I recently watched your ‘Anti-Plebiscite’ video, in which you condemn the Plebiscite as a bad idea. It’s clear that you’re against the Plebiscite, for a variety of reasons. You’re adamant that same-sex marriage is an important human rights issue. And you believe Parliament, not a ‘people’s vote’, should redefine marriage. That all comes across clearly, and passionately.
However, you make other claims in the video that are unclear to me. Claims that leave me confused, and a little concerned. And so, if I may, I would like to ask you a few questions about it.
1) You condemn the Plebiscite as an ‘Unnecessary, expensive hate machine’ to ‘unleash homophobia and bigotry’ on LGBTI people.
I’m wondering how you came to this strong conclusion?
We just saw a very similar campaign run in deeply religious Ireland, which, according to the ‘ ‘Yes’ Campaign coordinator Tiernan Brady, ‘brought people together’, and ‘transformed Ireland by the [positive] process’.
What makes you conclude we couldn’t have such a polite tone during our Plebiscite?
After all, even high-profile opponents of SSM, the Australian Christian Lobby, were recently described by LGBTI ‘Starobserver’ reporter Shannon Power as having ‘toned down their style to help convince voters who might be leaning on the fence [in the Plebiscite]’. Does that sound like they’re gearing up to ‘unleash homophobia and bigotry’?
(Indeed, in the same article, Power observed that contrary to her expectations, the tone of the recent ACL annual conference was ‘restrained and so bloody polite’. Not quite a ‘hate-fest’, by the sound of it.)
In light of this, I think your rhetoric of the Plebiscite being a ‘hate machine’ comes across as rather alarmist, and risks alienating many fellow Australians who have differing political views.
At worst, your rhetoric is potentially dangerous: it implies that opposition to SSM is automatically ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry’. From such rhetoric, wouldn’t many LGBTI people come to see all opposition to SSM as ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry’? Wouldn’t such conditioning exacerbate the feelings of LGBTI people that they are in fact hated – with all the attendant psychological problems that such feelings bring?
2) Do you think it’s possible to be against SSM for reasons other than homophobia and bigotry?
It wasn’t clear from your video.
According to these two gay Irish gentlemen, you can be opposed to SSM without being homophobic:
Did anyone condemn these people as ‘homophobic’ and ‘bigoted’ for their opposition to SSM?
To be clear, those of us who are marriage ‘conservationists’ see the institution of marriage as a fragile ecosystem, which needs to be nurtured and cared for, just like any other ecosystem. Marriage plays a vital role in the care of our most vulnerable, namely children. Introducing change can potentially bring about unintended negative consequences. As prominent LGBTI activist Masha Gessen recently stated:
Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there, because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.
The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change, and again, I don’t think it should exist.”
Marriage conservationists like me agree with Gessen: redefining marriage will weaken it. Does that make us homophobic?
3) In the video, you claim ‘if it’s not equality for all of us, it’s not equality at all’.
Considering that other sexual minorities – such as the polyamorous and polygamous communities – have also put their hand up requesting legal recognition of their relationships, does that mean you support recognition of those relationships as ‘marriage’? After all, how can you be for ‘equality for all of us’, and yet exclude other sexual minorities?
4) I agree that the proposed question for the plebiscite is terrible.
It doesn’t frame the issue accurately.
As such, I was wondering what you thought about this question instead:
Do you think marriage should be redefined so that a person’s gender is irrelevant to marriage?
Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think my question would help reframe the public discussion, making it less about LGBTI people, and more about the definition of marriage. After all, how can you decide what ‘marriage equality’ is, until you’ve first understood what ‘marriage’ is?
5) If a person’s gender is irrelevant to marriage, then why would the number of partners matter?
For that matter, why would monogamy, and life-long permanence matter?
As far as I can tell, the push for ‘marriage equality’ is based on the view that only love matters when it comes to marriage – gender certainly doesn’t. So if only love matters – and since love can be found in a variety of different relationship configurations – then why exclude non-monogamous relationships from ‘marriage’?
A Better Way Ahead?
You’ll be surprised to hear that marriage conservationists like me are also pro-‘marriage equality’. We just differ with you on what marriage is. And so perhaps that’s a better issue to discuss – what marriage is – rather than whether LGBTI people are equal.
I’m also wondering if instead of writing off many ordinary Australians as potential ‘haters’ and ‘bigots’, we can rise above such divisive language, and set a respectful tone for a possible debate?
As Alex Greenwich put it, after attending a memorial service at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral for the victims of the Orlando massacre,
Powerful & caring service for LGBTI victims of the Orlando shooting at Sydney’s St. Andrews church. A new discourse of respect has started.
— Alex Greenwich MP (@AlexGreenwich) June 15, 2016
Wouldn’t it be great if – were this plebiscite to go ahead – it became ‘a discourse of respect’ – where we all showed generosity and love to those who happened to disagree with us? Surely we’re capable.
As Tiernan Brady, the Irish ‘Yes’ campaign coordinator said recently:
When you run a positive campaign, you do bring people together. The debate wasn’t about beating someone else, it was about persuading someone else. That means the whole world when it comes how people engage with each other when they disagree with each other.”
If the deeply religious Irish can do it, why can’t we? After all, we can’t let the Irish beat us now, can we?