Fire

The growing fire inside me

I am 47 years old. I am a professional, a taxpayer, a son, a brother, and a productive member of society.

I am a dissident, defector and political refugee from, then communist, Hungary who found a new life and freedom in Australia in 1988. That freedom was hard won and I cherish it deeply.

I am also a gay man. I have been with my same-sex partner for 17 years. For all intents and purposes we consider ourselves married. But I want to formally marry (not ‘civil union’) my amazing, loving partner of 17 years. Our beautiful, loving relationship is as worthy of recognition by our liberal, secular democratic state as any marriage I know.

And there is a growing fire inside me.

That fire was brought to the surface in recent months by:

  • the ‘Australian Marriage Forum’, and the sudden appearance of the so-called ‘Marriage Alliance’;
  • the various media organisations that chose to collaborate with these Christian hate-groups in their ongoing effort to denigrate and vilify LGBTI people under the guise of starting(?!) a debate about marriage equality; and
  • our Prime Minister and his conservatives allies using every political trick ever invented to prevent the legalisation of marriage equality.

There has been a lot of talk of ‘freedom of speech’ and there being two sides to every story, in defence of these groups, and the media organisations that decided to give them a very public voice to conduct this ‘debate’. The LGBTI community was called upon to be ‘tolerant.’

How dare you ask me to be tolerant towards people who say if I chose to have children those children would somehow be disadvantaged or hurt.

How dare you ask me to be tolerant towards people who say I am a threat to society and the rights of others.

How dare you ask me to be tolerant towards people who say my relationship is of a lesser quality than theirs.

How dare you transmit messages to that effect into my home, under the pretence of a ‘debate’! I presume this is the same ‘debate’ that’s being given effect on the Facebook page of ‘Marriage Alliance’ by the blocking of just about everyone who expresses a contrary view to theirs.

And how dare you to admonish me, or tell me I should be more tolerant, or call me a bigot when I say ‘that’s enough’!

Presumably this is the debate Australia, and most of the Western world, has had going for the better part of the past two decades, which ‘Marriage Alliance’ and ‘Australian Marriage Forum’ apparently missed. That debate resulted in marriage equality in most of the liberal democratic Western world, from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, from the United States of America to Ireland, from Argentina to Spain, from South Africa to Brazil, from Canada to France, from Brazil to Portugal, and the list goes on. That debate has also resulted in majority public support for marriage equality in Australia, shown even by one of the most conservative social research companies, Crosby Textor. Their research indicated even a majority of Australian Catholics are in support of marriage equality.

Given the fashions of the time, whereby these bigoted, ignorant and uninformed views are being broadcast nationally into our living rooms, I refuse to stand by and allow hate speech, masquerading as ‘freedom of speech’, prevent the recognition of our loving 17-year relationship by the state as a marriage.

The Netherlands had marriage equality for 15 years now. Let me spell that for you f-i-f-t-e-e-n years! By the way, they are doing great.

Belgium legislated marriage equality 12 years ago. Their society is yet to collapse.

South Africa had marriage equality for almost a decade. They are still trying to resolve a plethora of social issues arising from their racist apartheid, but same-sex marriage caused no cultural disaster.

‘Marriage Alliance’ and ‘Australian Marriage Forum’ will be celebrating today, after the Coalition party room voted last night not to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality. Many believe the reason why our Prime Minister worked so hard to prevent a conscience vote was that with a conscience vote available to members of the Coalition, marriage equality would likely have passed through Parliament. This is not surprising given the well-known personal position of our Prime Minister opposing marriage equality, and his record of doing everything he could to prevent it from occurring, despite his promise before the last election that his Catholic faith would not influence his decisions as the leader of Australia.

The manoeuvrings and double-dealings of our Prime Minister and the decision of the Coalition party room is an affront to the principles of our liberal, secular democracy, the Australian public, the LGBTI community and the principles of the Liberal Party of Australia. It also means marriage equality is now unlikely to pass during the current term of Parliament.

Marriage equality campaigners appear to have seriously underestimated Tony Abbott’s cunning and determination. Although none of those qualities should have come as a surprise given his track record on a variety of subjects, from asylum seekers to climate change, which also indicates a lack of compassion and a disregard for facts and science.

And let’s not overlook the fact that we are in this mess only because the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth), by the Howard Coalition government to protect ‘traditional marriage’, with the support of the Australian Labor Party – and all it would take to fix it is another amendment.

Regardless of this significant defeat, I would like to address some of the recent arguments made against marriage equality by these anti-LGBTI lobby groups.

Love

Children

Can we have children ‘naturally’? No.

Neither do many young straight, infertile couples. Nor my mother and stepfather who recently married. In Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator on hand to help with the festivities. It was adorable, but I digress.

Do my partner and I want children? No.

Do other gay and lesbian couples want children? Some do; some don’t.

Is the subject of children even relevant when talking marriage equality? No – unless you’re utterly desperate to clutch at any straw in your ‘argument’ against equality before the law, love and respect.

In fact, I can’t believe the gall of opponents who dare to raise the ‘stolen generation’ in their arguments against same-sex parenting. Especially since the stolen generation was a human disaster created by the same conservative, religious culture, purporting to know what was best for society, which is now used to attack the LGBTI community for daring to demand equality before the law, acceptance and respect.

The same conservative, religious culture which was complicit in the practice of the horrific sexual abuse of children by religious institutions for decades, and the cover up by generations of respected religious and community leaders.

How are uninformed bigotry, and malicious lies a side to any story?! How are fake ‘scientific studies’ purporting to show same-sex parenting is bad for children, while numerous reputable scientific studies show the opposite, a side to any story?!

Sex education

How is vague fear-mongering about what ‘might happen’ to sex education in schools is a side to any story?!

Why is sex education so special?! Why should it be different from any other school subject, such as biology, maths or chemistry?! Why shouldn’t sex education in a progressive, liberal society teach children the accepted and consensus science about, and understanding of, human sexuality?!

In a mature, secular, democratic society, religion and personal beliefs should not affect what children are taught at school. As Lawrence Krauss, the eminent American theoretical physicist and cosmologist, eloquently put it in the context of teaching creationism to children, preventing the understanding of reality by children is a form of child abuse.

Religions around the world spent centuries cultivating their control over human minds and sexuality. Sexuality is a fundamental part of human nature and by controlling it you exert control over humanity itself. That’s why they are so intent on controlling your children’s religious and sex education, and why they are fighting so hard not to lose that power. It has nothing to do with the wellbeing of your children.

Due to the underlying societal homophobia that permeates all aspects of our culture, schools tend to be ground zero for homophobic bullying and sex education that presents factual information about sexual orientation, untainted by ignorant, uninformed personal or religious beliefs, has a significant role in protecting LGBTI youth. Factual and honest sex education is also essential to ensure the sexual health of our young people.

FreedomFreedom of speech

When it comes to the ‘freedom of speech’ argument I quote my previous comments here at The Vue Post, noting there is a very good reason ‘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’, regardless of our reverence for freedom of speech.

I don’t understand why it’s then still perfectly acceptable to spew ignorant, uninformed homophobia, which we know creates a public health issue in the LGBTI community, affecting both our physical and psychological wellbeing?!

When will we be considered human enough to be protected from the very practical consequences of mindless hate and vitriol?! How many of us have to suffer or die before society says ‘enough’?!

Freedom of speech is not, and never has been, an unfettered right in Australia, unlike the First Amendment guarantee in the United States, and arguably it must have some limits in a society that’s not yet free of prejudice, hate, homophobia, misogyny and racism.

“A strong, stable and mature liberal, secular democracy should be capable of accommodating unpopular ‘fringe’ views in a civilised manner. However, that presumption will only hold if it is underpinned by a principled political class, and a sophisticated citizenry.

The problem is obvious. I submit we lack both of these qualifiers.

Unfortunately, we must confront reality, and accept, we do not (yet) live in such an ideal society. In our current society, the obvious interpretation of this quote would enable bigots, haters, homophobes, misogynist, racists, religious zealots, and transphobes to spew uninformed nonsense safely, and protected from consequences.
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular’, The Vue Post (21 June 2015)

The LGBTI community has one of the highest rates of suicide. Have you ever wondered why?! Being LGBTI does not cause mental health issues – a homophobic society does …

What do you think it does to the mental health of a group of people if another group of people constantly asserts they are a sick abomination, simply because of who and what they are?!

Homophobia, and its societal expressions and practice, is not just a personal and social disorder and a social injustice, but also a public health scandal.

Minority groups that are alienated and excluded from mainstream society by hate, discrimination and inequality, are highly likely to suffer poor health outcomes primarily due to that alienation, exclusion, hate, discrimination and inequality.

Allowing anti-LGBTI hate-groups to continue to spread their ignorance is the true moral outrage and ethical violation of our time.

Your other rights

How is vague fear-mongering about what might happen to the rights of uninformed bigots who fear they won’t be allowed to engage in discrimination is a side to any story?!

Would someone please think of all the bigoted, homophobic and ignorant bakers, florists and photographers who may be ‘forced’ to do their jobs, serve the public and be potentially witness to love and happiness in the process?! Oh, the horrors of living in such a society!

Would someone think of all the bigoted, ignorant homophobes who may be prevented from spewing their uninformed bile, hatred, ignorance and lies?! Oh, the horrors of living in such a society!

“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, other religions and 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.
‘Welcome’ Marriage Alliance, The Vue Post (6 August 2015)

LGBT RightsThe religion factor

How could literal, and highly selective, interpretations of the bible that suggest homosexuality is a ‘sin’ or an ‘abomination’ be a side to any story … in 2015?!

And make no mistake, ‘Marriage Alliance’ is deeply connected to the Catholic Church, while ‘Australian Marriage Forum’ is just an offshoot of the notorious Australian Christian Lobby.

Unfortunately, many conservative Christians have anchored themselves to a ‘holy text’ that reflects the morality of ancient uninformed, and uneducated, societies. A text that has been ignorantly and maliciously (mis)interpreted by a succession of self-serving religious leaders, resulting in many Christians struggling to understand and accept the social progress around them. Christians are not alone in this struggle, this is a common theme across religions in our modern age.

Curiously, although many of the cultural and social norms prescribed in various ‘holy texts’ are now considered immoral, or even illegal, followers continue to cherry-pick as to which parts of their ‘holy texts’ they observe, and try to force upon others, unperturbed by the realities of the modern world around them.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.
The Bible: So misunderstood it’s a sin‘, Newsweek (23 December 2014)

Sadly, facts, scientific research and the truth never got in the way of some good old-fashioned, uninformed, amoral bigotry and hatred. Homer Simpson offered a humorous insight into this phenomenon on The Simpsons:

Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.

#WeCanDoThisReligion is faith.

But blind faith is ignorance, with no room for reason.

And where there is no room for reason, there is no room for humanity.

Fortunately, the fire growing inside me is doused by my unwavering trust in my fellow Australians’ ability to see the arguments of those who oppose marriage equality for what they are: a bigoted, hateful, ignorant house of cards which is blown away by the slightest wind of common sense and reason.

For the time being, that house of cards is protected by well-financed Christian anti-LGBTI lobby groups, who have shown themselves to be very effective at delaying marriage equality across the Western world, and supported by a conservative government, the leader of which personally opposes marriage equality.

But, #WeCanDoThis — and #WeWillDoThis!

Leave a comment. Comments are moderated ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s