. Let that sink in for a minute. We are so short of funds that we apparently need to charge people $7 to go the doctor, cut foreign aid to Africa by 70%, and make Bronwyn Bishop travel along the ground, but we have $150 million to spend finding out something that polling companies have already found out for free.

Malcolm is right – democracy does have a cost. Breakfast has a cost, too. But it doesn’t mean you should spend $150 million on a bowl of Weet Bix.

2
At this point, same sex marriage opponents will probably say that we have to have a plebiscite, because those pesky poll results aren’t reliable. You can get a poll to say whatever you like, so the argument goes, depending how you word the question. This, apparently, is the reason that groups like the Australian Christian Lobby are actually in favour of the plebiscite idea, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they will lose.

Now let that sink in for a minute.

A group that is staunchly against marriage equality and believes poll results can be manipulated wants to hold the biggest poll possible on an issue where they are almost certain to lose.

No, not suspicious at all.

3
“I’m just giving everyone a say,” says Malcolm. Isn’t that nice? It’s what we’ve wanted all along, isn’t it?

No, it’s not.

For starters, we didn’t get a say when the government wanted to introduce the Medicare co-payment, or slash foreign-aid to Africa. We didn’t get to choose our Governor General, or our Treasurer, or the Speaker. And that’s fine, because that’s why we elect a government. So stop stalling and govern.

Secondly, I think it’s incredibly condescending and, actually, downright insulting to have the majority decide on whether a minority should have a fundamental right. Especially when that right will not affect the majority at all. Sure, if the plebiscite goes ahead, equality will probably win, but it wasn’t that long ago that a vote would have gone the other way. And I don’t think the legitimacy of a plebiscite should be based on which way the vote will go.
_____

There is no doubt that marriage equality is coming – it’s only a matter of when, and how. And while our elected representatives dither, it can be tempting to see a plebiscite as an acceptable middle ground. It’s not. The arguments for marriage equality are irrefutable. But “we’ll win if it goes to a really expensive non-binding public vote sometime this decade” isn’t one of them. Right is right, and it’s time our politicians acted like it.

And if you’re still not convinced, you just need to remember one thing.

It was Tony’s idea.

‘Free Kim Davis’ Is The Worst Voucher Ever

kim-davis-meme-410x220

For those of you who don’t know, Kim Davis is the County Clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Recently, the Supreme Court quite reasonably ordered her to “do her damn job” (not a quote, but it should be) and, when she still refused to do so, Davis was jailed for contempt. Of court, that is. Unfortunately, contempt of gays and lesbians isn’t yet a criminal offence.

Davis, who we should remember is a tiny functionary in a very small county, has become unreasonably famous for her continued failure to fulfil her functions as a County Clerk. She has repeatedly cited her religious beliefs as grounds for refusal, being apparently unbothered about breaking the oath she swore to her God to fulfil her duty as a County Clerk. Despite her flagrant breach of promise with The Lord, American Christians of the conservative, fundamentalist and batshit crazy variety have flocked to her banner, starting the hashtag #FreeKimDavis. In one of Twitter’s few moments of joy, the hashtag was quickly inundated with trolls. Some Twitterzens commented that a coupon for a free Kim Davis was possibly the worst deal ever. Others worried that she might turn gay in jail, thus making a highly unwelcome addition to the community. There’s a whole hilarious list of them here.

Davis and her supporters clearly think that she’s a prisoner of conscience, a martyr for Jesus and a shining beacon of rectitude for the rectally retentive. I, however, think that she’s a grandstanding idiot. I mean, let’s unpack this ‘prisoner of conscience’ thing. Generally, if you swear an oath to do a job and then find that the job requires you to do stuff you don’t like, you resign. What you don’t do is paralyse a branch of local government by refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, and then any marriage licenses at all. Especially not when you’re on the government payroll and the people’s lives you’re disrupting are paying you to mess up what should be one of the happiest moments of their lives. And, incidentally, also paying for you to employ your son to do the same.

Okay, so maybe she’s trying to change the law. In the States, some fundamental changes to the law can be made by taking the government to court. Thing is, though, she’s been to every conceivable level of court in the land and each and every one of them has come back with an answer that would have been obvious to anybody possessing enough brain cells to power an amoeba. The answer was that government functionaries, and especially elected ones, are required to act in accordance with the law. Duh. Double duh, because not only has she failed in her duty as an official, a public servant and a human being, she has failed to make a legal argument that had any chance whatsoever of succeeding. If an interpretation of the constitution produces a ruling you don’t like, you challenge that interpretation. What you don’t do is launch a dozen legal actions that can be summed up with the words, “But I don’t wanna!”.

So her continued refusal to do her duty is simply churlish. She’s not Daniel in the lion’s den. She’s a moron in a holding cell. And while I don’t really want anybody to rot in jail for their beliefs, I agree with Twitter. A free Kim Davis would be the worst coupon ever.

The Arguments Against (and why they’re invalid)

This is a long and not particularly funny post. Lately, a battery of arguments (of sorts) has emerged within the narrative of the anti-equality movement. The intention here is to isolate 5 of the most prominent (meaning the 5 most frequently encountered within a single 24 hour news cycle) and subject them to forensic examination. Whether you read, skim or cherry pick, I hope to show fairly conclusively that these arguments, despite their varying degrees of speciousness, are uniformly, laughably invalid. They rest variously on faulty or bigoted reasoning, egregious ignorance or a breathtaking circularity of logic. The point being, there don’t seem to be any valid arguments against. So what does the ‘anti’ position consist of? With no logical basis, what can it possibly consist of?

In the text below you will find 5 arguments and responses. The responses are not intended to be exhaustive, but attempt to cover the main grounds for objection arising from each argument. Additions, comments, dissent or abuse are all welcomed. Cheques and money orders are preferred…


 

Argument the 1st:

Same sex marriage jeopardises the safety and normal development of children raised by same sex partners.

Response:

This is a specious argument, made initially credible by some quite nasty bigotry and some garden variety legal ignorance. Basically, the reasoning on which this claim rests relies on a belief in the abnormality of same-sex couples and accepting that homosexuals are somehow inherently more dangerous to children than heterosexuals. Both ideas are, of course, bollocks.

Furthermore, all of this is essentially irrelevant in the case of same sex marriage. The adoption of children by same sex couples is a completely separate issue and, incidentally, already legal. The idea that marriage will somehow ease or facilitate adoption is untenable. The idea that it somehow increases risks to children is simply offensive, as well as being demonstrably untrue.

But what about the children? I guess it’s still relevant in the broader context of the question as  a social issue. Is there any evidence available on the impact of same-sex parenting on children and their development? Well, sort of – it is still very early days and sufficient statistical data simply do not exist to prove anything one way or the other. Early data does, however, seem to suggest that children with 2 gay parents are materially, developmentally and emotionally better off than children with only 1 parent of any orientation.

In addition, a recent US study aimed at consolidating a large number of recently completed, smaller scale studies, was unable to determine any kind of difference or gap in the upbringing, education or mental health of children raised by same sex couples. Similar research conducted in Australia actually points to benefits (cognitive) without any serious accompanying deficits.

 

Citations below:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00678.x/full

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/23/us-usa-gaymarriage-study-idUSKBN0P32AM20150623

https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/same-sex-parented-families-australia/childrens-wellbeing-same-sex-parented-families

 

Argument the 2nd:

Our economic region being Asia, we should probably attempt to conform with the norms of Asian cultures around us.

Response:

This is ridiculous. Asian nations don’t expect us to be like them. This is largely because they don’t really care what we believe or how we choose to live. They expect us to trade, to avoid insulting or confronting them where possible, and to focus our economic, diplomatic and military efforts in the region. Beyond that, they couldn’t care less how weird we are. Indonesians, for example, already think we’re crazy. This is because of the widespread practice of celebrating dog birthdays. The legalisation of same-sex marriage would have as much impact on our neighbours as the habitual practice of inter-species marriage in rural South India has on us: none, once we’ve finished giggling. And as for Asia not redefining marriage in the last hundred years? Demonstrably untrue – every former colony of anyone has had Western matrimonial conventions thrust upon them, usually followed in quick succession by Stalinist or Maoist interpretations, both of which struggled to integrate with traditional modes and practices and all of which have had to be swept away and/or re-calibrated in the post-colonial, post cold war world.

Further to this, our spiritual, intellectual and cultural heritage is emphatically not from Asia. We are a Western nation, espousing Western values and practising Western culture. Our neighbours and trading partners are aware of this and do not expect it to change, largely because they are not quite as stupid as some members of our Upper House.

 

Argument the 3rd:

Asia will think we’re decadent.

Response:

They already do and, unsurprisingly they don’t particularly care. Our cultures agree on practically nothing. Strangely, we still seem capable of sustaining complex, multi-faceted relationships with the Asian nations around us. This is probably because international relations has more to do with geopolitics, trade, military doctrines and regional policy priorities than it does with minor points of public morality. Most Asian nations currently see the West in general as questionably sane. The feeling appears to be mutual. The impact on our regional relationships is negligible.

 

Argument the 4th:

Legalising same sex marriages will initiate an uncontrollable spiral of permissiveness that will eventually lead to people marrying animals, cows, children, trees and iPhones.

Response:

Marrying more than one spouse,  your dog or a twelve year old are all illegal in this country. I’m not sure, but I think marrying your phone is a no-no too. Changing the provisions of the marriage act is not going to effect the legality of pederasty, bestiality or polygamy in any way whatsoever. As for the ‘slippery slope’ argument, the progression presented in this argument is logically unsound. Homosexuality is not a disease, is not illegal and is not innately harmful to anybody. Homosexuality is neither subversive nor inherently lawless by nature. The idea, therefore, that granting homosexual Australians a single legal right will lead to a general unravelling of the institution of marriage is a ludicrous one. We will not suddenly decide that all kinds of deviance in marriage are acceptable just because we’ve allowed same sex marriage. This is because same sex relationships are not deviant behaviour. Approving of them cannot then lead to approving of deviant forms of behaviour. Bestiality, polygamy, child marriage – all of these have been tested by courts and custom over many years. As a result, these practices were found to be harmful and unacceptable. So much so, in fact, that their prohibition is not something that is ever seriously questioned. There is no good reason to believe that this will change.

 

 Argument the 5th:

Marriage is defined as between a man and a woman and has been for some time.

Response:

Marriage in this country is defined by an act of parliament. It is worth noting that this definition, often quoted as if it were an ancient dictum written deep in the bedrock of our society, was actually introduced in 2004 by no less a personage than Mr Philip Ruddock. This was in response to events in England, where ambiguities in their equivalent statute had allowed same sex marriage to be legitimised in a manner that circumvented proper or due process. The definition amendment was proposed in order to prevent the same sort of ‘loophole’ situation arising here, and seems to have received significant support from both sides of the house. The definition is therefore suspect in the context of this issue – it was made, in part, with the deliberate intent to invalidate same sex marriage. It lacks independence and authority as evidence for the ‘no’ case, being little more than a repetition of it that happens to have found its way into a law. It would be like interpolating a verse into the bible requiring horses to wear beanies and then quoting that bible passage as proof that beanies are essential equine apparel. Why is it proof? It’s in the bible. Why is marriage between a man and a woman? Because it’s defined as such in the Marriage Act (1961). Bollocks. It was changed to ‘man and a woman’, so it can just as easily be changed back.

Prior to 2004, as far as the law was concerned, marriage was a process involving property, tax and shared responsibility, among other things, which was made actual by the involvement of two competent adults, a license and a contract. The idea that the two adults should be differently gendered has its basis not in law, but in religion and, by extension, convention. It is a part of marriage as a sacrament of the church, which is something totally distinct from marriage as a process of law. The law quite rightly lacked the ‘man and woman’ requirement prior to 2004 because the law has no business regulating for the whims and preferences of gods. The fact that one of these preferences has been crow-barred into law by religious conservatives on the pretext of ‘procedural robustness’, does not make this faith-based definition any more or less valid, or even relevant. Liberal politicians, including the PM, are citing the definition of marriage as if it possessed some kind of definitive authority. It has nothing of the sort. The law lacked a definition of marriage because there was no functional need for one. The only purpose it serves now is to exclude same-sex marriage from the definition of marriage, a view that is at odds with the majority of Australians. The exclusion of same-sex marriage is based on the beliefs, religious and otherwise, held by senior members of the LNP, reflected in their frankly loopy Christian Right support base and, most importantly, entirely unrepresentative of and irrelevant to the beliefs of a clear majority of the Australian population. What Mr Abbott is actually saying when he quotes the definition is:

“Marriage was defined by the Conservative religious right, otherwise known as me and my colleagues. Marriage is between a man and a woman because we say so and God agrees.”

 


 

 

A media release from the Australian Christian Lobby

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release
_____

The Australian Christian Lobby has questioned the wisdom of a campaign by some Australian corporations supporting a change to the definition of marriage.

“I just wonder if they have thought about how legislating a family structure which causes children to miss out on one of their parents is fair,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

In order to keep his position internally consistent, Mr Shelton then also called for legislation to force married couples to have children, and to ban marriage for couples who don’t want children or who have children from previous marriages, and to ban unmarried couples from having children, and to force married couples without children to get divorced, and to ban divorce. When asked how he would both ban and require divorce, Mr Shelton shouted “OMG THAT TREE LOOKS LIKE JESUS!”, and ran from the room.

When he returned, Mr Shelton went on to say, “This debate needs to move beyond politically correct ideology to a mature and open debate. Men have pee-pees and women have hoo-has, and that’s all there is to it. Furthermore, you’re all poopy-heads, and I will now close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears until you leave”.

Noting that the Football Federal of Australia had also backed the campaign, Mr Shelton wondered where this left the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father. “I wonder where this leaves the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father,” he wondered. “Mexico? Aruba? That place where all the refugees come from? Even if it leaves them exactly where they were before, playing soccer and believing a child should be raised by their mother and father, I’m pretty sure they all stand around during games thinking about children not being raised by their mothers and fathers instead of thinking about whether they’re in an off-side position, and it will make them sad to think that the governing body wants to change the definition of marriage, and much sadder than the thousands of gay, trans and intersex players who stay in the closet because they think the governing body and society in general won’t accept them. I just really feel for them.”

“The corporates involved in this latest campaign really are not showing very much tolerance to those in the community who have a different view about marriage and the rights of children,” Mr Shelton said. “Of course, if the FFA came out in support of my own personal view of marriage, that would be fine.”

When asked whether he understood the meaning of irony, and whether it was intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance, Mr Shelton yelled “POOPY-HEADS!” and ran from the room.

END OF MESSAGE

Whatever it’s about, it ain’t about the children

There are a lot of arguments floating around in the continuing marriage equality debate, but there is one argument that just… won’t… die. Which I guess makes it (a) a little bit like Jesus, and (b) a little ironic given that the vast majority of its proponents are big fans (of Jesus, I mean, not marriage equality). It’s a textbook case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious. And it annoys the crap out of me.

In its simplest form, it consists of a middle-aged white man wearing a brown cardigan and corduroy pants, running around in circles screaming “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!”. The slightly more academic version, however, goes something like this:

    Same-sex1 couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry because:

  1. Every child has a right to be raised by their mother and father; and
  2. Other things being equal, children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents.

Let’s have a look at these in turn.

1
This statement is obviously predicated on the assumption that the very purpose of marriage is children. And yes, traditionally almost every couple that traditionally walked down the aisle did so because traditionally that’s what you did when you traditionally wanted children. Traditionally that kind of made sense at the time, because traditionally no one really liked bastards. But tradition can take a hike, because not only are most of my good friends absolute bastards, but nowadays lots and lots and lots of couples get married with no intention of ever having children. Some couples even get married knowing that they can’t have children, even if they wanted to (say hello, Fred Nile!). Which is perfectly fine, and in some cases, probably for the best (say hello again, Fred Nile!).

The corollary to this argument is that, because marriage is all about children, any same-sex couple who is allowed to wed will make their marriage about children as well. Because that’s what marred couples do, see? That will of course involve at least three people out of biological necessity (or in the language of the bigot, “Poofs gotta get eggs from somewhere”), and there is a risk that the resultant child will never get to know the owner of the ovary (or nut) from whence they came. The consequences of allowing same-sex marriage, therefore, are very, very bad.

But let’s break that down.

There are, right now in Australia, lots of gay couples that want children. And do you know what they do? They have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who want children and then have children, except they can’t get married. There are also lots of gay couples who don’t want children. And do you know what they do? They don’t have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who don’t want children and don’t have children, except they don’t get abortions. Straight singles go out and have children, too. So do gay singles. And intersex and trans couples and singles. All of this is going on right now, with or without marriage equality. And there isn’t anything you or I or Fred Nile or the ACL or Bill Meuhlenberg can do about it.

What this argument is basically saying, then, is this: “The purpose of marriage is children, but you can have children without getting married, and you can get married if you don’t want children, and you can get married if you can’t have children, and there are thousands of gay couples out there who want children and could have children if they wanted to but aren’t having children because they can’t get married, because marriage is all about children, apart from all the married couples without children”.

Or, put another way, “I don’t like gays, and, furthermore, I don’t like gays”.

The only way this argument could possibly make sense is if people only get married to have children, and non-hetero couples aren’t having children because they can’t get married. And since neither of those things is true, the argument doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

It makes even less sense if you follow it one step further: If you truly believe that stopping same-sex marriage will prevent non-hetero couples having children, you are essentially saying that, rather than having non-traditional parents, it is better that those children don’t exist at all. Which is odd, given that almost everyone against same-sex marriage also follows that whole “right to life” thing. Think about it.

2
The second half of the “won’t someone think of the children” argument says that the children of gay parents fare worse than the children of hetero parents.

They don’t.

That should be the end of it, of course, but for some reason same-sex marriage opponents aren’t too impressed with “science”. Unless of course it’s bogus, discredited science that supports their established prejudice.

Even if we’re being incredibly generous, and concede that non-traditional families aren’t ideal, no reasonable person should be able to argue that the outcomes of such families are catastrophic enough to warrant their complete abolition. We know this because, if the outcomes were catastrophic, marriage equality opponents would be telling us about that, instead of mindlessly appealing to a specious defense of an outdated tradition.

Besides which, as we’ve already established, the marriage equality debate isn’t about children anyway. If you want to argue against same-sex parenting, go do it someplace else.
_____

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that this argument is a classic case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious.

There’s no denying that there is a strong correlation between religious beliefs and opposition to marriage quality. And there’s no denying that the generally accepted position of all three Abrahamic religions is that marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman. Statistically speaking, the chance that this is due to pure coincidence is infinitesimally small. That alone should be enough to convince you that any time someone says “Won’t someone think of the children”, what they are really saying is “Won’t someone think of Baby Jebus”.

If you happen to be one of those people, however, and you genuinely believe that your opposition to marriage equality isn’t religiously motivated, ask yourself this.

If we, as a society, could somehow address all your concerns, would you still oppose it?

What if we could guarantee that all children raised by same-sex couples got to know their biological parents? Or if all those useless, horrible same-sex parents undertook a year-long course on how to be as good at parenting as heterosexuals? Or, perhaps better still, all married same-sex couples were forbidden from having any children at all?

Granted, those seem a little far-fetched. What about this, then: what if a multitude of independent scientific studies were published that proved that the children of same-sex couples actually do better than their heterosexual equivalents? If it’s all about the children, surely you wouldn’t object then, would you?

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but… yes, yes you would.

And if that’s the case, then you should wait for your cognitive dissonance to subside a little, grab your bible, and see yourself out. Because you’re simply not qualified for meaningful debate.

_____

1. I use “same-sex couple” here, for the sake of brevity, to mean any non-heterosexual couple.

Another open letter to Fred Nile

Dear the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred,

People are always picking on politicians. Take Tony, for example. No please, take him. I think you two would get along great. He thinks women sit around ironing all day dreaming up new ways to withhold sex from the men. There must be tens of bigots who agree with him, but you knight one racist monarch and everyone has a hissy fit. I don’t think that’s fair the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred.

People have been picking on you a bit lately, too. Like when you recently re-married, and everyone went nuts. Sure, you lost your wife, which was bad, but four hours later you found a new wife, which was good. She’s also a lot younger than you, which is good, but she’s too old to have children, which is bad. But it means you won’t have any more children, which is probably good. Now I’m not saying that it was too soon to re-marry, or that she’s too young for you, or that biologically-childless marriages should be illegal, but I found the whole thing repulsive. What a stroke of luck, then, that my opinion on your relationships is completely irrelevant, and you could just do what you wanted. Isn’t that nice?

Then you said that the only man in the Lindt cafe siege was the man with the gun, and everyone went nuts again. Which is just silly. Sure, it hurt a little to know that I wasn’t actually a man. But on the plus side all I need to do is be charged with murdering my partner and sexually assaulting six women and then take a whole bunch of people hostage with a gun, and my manly manliness with be restored. So it’s not all bad.

Finally, you’ve started your political campaigning. And some genius, who is probably you, since I can’t imagine there is more than one genius in your party, came up with this, and posted it to your Facebook page:

In nature...1

I’m tempted to think there might be more than one genius at your party, however, since someone else has since taken it down. Which is a shame, because reading between the lines, I think it was a really good message:

In nature...2

You are absolutely right, the Honourable Revered Mr Fred – equality is a social construct. Being a genius, you would have also noticed that the society you live in is not only itself a social construct, but is filled with lots and lots of other social constructs. Things like parliaments, and preferential voting, and scamming your way into a lifetime pension with only 2% of the vote, and religion, and marrying a much younger post-menopausal woman four hours after your last wife died. You know, all the things that don’t exist in nature, but have been maliciously thrust upon you against your will. It’s just not fair.

Well that’s all from me, the Honourable Reverend Mr Fred. I have to go and eat someone a lot smaller than me. Not eating people a lot smaller than me is a social construct. And I know how you hate those kind of things.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

What Are We All Talking About?

I read Tim’s post ‘Keeping it Simple’ recently. It was about marriage equality and it was compassionate, heartfelt, sensible and correct. What in part made it so sensible was that it simply ignored almost every aspect of the marriage equality debate. The fact that I agreed with his proposition and his approach made me wonder: am I some kind of bigot? Why am I so ready to immediately dismiss so much argument and so many complex positions? Why am I so convinced that I am right? Well, it’s because I am. It’s really very simple.

Firstly, we live in a society that not only champions liberty and equality, it’s one that claims to have achieved equal rights for all sorts of people, including homosexuals. The simple fact of the matter is that if there are legal statuses not available to gay couples, this claim to have achieved equality is false. It really is just a matter of civil and legal equality. Does it exist in this case? No. Should it? Yes. There really isn’t much more to say about that.

Secondly, there’s the religious objections. Let’s leave aside all this ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ business as it’s plainly ridiculous. As I often like to say – if homosexuality is unnatural, then why do penguins do it? The fundamental objection from the major Christian churches seems to boil down to ownership of the institution of marriage. Which is a little bit stupid. Marriage certainly exists as a sacrament in the major churches, but anyone who’s been to a wedding is probably going to have a vague memory of the bride and groom filling out and signing some forms. Government forms, in fact. Because marriage also exists as a legal state. If a church doesn’t want to deliver a sacrament to a gay couple, that’s totally fine with me. I suspect that the 90 odd percent of the population that fails to interface with the church on any kind of regular basis doesn’t give a shit either. This does not constitute a rational or valid reason to attempt to block a government from granting legal married status to whomsoever it pleases. So that side of things is pretty simple too.

So what, in actual fact, are we all talking about? What is with all the ludicrous posturing, toxic prejudice and irrelevant hysteria? It boils down to two very, very simple questions:

  1. Should gay people have equal rights?
  2. If gay people have equal rights, should they be allowed to do all the stuff that straight people do?

The answer to both questions is ‘yes’.

 

Keeping it simple

I’ve been to a lot of weddings. And I went to another one on Friday. It was pretty much like all the others – the beer was cold, the canapés were warm, and the guests were hot. But as I stood chatting to new friends, waiting for the bride to arrive, a nervous tension suddenly filled the room. What’s that sound? Are people whispering? Why yes, Tim, yes they are. And the whispering is getting louder… spreading through the room like Vegemite. Which is to say, pretty quickly, but not as quickly as mayonnaise. Eventually, the whispers made their way to me, and my eyes, once bright with anticipation, were now glistening with shock and sadness – the bride wasn’t coming.

Which is just as well, because the grooms didn’t really need one.

Yes, grooms. For this wasn’t just any wedding. It was a same-sex wedding. So there wasn’t really any nervous tension. And there was no whispering, or shock, or sadness. There wasn’t even any Vegemite, but it wasn’t my party, so I shouldn’t complain. There was, however, a large group of very happy people, gathered together to celebrate with Michael and Gregory.

And as I stood there, one smiling face amongst many, I was struck by a sudden thought. This wedding was remarkable, but only for the fact that it shouldn’t be remarkable. And then I had another thought, which was also remarkable, because I rarely have two thoughts so close together.

The whole same-sex marriage ‘debate’ is really quite simple. It’s not a battle between competing ideologies. It’s not about political point-scoring. It’s not about trying to reach a middle ground that we can all be happy with. It’s not about gay and straight, left and right, liberals and conservatives, or compassionate realists and Bill Muehlenberg. It’s not about tradition, slippery slopes, or flawed science. And it sure as shït aint about Jesus.

When you strip away all the theories and theology, you’re left with just one thing.

A couple.

Two people who have had the good fortune to find a partner, but the apparent misfortune of being gay. Who tell us they’ve found love, only to be told that it’s not the right kind. Who want to stand up before their family, their friends and their country, and proclaim their love without shame or fear. That’s all it’s ever been about. Two people, in love, who want the same chance at happiness that the rest of us take for granted.

I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. Do you?