I recently reported on the launch of a new anti-gay organisation in Australia, calling itself ‘Marriage Alliance.’ The organisation appears to have been set up by people affiliated with the Catholic Church, with the sole purpose of campaigning against marriage equality. I prefer to call them an unholy ‘alliance.’
As part of their efforts, Marriage Alliance produced a TV commercial alluding to some vague, horrible consequences for our society, to children, sex education in schools and our ‘rights’, would marriage equality be recognised in Australia. In my previous article I linked to the ad for your critical consideration and analysed some of the claims put forward by Marriage Alliance.
The TV commercial in question was rejected outright by Channels 7 and 10, however, it is being shown on Channel 9 and Foxtel. Marriage Alliance was quite upset by the rejections, and saw it as an affront to their ‘freedom of speech’. Meanwhile they are continuing to ban just about everyone on their Facebook page who expresses a view at odds with their hyper-inflated, and utterly unsubstantiated claims, including me.
While the gay community was less than shocked by Channel 9 playing along with this new ignorant and homophobic group, I can’t say the same about Foxtel.
Foxtel is reportedly a good corporate citizen when it comes to the treatment of its LGBTI employees, although it does not take part in Pride in Diversity, and does not feature in AWEI’s 2015 top 20 Australian employers for LGBTI people.
However, Foxtel is a proud, public corporate supporter of marriage equality. These factors make their decision to air the commercial even more baffling.
The ‘copy and paste’ Foxtel PR response to unhappy customers doesn’t help:
Hi [Name], Thanks for getting in touch. Foxtel is acutely aware that its decision to carry advertisements for the Marriage Alliance has caused hurt and distress to some our customers.
This decision was not made lightly and was made with the active involvement of gay senior executives. Foxtel has and will continue to express support for Marriage Equality.
However, as in Ireland, we believe this debate should be won by the force of the argument in favour of reform, not by refusing to engage in debate or to allow contrary opinions to be put. LGBTQI people were silenced for centuries. We do not believe that the same tactic should be used now against the opponents of Marriage Equality.
As a company Foxtel is a strong supporter of Australian Marriage Equality.
After all Foxtel’s ‘gay senior executives’ approved airing the commercial! Who are you to judge and question?!
Clearly Foxtel is confident that any losses from cancelled subscriptions will be offset by the ad revenue. And that’s fine, after all Foxtel is a business with the primary role of generating revenue for shareholders. But, in the words of Judge Constance Harm of The Simpsons, ‘don’t spit on my cupcake and tell me it’s frosting.’
I also appreciate Foxtel, and its gay senior executives, might genuinely believe we should engage in a ‘debate’ with opponents of marriage equality, and allow ‘contrary opinions’ to be put. I also believe Marriage Alliance is actually likely to advance the cause of marriage equality in Australia, by highlighting the ridiculousness of anti-LGBTI bigots. However, giving a significant national platform to what can only be described as ignorant, homophobic fear-mongering is another story.
Consider this for a moment: replace ‘same-sex marriage’ with the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal Australians in the commercial in question, warning Australians of the ‘many untold dangers’ of doing so – would Foxtel air such a commercial, and how would it be received in the wider community?
Foxtel is setting a dangerous precedent for any bigoted hate group that can cobble together the money for a TV campaign and assert they just wish to have a ‘debate’.
Where is the ‘debate’ in ‘opinions’ long discredited across the liberal democratic world? Where is the ‘debate’ in bigoted, unsubstantiated fear-mongering using the same old, long-demolished arguments that have been thrown around for the better part of the past two decades about marriage equality, involving children, religious freedom and the infamous slippery slope into social anarchy?
And would someone please think of all the bigoted, homophobic bakers, florists and wedding photographers who may be subjected to witnessing love and happiness they disapprove of because … Jesus?!
Despite my non-theistic value system, I do support the right of people of faith to observe their respective religious beliefs. However, in a secular, liberal democracy that right cannot be unfettered. For example:
- religious beliefs cannot be equated with, or override, proven observable facts and social and scientific theories; and
- freedom of religion must give way when it comes into conflict with the dignity of human beings.
There must also be very limited role for religious institutions in public policy, especially in secular, liberal democracies.
Only public policy which is guided by common decency, human dignity and fairness, and is informed by proven observable facts and social and scientific theories will be good public policy. Such policies will arguably also always satisfy the fundamental principles of religious beliefs, without importing the uninformed bigotry and prejudices developed and retained by their institutions over the centuries.
In a modern, liberal secular democracy we simply cannot have laws that entitle citizens and public business to discriminate against a group of their fellow citizens on the basis of so-called ‘deeply held beliefs’. Would we allow a Christian business owner to deny goods and services to Muslim or Jewish customers on the basis of their ‘deeply held beliefs’, or vice-versa? Would we allow LGBTI business owners to ask if a customer has a particular belief that considers homosexuality a sin, and then refuse to serve them on the basis of his or her ‘deeply held belief’ about such views being abhorrent, and out-of-bounds in a modern, liberal secular democracy?
I think not. Society could not properly function and peacefully co-exist under such conditions.
I do support the right to an informed debate, the discussion of ideas and concepts and challenging the status quo. However, speech infused with bigotry, hatred and prejudice, such as homophobia, misogyny or racism by their very nature lack the ‘informed’ component. That’s why we don’t give a platform to people who still deny the holocaust, or question the intellectual equality of people of colour and women to white men, and we would just laugh at someone who suggested the Earth is flat, or the Sun revolves around us.
But, sadly, ignorant homophobia is still seen as perfectly acceptable, even by an organisation that ‘prides’ itself on its support for the LGBTI community, in the name of ‘freedom of speech.’
An ‘opinion’ in the absence of evidence and facts to support it is usually just old-fashioned bigotry, hatred and prejudice, and so it is arguable that no one is entitled to an opinion, especially when the opinion in question has no foundation in facts, or has been conclusively and inarguably debunked.
In my view, you are only ‘entitled’ to what you can coherently argue and factually support. For bible-based arguments against homosexuality and marriage equality that ship had long sailed.
And make no mistake, Marriage Alliance is not an ‘independent alliance.’ It has deep and undeniable connections to the Catholic Church through every single person who has been publicly associated with the organisation.
Foxtel, and Channel 9, are misguided. They are not contributing to a ‘debate’ by showing the commercial. The ‘debate’ has been over for quite a while now. We are now in a war of attrition on the subject of marriage equality and Foxtel, and Channel 9, just awarded a free-kick to the opposition. A bigoted, homophobic and ignorant opposition, driven by extremist religious ideology which at its heart is opposed to the very existence of the LGBTI community.
Consequently, I cannot accept the explanation given by Foxtel for airing the Marriage Alliance commercial. Doing so is inexcusable, and their ‘freedom of speech’ argument in defending their actions rings as hollow, and intellectually and morally bankrupt, as the Marriage Alliance commercial.
The same applies equally to Channel 9. But at least the LGBTI community is not paying for the privilege of watching Channel 9, unlike with Foxtel’s expensive, subscription-based service, only to be verbally assaulted by a bigoted anti-LGBTI message in the safety of their own home, by a service they pay for.