A new anti-marriage equality group launched this week in Australia with much fanfare and media attention, called ‘Marriage Alliance‘.
No doubt the publicity was a result of the high-profile, but largely anonymous, backers of this seemingly well-funded, well organised group, apparently modelled on some well-known American Catholic anti-gay hate groups, such as the National Organization for Marriage, the World Congress of Families and Liberty Counsel.
Marriage Alliance is reportedly funded by anonymous individual donors. It calls itself an ‘independent alliance‘ but its connections to the highest echelons of the Catholic Church are deep and undeniable. Meanwhile the Catholic Church is running its own anti-marriage equality campaign targeting Australian businesses that publicly support same-sex marriage.
Marriage Alliance’s founding directors reportedly include:
- Jim Dominguez, Board Member of the Sisters of Charity Foundation and a Patron of the 2013 Sydney World Congress of Families;
- Ashley Goldsworthy, the former President of the Liberal Party of Australia and Non-Executive Director of the Brisbane Catholic Education Council and Brisbane Catholic Archdiocesan Finance Council; and
- Mark Phillips, who appears to have had involvement with the Catholic Education Office in Sydney.
The face of the organisation is Sophie York, also a long-term associate of the Liberal Party and the Catholic Church. Sophie York is a barrister, who was a candidate for Liberal Party pre-selection for the seat of Bradfield in 2009. She is also a lecturer at the Catholic University of Notre Dame Australia. I understand she is a member and former councillor of the St Thomas More Society and a Dame of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
You can support marriage equality in Australia by donating to Australian Marriage Equality, to help them counter the anti-LGBTI propaganda being pushed by organisations such as Marriage Alliance.
Judging by their website, and advertising, we can look forward to the same old arguments we have enjoyed from the Catholic Church and other social conservatives for the better part of the past two decades.
The rights of children
‘Same sex marriage will lead to more same sex parenting. Shouldn’t children have a right to know their own biological history? Why should a child be limited in their physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual development associated with fatherless or motherless social units (as in same sex marriage)?’
I was surprised to see this argument raised again, as it has been well and truly debunked by every respectable piece of scientific research done on the subject. Children raised by same-sex couples have been shown to be just as balanced, healthy and successful as children raised by heterosexual couples. Wishing and believing that gays and lesbians make terrible parents does not make it true …
Sex education in schools
‘Changing marriage laws will also change school education. Do parents want the teaching of same sex relationships to have the same status as opposite-sex relationships? Will parents lose ‘the prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children’?’
I don’t see why sex education should be different from any other subject, such as biology, maths or chemistry. Sex education, like any other educational subject in a school, should teach the accepted and consensus science about, and understanding of, human sexuality. In a secular society, religion and personal beliefs should not affect what children are taught at school. Let’s leave that kind of educational restrictions and censorship to theocratic and other repressive regimes of the world.
As Lawrence Krauss, the eminent American theoretical physicist and cosmologist, eloquently and controversially put it in the context of teaching creationism, preventing the understanding of reality by children is a form of child abuse, and I see a clear analogy in respect of sex education.
Schools tend to be a hotbed of bullying, therefore sex education that presents factual information about sexual orientation, untainted by ignorant, unsubstantiated personal beliefs, is a significant tool in protecting LGBTI youth from abuse. Factual and thorough sex education is also key to ensure the sexual health of young people.
Women’s role as mothers
‘The idea that a mother’s love is a crucial part of parenting has been a constant for our whole history. When the presence of a mother becomes optional within families, what effect will this have?’
This message reflects an utterly antiquated idea of gender roles in modern society. It fails to acknowledge and show respect for countless families, which through the vicissitudes of life have been left without a mother.
It also betrays and utter lack of understanding of already existing modern family structures and a lack of faith in men’s ability to be loving and nurturing parents on par with a mother, just as women are capable on taking on roles traditionally seen as the exclusive domain of men, in and out of the home.
Freedoms and rights
‘Australia has always prided itself upon being an open, easy-going society. However, even without the passing of same sex marriage, claims of discrimination has caused Australians to suffer financial costs, as well as damage to employment and reputation. Will same sex marriage accelerate the deterioration of everyone’s freedoms of speech, conscience, trade and privacy? In a radically changed society, why should mainstream values be inconsistent with our laws?’
The reference to ‘freedoms of speech’ and rights generally seems to be an indication of an American influence in Marriage Alliance’s approach to opposing marriage equality.
Although we do not have ‘freedom of speech’ expressly enshrined among our freedoms like the United States, and we are subject to legal limitations, we do consider ourselves a nation that cherishes and protects free expression, even if from time-to-time confusion reigns as to what that exactly entails. Marriage Alliance should be sufficiently assured by our Commonwealth Attorney-General, George Brandis, who made it clear that Australians have a right to be bigots:
People do have a right to be bigots, you know. In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted.
Attorney-General George Brandis, Australian Senate Hansard (24 March 2014 at 14:16)
When it comes to our discrimination laws the situation is also quite different from the United States, where anti-discrimination laws are a confusing patchwork, and often leave members of the LGBTI community exposed. For example, in October 2014 there were 29 US states where an employee could be fired simply for being gay. An unimaginable breach of basic human rights by Australian standards.
Conversely, Australia does have well-developed federal and state anti-discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of a variety of characteristics, including sexual orientation since 2013. General protections against discrimination have been enshrined in our laws since the 1970s, starting with racial discrimination and, as our society evolved, those protections were extended to other characteristics, such as sex, disability and age.
I am confident a majority of Australians consider discrimination against the LGBTI community unacceptable in this day of age, and that acceptance and equality under the law are mainstream Australian values.
Certain exemptions have been granted to religious organisations in Australia when it comes to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in recognition of their strongly held beliefs, although many argue such exemptions are inconsistent with the values of our secular liberal society. All marriage equality bills currently before Parliament also contain specific and broad religious exemptions, ensuring religious institutions and ministers of religion can’t be forced to take part in same-sex marriages, unless they choose to do so. But the Catholic Church, and religious conservatives are not satisfied with the extent of the current exemptions and continue to clamour for more at every opportunity.
In the United States some of these efforts are resulting in ‘religious freedom’ bills that would lead to the practical segregation of the LGBTI community … an anti-gay ‘apartheid’. Complaining of the perceived persecution of Christians, some proposed anti-gay bills in the US went as far as enabling doctors and hospitals to refuse emergency assistance to members of the LGBTI community on the basis of their deeply held religious beliefs. A shocking abuse of the separation of state and church and the values at the heart of our secular liberal democracies, highlighting the hypocrisy of ‘religious freedom’ being used as a weapon against the LGBTI community, rather than the protective right of freedom to worship it was intended to be.
I believe the Australian public would never accept such an extremist interpretation of religious freedom. The line between religious freedom and the secular state has been resolved in Australia over several decades of legal development. The impending possibility of marriage equality does not necessitate a review of that line.
Marriage Alliance states ‘claims of discrimination has caused Australians to suffer financial costs, as well as damage to employment and reputation.’ That’s what discrimination laws are designed to achieve – punish those who engage in unlawful discrimination as a deterrent to others. That’s how laws generally work.
In Australia we do not exempt private businesses that serve the public from discrimination laws. In a secular liberal society allowing such discrimination would be inconsistent with our values. Marriage equality will not change the existing laws. What would be rightly found unlawful discrimination today, will be found unlawful discrimination in a post-marriage equality environment.
The ‘powerful gay lobby’
I particularly enjoyed the reference to the ‘powerful gay lobby’ in a media release by Marriage Alliance and wondered: if we are so powerful, why are we still having this debate almost two decades on? You would think a powerful lobby would have got this marriage equality thing done and dusted a long time ago. I am also amused by their reference to ‘mainstream Australia’ which indicates that despite ample and public evidence to the contrary, those opposing marriage equality still genuinely believe the majority of Australians are behind them.
‘Social engineering’ and the ‘attack’ on marriage
I also find it entertaining when organisations aligned with religion complain about alleged ‘social engineering’ by others, considering religion itself is arguably the epitome of social engineering. It’s also illustrative of the mindset behind these organisations when they talk in terms of gays ‘attacking the institution of marriage’, simply due to their desire to participate in state sanctioned civil marriage.
Let’s have a discussion
Ironically, while Marriage Alliance is calling for a public debate on marriage equality, they deleted a comment I posted to their Facebook page on Tuesday. They also ‘banned’ me, as I’m no longer able to post comments to their page. I decided to reproduce my message in full, because I was mystified as to why they have deleted it while calling for a dialogue on the subject:
Thank you ‘Marriage Alliance’ for your upcoming contribution to marriage equality in Australia! If history taught us anything, it is that shrill fear-mongering usually helps most good people see the light even clearer, and side with progress over fear and ignorance.
With marriage equality a fact around the world in an increasing number of secular democracies, in some places for over a decade, I look forward, with some amusement, to the same old, tired, and often debunked, arguments we have been hearing for well over a decade from opponents, including repressive theocracies and religious zealots.
Personally, I forgive you in advance for all the bigotry, hate and lies you are about to unleash, because I know you don’t know any better and because I am very secure in knowing who I am and I refuse to allow your bitter and outdated propaganda to diminish my self-worth.
I hope young gay men and women who are still struggling with their identity in often hateful environments, created by the messages disseminated by organisations such as yours, can also rise above the muck and feel confident about being themselves and realise nothing is wrong with them and they are entitled to a happy and full life, experiencing love, and enjoying equality under the secular laws of their liberal and democratic society.
Although, sometimes I do wish you would open your minds and make an effort to educate yourselves, but then I realise that would be expecting too much. I hope you will eventually find peace with the changing world around you and come to accept that progress is as natural to humanity as breathing, as evidenced by our history.
There was one public reply to the post before it was deleted, by a gentleman named of ‘Ed Lord’. His reply is largely reflective of the views of the supporters of organisations such as Marriage Alliance:
And you are forgiven for your bigotry, hate and lies. Vile attacks on those who oppose same-sex “marriage” seem to be the stock in trade of the homosexual movement across the world. You are a tiny minority of the world’s population — thankfully, or we would cease to be — but you use your bullying and media support to get your way.
Whilst “Liberal and Democratic society” can state that right is wrong and wrong is right but they cannot change the nature of men and women. You can do many things but you cannot bring life into the world in a normal manner. Perhaps that is what drives your anger and hatred of those who stand for the fact that, since the beginning, a man and a woman have always been recognised as the essential unity in a marriage. You can call it what you want and you can pass all the laws you can but you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
I would have responded to Mr Lord, but for the deletion of my comment and Mr Lord’s reply with it. This is what I would have said in response:
Dear Ed, thank you or your reply, it was very much the kind of reply I expected. Yes, we are a minority, but human history shows us that you can evaluate the quality of a society by looking at how it treats its minorities. Homosexuality has been around since time immemorial. We probably catered and provided entertainment at the first ever ‘marriage’ 🙂 In fact, gay men and women have made immense contribution to society over the millenniums in all types of human endeavour, whether you like to admit it or not.
Homosexuality is part of the nature of men and women. We wouldn’t be here without our heterosexual mothers giving birth to us. Marriage equality does not change that, it only recognises sexual orientation is not an either-or proposition, but a natural continuity.
You are correct in that it’s not in the nature of gay men or women to engage in sexual intercourse with the opposite sex, and as such we don’t bring life into the world that way. Neither do infertile heterosexual couples, no matter how much they try. Should we prevent such couples from marrying and accessing IVF? How about heterosexual couples where one or both partners are too old to have a child? Should we deny them the joy of marriage?
I don’t feel anger towards you or people like you. My life is very happy and fulfilled, except when I have to deal with bigotry and hatred directed at who I am. But I am disappointed in people like you, because with the advances humanity made over the centuries, there is no excuse for biblical-type views to override the realities of our modern, educated society.
Marriage itself has been many things to many people over human history and there are examples of same-sex marriage rites dating back to the days of the pharaohs, and arguably even early Christianity, if you care to research the subject.
However, religions always made it their business to try to control human sexuality, because it is such a fundamental part of human nature and by controlling it, you control humanity itself. However, the days when religions could dictate people’s lives are gone. And we can only be thankful for that development when we look at the remaining theocracies of the world. They are nothing to aspire to.
I do give you one thing. Indeed it would be difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, although I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the subject at hand … Peace and love to you.
I look forward hearing and seeing more of Marriage Alliance and the unintended good work they are likely to do in support of marriage equality. Welcome!
In the meantime enjoy this gem from Catholic Vote, another US ‘non-profit advocacy group’ that fancies the occasional anti-gay advocacy:
I will leave you on a positive note, by sharing @Blgaj‘s wonderful interpretation of Marriage Alliance’s pretty blue iceberg (you have to admire the ‘subtlety’ of Marriage Alliance’s visual metaphor, especially with the Titanic-looking ship thrown into their website animation … just in case you missed the metaphor):