I just received my postal vote survey in the mail this morning and have already ticked ‘Yes’ and sent it back. Simple, not divisive or hurtful or hateful. An easy question with, for me at least, and easy answer.
On this blog I very rarely engage in political or social topics, but this one is both timely and important enough for me to risk polarising my readers. Below represents a simple summary of my response to the aspects of the debate that I have read or heard people express.
For those who are unsure about which way to vote, I hope this helps.
This is not about Gay. It is about Equality.
This vote is not about gaydom or asking you for your approval or acceptance of same sex relationships that are all already happening, legally and happily without any reference to you. This is not about childbearing or rearing in same sex couples. Again, this is already happening very happily and, at the very least, as successfully as it is in traditional heterosexual relationships. This is simply to allow the government, the State, to formally recognise two people as married - joined - that's it.
Might not be a big deal for most, but the ability to do simple things like finance and purchase their family home, and easily bequeath their stuff to each other and any dependents is currently not available to same sex couples. But moreover 'being married' matters - my wife and I were engaged for several years before we were married. Not much else changed in a practical sense when we were married, but it feels different and it matters.
This is the vote we have, so vote.
Many people, myself included, think this vote is a colossal and pointless waste of time and money. However, the money is being spent, so just get on with it.
“It’s dangerous to even have this public debate”
The 'dangerous' argument bleated from the left goes something like this; “the LGBTI people are an oppressed and fragile minority. The Conservatives who want to prevent SSM are mean, hurtful and horrible people who, if allowed the opportunity to debate, will say a lot of hurtful things about gay people. It will divide the community."
I've even heard it alleged that allowing a public debate is akin to having 'blood on your hands', as the debate may be so hurtful that is will lead to the suicide of vulnerable people. This position is wrong. "They might really hurt people’s feelings" is, not a reason to not have a debate or air the conversation. Authenticity precedes happiness.
If you are for SSM then engage in the debate, state the reasons why it is a good idea, argue against the reasons why other people think it isn't and allow the ideas to be tested - that is what liberal science is. Over time, the best ideas survive.
Also, the process is quick and simple. You get the letter, you tick a box, you post it back - done. Not a long and drawn out process at all.
The “Not My Vote.”
The "Not my vote" argument is even worse. Retired Chief Justice Kirby and others are encouraging people to abstain as this poll treats him, and other SS couples as second class citizens. I don’t think it does, but even if it did, that is why you/we should vote and vote yes.
The whole point of this debate is to enable citizens to treated equally. Abstaining from the vote is childish petulance. Nothing is more likely to delay SSM than a weak "yes” vote in this poll.
I know it isn't binding, I know and agree it is a colossal and largely pointless waste of money. I agree it would have been much simpler to reverse the change John Howard made a couple of decades ago. Yes, Yes, Yes - however this is the process we have, and the only thing that will absolutely guarantee the waste and pointlessness of it is if a large bunch of people who do care choose to abstain and give the "No" vote more weight.
Sidebar: A “No” is really a “Not Yet”
Same Sex Marriage will occur - at some point. The most successfully optimistic outcome from the "No" campaign will be to delay it for a few years, or a decade. The moral arc of history has shown time and time again that moral progress is the progressive trend to increase the enfranchisement of people and groups of people, and improve individual freedoms.
Whatever happens, the Labor party will enact a change when they are next in power. They'll just do it, they've already stated it is a priority and that they would prefer a simple act of parliament. So whether it is this parliament, or the one after or the one after that, Labor will, at some point, get back in power and then any success in the "No" campaign will be to naught.
The poll is a waste of money and will be a complete waste - unless there is a clear unequivocal message of "Yes". Anything marginal simply keeps the question open. A strong "No" vote will simply delay the debate for a few years. A "No" vote doesn't make this question go away.
God says "no" - "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”
Australia is secular and the laws are for all Australians. Atheists get married without any reference to the bible or any religious text (just like my wedding), the rich and varied spiritual practices of Australians means that a Catholic Christian wedding is flawed in the eyes of Hindus, Jews, Muslims.
We have an obligation to the nation state - the population as a whole - to do what is fair. This includes the people who don't see marriage the same way as you. You can still practice your religion in your way, and your religious freedom comes at a price - that of allowing others to live their lives in their way within the law.
If you want your religious freedom protected in Australia the only way is to ensure Australia to remain secular, and allow the rest of the population to marry in whatever heathen way they deem fit.
Also, a change in this law does not make same sex marriage compulsory, you and your church can still discriminate, if you like.
A vote for "yes" is as much a vote for maintaining your religious freedom, as it is a vote for freedom generally.
It's not 'normal/natural'
We ought to be well past this, but it still arises, so we'll be brief. Same sex attraction is biologically determined. Your son will not be more likely to be gay if he plays with dolls or wears purple as a child. Getting him to play footy and like cars will not make him 'straight'. You cannot 'pray the gay away'. Sexual attraction is not a choice - you know this - or when did you choose to be heterosexual?
Even if it were a choice, even if people could decide to be one or the other or both - why do you care? The State, God and you, unless invited of course, have no place in the bedrooms of other Australians.
It undermines "institution of marriage" (tied to the 'God says no' but worth a separate mention).
As compared to what? Divorce, domestic violence, and T.V. shows like "Married at First Sight" don't say much for the 'sanctity of marriage'. Other people being married (same sex or otherwise) does nothing to undermine or support the importance of my own marriage. If you genuinely think the important thing is how your marriage compares to other people, then I'd look to your house before you start determining who else can get married in the first place.
Not good for the children, it's going to hurt the children.
Again, as compared to what? Family and Community Services do an impossible task very well; trying to protect children from their abusive, neglectful and unqualified heterosexual parents and caregivers. The foster care system is overrun trying to support children from broken heterosexual homes. What about the children raised in single parent households, blended families? The argument that kids "Need a mum and a dad" is not an argument against SSM. Unless you're going to restrict which heterosexual couples can in fact have children too.
It is legal in most states for Same Sex Couples to have children, so being 'legally married' is not a stopper, but rather another glance back to a "marriage first - then children" religious dogma. If people can have children in or out of wedlock, then the 'wedlock' bit is irrelevant, and, therefore, not an argument in a debate about wedlock. All the SS Couples with kids that I know of at my kids’ school and socially have children who are wonderfully cared for, well adjusted, safe and happy little human beings.
I also note the "it will confuse what we teach our kids - my son was told that he could wear a dress to school if he wanted". That objection has nothing to do with this debate. There are already thousands of children living with SS Couples, sex education in schools is a tricky thing at the best of times and ought not be confused with allowing same sex couples to legally marry.
Thin end of the wedge - what's next animals?
Thanks Corey Bernardi, but no it isn't. Demand, legal status and informed consent are all stoppers. How would one go about gaining informed consent from a Llama about entering marriage state? For this to occur, step one would mean the enfranchisement of another species, so let's get animals the vote, a Tax File Number and some superannuation before we worry about whether humans and other animals can marry shall we?
It is also insulting to liken same sex attraction to bestiality (or pedophilia, which is often rolled out in these debates). Being “insulting” is not in and, of itself, an argument for or against SSM, but the tendency of people to lump them in together is a problem. The sexual abuse of children has nothing to do with same sex attraction and to be sure the religious right are in no position to moralize about child abuse.
So what?! I don't like vegemite. No-one is going to make you marry a gay person.
"It is offensive to see two men (or two women) kissing in public."
Well, a) I think it is offensive and impolite to see any two people pashing-on or getting overly romantic in public, and b) the best way to guarantee less frequent sex is to be married with children! If the idea of SS couples having sex or showing affection offends you, you're best bet is to allow them to marry!
I also heard one lady say "They want everything" - where to start? No 'they' don't. They simply want what other people take for granted.
Ur but "Words" - from the 'words are confusing' objection
The less sharp in the debate might come out with "what are you going to call them? Mummy 1 and Mummy 2?", "What do you do when father's day comes around?" This is an argument of the imaginationally challenged. The families will work it out, it isn't that difficult. What do I do on "Good Friday?" the day has no religious significance for me, so I enjoy a day of relaxation with my family. When my kids ask what the day is about, I tell them the story and tradition of Easter. Just because the reason for the national holiday doesn't apply to my family, doesn't mean I cannot make the best of it. I can respect the reason and simply opt out of the ceremony. Do you really think 'not knowing what to do on father's day' is a reason for not having SSM? What do you imagine the children of single parents do? They cope.
Or worse, the "they took our rainbow". The people who are all upset because the LGBTI movement has purloined their rainbow as a symbol of their movement. Really? Were you drawing a lot of rainbows before and putting them up around your house or on your Facebook profile, and now you feel you cannot do so without people wrongly thinking you support SSM? Can I suggest you move to drawing princesses riding unicorns or perhaps take up potpourri, so people don't get confused.
Just to be mean
There will be some people saying "Yes" in public, putting a rainbow on their Facebook page and voting "No" in private. This hypocrisy would be the lowest act in this debate. This is the 'vote "no" ‘just to be mean'. This is not you being vigorously democratic or protesting against Political Correctness, it is about you denying other people's happiness just to be a prick.
If this is you I suggest on the way to the post office you stop and pull the wings off a fly, or perhaps set fire to a cat, or maybe you could steal some money from a charity tin. If you have an objection then have the courage to say so in public, allow your position to be weighed and measured. Otherwise, live and let live. If you were planning to do this, then I encourage you to abstain, at least then your selfishness and meanness will be contained to your own self loathing.
As demonstration of protecting "free speech" and against "political correctness"
Tony Abbott said this a “Vote for No is a Vote for Free Speech.” - wrong. This debate is not about 'free speech' or 'political correctness', it is about moral progress and what makes a fair society. If you want to promote free speech (as I do) then argue your case, state your arguments freely and allow them to be tested. This goes for the left as well as the right. To the left - accusing the right of being "abusive" or "hate-speech" or "prejudice" is not an argument.
Let’s not distort this debate with a debate about how to hold public debates or about politics in general. Simply, and to the best of your ability, engage with the content of the conversation, rather than attacking the speaker. Free speech is best served by, well, free speech.
A Final Message to the “Bell-Ends” (both ends of the political Bell Curve).
To the Left
Stop the "outrage industry". Do you want this done or are you more interested in virtue signaling and self-righteousness? This "holier than thou" right-on-i-tude might make you feel justified, but doesn't help change minds. The best way to undermine the "Yes" position is to be outraged at everything the "No" vote campaign says. Quit the outrage, stop saying they're stupid or ill informed, stop accusing honest interlocutors with sincere concerns of being malicious hate mongers. There are knuckleheads out there, but if you accuse everyone to the right of you of being a homophobic bigot, then the term loses it's meaning. If you want people at the margin to change their mind and vote "Yes", give them reasons beyond "How dare you not?"
It may be that people have a legitimate concerns or confusion, and often that their concern is conflated or confused with this decision. For example, the Shadow Education Minister was "Outraged" that an advertisement for the "No" campaign had said that SSM will make it OK to teach kids the wrong message in schools. Don't be outraged - just clearly show how and why that fear is unfounded. It is legitimate for parents to be interested in what their children are taught in schools. By constantly being outraged and offended you lose all relevance.
So don't blame people for 'thinking wrongly', that is not a crime. If you argue your case (as I am attempting to do here) you stand a chance of changing, rather than reinforcing, people's minds.
The people you (and I) ought to be seeking to influence are not the high conservative far right, but the undecided, generally uninterested middle.
I also overheard one person in a cafe this week say "I don't want the Libs to do it as every other policy of theirs is inhumane". This attitude is as pathetic as the "mean 'No' vote" described above. How pathetic is it to oppose this poll and not participate because you don't want the Liberals to be the ones to implement it.
If you cannot bring yourself to have a Liberal Government implement this change and spend your time debunking the poll rather than arguing for a "Yes" then you are just as selfish, shortsighted, immature and bigoted as any of the people you are jeering at across the chamber.
To the Right
In true individualistic, libertarian and rule-of-law traditions the SSM should be a Yes. SS Couples already are living happily in relationships, rearing children with as much love and attention as any hetero couple. This debate is simply allowing the state to recognize their commitments to each other. It is simply about equal treatment for all Australians, that ought to be a Liberal ideal.
Whilst your values might make it difficult for you to like the idea, you ought to still acknowledge that people are different and that other people have a right to live their life according to their values. Abraham Lincoln cautioned congress to be careful about allowing "lightness of skin" to decide who should rule and who should be a slave, as all it would take is someone with slightly fairer skin to claim ownership of you. So too, be wary about being too puritanical, righteous and controlling of other people's lives, for all it will take is someone to be more puritanical than you to decide what you can and cannot do. That is a race to the bottom where no-one wins.
If you love freedom then you ought to vote "Yes". If and when someone in your family, whom you love, acknowledges their homosexuality and wants to marry, I hope you are able to love and respect them.
If you don't like same sex marriage - don't marry a person of the same sex, otherwise get out of their way, mind your own business and Vote "Yes".