The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

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?

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.