The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

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?

Children Need a Mother and a Father – The Sequel

Same-sex marriage is a bad, bad thing, because children need a mother and a father. We’ve all heard the argument, and we all know it’s stupid. Or at least, we should.

As I’ve pointed out before:

  • Same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting are two completely separate issues; and
  • Even if we accept that the two issues are inextricably linked, if you’re going to start preventing people becoming parents there are plenty of better places to start; and
  • The whole argument crumbles when you look at how the children of same-sex couples actually fare against their heterosexual equivalents.

How anyone can still persist with the “won’t someone think of the children?!” hysteria is beyond me – and yet there are plenty of people who do. If you happen to be one of those people, and you’ve somehow contrived to find my arguments above unconvincing, perhaps you should consider this.

According to your logic, the introduction of same-sex marriage will lead to this:

With Marriage Equality

But if you manage to prevent same-sex marriage, and maintain your bigotry and stereotyping, things will continue to look like this:

Without Marriage Equality

Well that’s interesting. It looks like those poor little babies have been replaced with Harleys and pink poodles. But that’s OK, because they really needed a mother and a father.

Although, when you think about it, a bit of existence would also come in handy.

The enemy of my enemy can’t write media releases

The world has many religions, and despite all of them being completely true, they somehow seem to find a lot to disagree about. Whether it’s the primacy of the Pope, the divinity of Baby Jebus (or the virginity of his mother), who gets to interpret the bible, whose revelation was last, or whether a thin, tasteless wafer is actually human meat – starting a fight with another religion is as easy as yelling “TRANSUBSTANTIATION”. Which, once you learn how to say it, is actually pretty easy.

Thankfully, however, there are a few things they can all agree on. Masturbation, for example, appears to be universally considered a bad thing. Although I suspect this may just mean they’re not doing it right (and by “it” I mean themselves). And nipples. Nipples seem to be naughty, as long as they’re attached to a woman (and they usually are). But the one thing that really intrigues me is that, even though they can’t agree on who god actually is, somehow they all know that he hates queers, and wants them to be miserable.

Which of course is why an imam, two pastors, a rabbi, a bishop, a monsignor and some kind of Mormom get together to write a media release condemning the ACT’s Marriage Equality Bill. And boy, is it good. And when I say it’s good, I mean it’s a specious, lazy, disingenuous, self-serving, dishonest pile of crap.

Specious because it appeals to the fact that 70% of people identify as religious, while ignoring the fact that an equal number support marriage equality.

Lazy because it talks of marriage equality’s long term risks, without mentioning any of them.

Disingenuous because it says they recognise the “inherent dignity of all human beings”, even while they seek to deny some people the very thing that makes them human.

Self-serving because it admits that their view of marriage is a “faith tradition”, which by definition means the rest of us are free to ignore it.

And dishonest because all it asks is for the bill “to be subject to community consultation”, implying they will cease their objections if the community approves.

All of which goes to show, whenever a diverse group of people get together to compose a religious document, the result is illogical, contradictory, inconsistent and, I have to say, a little boring.

I can’t imagine where they get that from.

A prediction

Sometime in the near future, marriage equality will come to Australia. It might be during the next parliament, or the one after that, or maybe even the one after that. But it will come.

But that’s not the prediction.

Until that time, the opponents of marriage equality will continue to fight it, tooth and nail. Neither of which is effective against logic.

But that’s not the prediction.

As they have done so many times already, they will paint marriage equality as the worst thing that could possibly happen to us. It will lead to the inevitable and rampant acceptance of incest, pedophilia, bestiality and Alf re-runs. A whole generation of children will grow up in unnatural, mentally-abusive families, and then be forced into hairdressing. That’s if they manage to exist in the first place, since gay people can’t have children, didn’t you know. They’ll tell us it’s the single biggest calamity that will ever befall our little patch of the earth. Seriously.

But that’s not the prediction.

This is the prediction.

Once marriage equality comes in, the objections will stop. The bigoted fear-merchants who fought for so long, and warned of such dire consequences, will put down their tooth and nail, pack up their placards, and fade into obscurity.

If you think about, this seems rather odd, given what they tell us is at stake. If they really believed in their cause, you’d think they’d continue the fight until they won. That’s what we’re doing, after all. But you can bet your gay bottom dollar that they won’t do that at all.

Which, although odd, isn’t really surprising. It seems to happen with every movement for social change. Why is no one out there campaigning against female suffrage? Where are the people who want to deny citizenship to Indigenous Australians? What happened to all the people who thought racial integration sounded the death knell of the New World?

They’re gone.

Or possibly at home, listening to Alan Jones.

Either way, perhaps they don’t believe in their cause as much they think they do.

Block & Roll #3 – Dishing it Out

Block & Roll 3

An open letter to Fred Nile

Dear Reverend the Honourable Mr Fred,

I am writing to you for two reasons. Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on finding love again. Secondly, I thought I’d better let you know that you can’t actually get married.

That may surprise you, so allow me to explain.

1
My personal definition of marriage is “the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, entered into voluntarily for life, as long as the man is not more than one year older than the woman”.

You and your fiancée are 23 years apart, so, obviously, you cannot possibly get married, and to do so would be intolerant of my beliefs.

2
You may think your marriage and my marriage are completely separate, and your perverse version of marriage could not possibly affect the sanctity of my own. But you’d be wrong. I have no evidence for this, however, so you’ll just have to trust me.

3
If I allow you to marry someone 23 years younger, then soon people will want to marry people 30 years younger, and then 50 years younger. Eventually we will have a whole swarm of 90-year-olds wanting to marry embryos, and even you’d have to admit that no one wants that. I mean, even if she could find a dress that small, just imagine how hard it would be to try on in the changing womb. And I don’t even want to think about how the groom would put the ring on at the ceremony. Ew.
_____

I’m really sorry, Reverend the Honourable Mr Fred. I know this has probably been a difficult letter to read. If it makes you feel any better, it’s been a difficult letter for me to write. Mostly because I’m a really bad typist, and my ‘W’ key is a little sticky.

Anywho, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. In particular, feel free to e-mail me when you meet someone new, as I am more than happy to tell you if your choice of partner offends me in any way.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

Don’t call me bigot

There are some things that people don’t being called. Like arsehole, for example. Or bitch. Or Quincy. Most of us are fairly immune to such taunts, however, because of a quiet confidence in our true nature. “That’s OK,” we tell ourselves, “I know I’m not an arsehole, or a bitch. And I definitely possess no quince-like qualities.” There is one label, however, that is almost guaranteed to result in an outpouring of outraged indignation.

No one likes being called a bigot.

And, my, have lots of people been called bigots lately. Same-sex marriage opponents have been called bigots. Same-sex marriage supporters have been called bigots, too. Not even Mr James Bigot of Wetherill Park has been safe, despite assuring everyone that the ‘t’ is silent. But it all became a bit much for some people when our Finance Minister, who is raising a child in a committed lesbian relationship, said that the Australian Christian Lobby, and, by implication, all Christians who shared their view, were “peddling prejudice” and engaging in “bigotry that has no place in a modern Australia”.

Needless to say, a lot of people were a little unhappy. The ACL itself said that “the bigotry card…played by none other than the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Senator Penny Wong [made] no attempt to engage with our argument. Why bother when a slur of Christians will do?” Reverend David Swan shared a similar sentiment, saying that “if Senator Wong could take a moment to engage with the argument that has been proposed rather than simply accuse people of bigotry…then perhaps a better discussion might ensue”. And Gary Bigelow, who I’m told is most definitely not related to Deuce, felt that calling someone a bigot was “divisive and inflammatory…and unworthy of a politician in this country”. Because as we all know, Australian politicians are never divisive or inflammatory, are they? *cough*

So… are any of these criticisms justified?

To answer that question, it might be helpful to revisit what a bigot actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”. I prefer, however, the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract”.

It all comes down to open-mindedness, or, more specifically, a willingness to consider that you might be wrong. If you’re the kind of person who considers the evidence first and forms an opinion second, or if you adjust your view in light of new evidence, then you’re probably in the clear. But if you decide before you think, or you cling doggedly to your opinion as evidence to the contrary piles up around you, then, I’m sorry, but there’s a very good chance that you’re a bigot. And if your opinion is a basis for discrimination against a particular race, gender or sexuality, that “good chance” becomes a certainty.

So I guess the three people above just need to ask themselves two questions.

1
The first question is a simple one: “Does my view form the basis of discriminatory action against a race, gender or sexuality?”

Why yes, yes it does.

2
The second question is slightly harder. “Can I conceive of any evidence that could change my mind?”

Note that this isn’t asking if such evidence exists, but merely if such evidence is possible. Is it possible that same-sex marriage will not automatically lead to plagues of bestiality and incest? Is it possible it will actually increase societal cohesion, and not lead to complete moral decay? Is it conceivable that a study might show that same-sex families are as happy or happier than their heterosexual equivalents?

Sadly, the answer for many of the opponents of marriage equality seems to be “no”. But, strangely, such people are actually less infuriating than the people who answer “yes”. For, while these people will trumpet any evidence that happens to confirm their particular preconception, they will summarily dismiss any evidence that contradicts it. Say hello, Lyle Shelton.

And they do this because they have to. You see, for someone like Lyle, all these many questions are different versions of just one.

When it comes to homosexuality and marriage, could god be wrong?

And I think we all know how Lyle would answer that one.
_________

So, are you one of these people? Are you willing to consider that you, or your god, could be wrong on marriage equality? No? Then you’re a bigot.

And just like anyone called an arsehole, or a bitch, or Quincy, all you need to do now is decide if you care.

Are you qualified?

There has been a lot of talk about referendums1 lately. There is, of course, the local government referendum that has been the talk of dinner parties from Waitara to Wahroonga and everywhere in between. But all talk of that tremendously important and widely-publicised issue ceased when independent MP Tony Windsor called for a referendum on marriage equality. Christian and Muslim groups soon followed suit. Selfish bastards. I wanted to talk about local government.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Here are all the things I know about local government in general, and the related referendum in particular:

  1. I have a local government.
  2. They make me put my bins out on Wednesday night. In my undies, too, because I never seem to remember until after I’m in bed.
  3. There may or may not be a referendum on local government on September 14.

Aaaaand I’m out. I don’t sound very qualified to vote in a referendum on local government, do I? Perhaps I should:

  1. Shelve my hatred of local government (a fairly big ask, given that they force me to drag bins around in my undies);
  2. Go and find out what the actual question is, and what the consequences of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote might be;
  3. Reach a decision based on facts, reason, and the best interests of the people who will be directly affected.

Sounds like a plan.

Actually, now that I think about it, there are a few people who probably aren’t qualified to vote in that other referendum, either. People like Fred Nile, for example. The only thing is he probably doesn’t realise it. So, Fred, if you’re listening, I’ve prepared this helpful guide to help you decide if you should bother voting should the referendum go ahead.

Referendum Eligibility (534x940)

See you on September 14, Fred. Or not.

_____________
Footnotes

  1. Or referenda. Whatever.

What’s wrong with this picture?

If you’re a woman in one of the red boxes, you can marry a man in one of the blue boxes (if joined by a line). But something’s not quite right.

What's wrong with this picture

I know, I know. It seems odd that a Croc-wearing Neo-Nazi can marry a convicted paedophile, right?

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