Gay Marriage’s Tiny, Noisy Choir

gay marriageOne of the most important questions which might be asked about gay marriage, if enacted in Australia, is just how many such unions there are likely to be. As it happens, it is possible to provide a fairly precise answer to this question. The 2011 Australian Census asked how many same-sex couples were living together in de facto relationships, the equivalent of legal marriage or de facto partnerships among heterosexual couples. It also asked how many heterosexual couples were living together, either in a legal marriage or in a de facto partnership. By state, the figures are as follows:

Same Sex                                                            Opposite Sex

New South Wales                           12,731                                                                   1,488,136

Victoria                                               8722                                                                    1,160,882
Queensland                                       5986                                                                        938,314
South Australia                                1930                                                                        351,178
Western Australia                           2576                                                                        487,189
Tasmania                                              606                                                                        109,048
Northern Territory                           288                                                                          38,271
A.C.T.                                                    872                                                                          77,473

Australia Totals                                 33,714                                                                   4,650,986

(Source: “Counts of Same Sex Couples, 2011,” Australian Bureau of Statistics)

In 2011 there were precisely 33,714 gay couples living together in Australia (67,428 persons), compared with 4,650,986 heterosexual couples (9,301,972 persons). Gay couples thus comprised 0.7 per cent of the total number of persons living together, gay or straight — about one gay couple for every 143 heterosexual couple (while opposite sex couples constitute 99.3%). Even this almost certainly exaggerates the proportion of gays to straights, since these figures omit all adults who are currently single, divorced, separated or widowed, while they include all actual gay couples.

Taking this into account, in all likelihood not more than one adult Australian in 200 is in a gay or lesbian partnership, the groups from which gay marriages, if enacted, will be drawn. The total number of Australian gays and lesbians living together is less than one-half of the population of Toowoomba (158,00), spread out from Hobart to Broome. Put another way, there are, on average, 225 gay couples (450 persons) for each of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, probably fewer than the number of first-preference votes going to the Monster Raving Looney Party.

Moreover, since there are certainly more gay couples living in or near Oxford Street, Sydney, than in Moonee Ponds or Woop Woop, in many seats their numbers are insignificant. Politicians who think that a vote for gay marriage taps a wellspring of potential new voters capable of swinging the seat their way are certainly deluding themselves.  If there is a bloc of gay voters — take that to mean those whose vote will be decided by support for gay issues — it is no larger than the bloc of votes for the bird watchers, the ramblers, the veteran car enthusiasts, or any other fringe minority lobby.

It is very likely that most readers will be very surprised by the figures presented above. If asked, I imagine that most Australians would say that about 10% to 15% of the population is gay or lesbian, when the actual figure is less than one-tenth of that number. Yet the statistics found in Australia are virtually identical to for other, similar countries. In America, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted a survey in 2013, “Sexual Orientation Among U.S. Adults“. Among Americans eighteen or older, it found the following statistics of sexual self-identification:

Gay or lesbian   1.6%        3,729,000 persons
“Straight”  97.7%               229,163,000 persons
Bisexual  0.7%                    1,514,000 persons

The total number of gays and lesbians in the entire US is thus about the same as that of metropolitan Seattle, but spread out among the fifty states, from Hawaii to Florida.

In the United Kingdom, “civil partnerships” — a kind of gay marriage-lite — have existed since the passage of enabling legislation in December, 2005, and statistics exist as to how many civil partnerships have actually been registered. Between 2005 and 2011 (the last year for which statistics are available) a total of 53,417 civil partnerships were registered in a country with an adult population of nearly 50 million. That number represents perhaps one-fifth of one per cent of Britain’s adult population over a six year period.

Could it be that gay couples have been waiting for the Real McCoy: legalisation of genuine same sex marriages, rather than a half-way substitute? Actual same-sex marriages became legal in England and Wales in March, 2014, (Scotland has a separate law; same-sex marriages remain illegal in Northern Ireland.) As yet, we have statistics for these same-sex marriages only for the first three months (April- June 2014) of their existence. Was there a mad rush for gay couples to wed? In these first three months there were exactly 1409 same-sex marriages in England and Wales, probably less than the number of persons queuing at 6 a.m. for the start of Harrods’ Boxing Day Sale.

If there are any statistics for Australia, or any similar country, showing a significantly greater number of gays and lesbians in the total population these are unknown to me. I am talking, of course, about actual figures based on firm evidence, not anecdotage or propaganda.

Given the near-microscopic numbers of gays and lesbians, one may ask why on earth the law should be changed to alter the definition of marriage, which has been operative for thousands of years and went unquestioned  until a few decades ago, in order to accommodate a new definition of marriage pushed by a noisy but tiny lobbying group. No one today says that homosexuality should be re-criminalized. What consenting adults do in private is their own business, providing that there is no obvious public reason to penalize their activities. Probably most people would agree to the legalization of civil partnerships for gays throughout Australia, in order to protect their legal and property rights. Same-sex marriage, however, requires altering the very definition of marriage as an institution, as fundamental a transformation as one can imagine.

The gay movement has also benefitted from a major, but largely misunderstood, change in the mainstream perception of male homosexuals during the past fifty years or so. To many heterosexual men, probably the most objectionable feature of male homosexuals were their almost universal perception as mincing, effeminate “pansies” and “nancy boys,” who were too ladylike to fight for their country, or for anything else. This image was perpetuated by extravagantly effeminate characters, especially on British television, and by some entertainers of the 1950s and 1960s like Liberace (who once successfully sued a British newspaper for suggesting that he was gay, when of course he was). In the 1960s, however, and probably before the “gay liberation” movement had gotten underway, the dominant image of male gays altered to the exact opposite: the hyper-masculinity of black leather jackets, moustaches, motorcycles, and chains.  Arguably, this refashioning of the image of male gays was significant in creating greater community tolerance.

Several other things may be said about the current drive for gay marriage in Australia.  Although it may eventually succeed, there is nothing “inevitable” about  its triumph. Much the same thing was said in the 1990s about the “inevitability” of the drive for an Australian Republic, yet it failed at a national referendum in 1999 and would probably fail by an even larger majority today. “Inevitability” implies an automatic, relentless move to the left as a virtually preordained natural progression — the very essence of “progress.”

This concept of inevitability was also the very essence of Marxism’s historical theory of dialectical materialism. But if any single idea has been totally discredited by events during the past generation, it is Marxism, which has virtually disappeared without trace. Ironically, what has taken its place throughout much of the world is religious fundamentalism as an expansionist political movement, a movement which, in most of the world where it holds sway, is violently anti-gay.

Although the movement for gay marriage has many sources, it should also be seen as a component of the Western left’s agenda of the subversion and destruction of existing institutions, with ethnic and sexual struggle and conflict having replaced the now-discredited class warfare as its modus operandi. What could be more fundamental to this than conventional marriage? Finally, apart from some outspoken political and religious conservatives, there has been a notable reluctance by opponents of gay marriage to raise their heads above the parapets, no doubt for fear of being branded as “homophobes.” This is unfortunate; they should have the courage of their convictions.

William D. Rubinstein taught at Deakin University and at the University of Wales, and now lives in Melbourne.

27 thoughts on “Gay Marriage’s Tiny, Noisy Choir

  • rh@rharrison.com says:

    Whatever happened to “Australia is a part of Asia”? That mantra of the past generation seems suddenly to be inapplicable, given that in that vast continent stretching from Israel to Japan, with nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, not a single country has a law permitting same-sex marriage.

    On this issue we are told to take our cues exclusively from the nations of western Europe and North America. Once again, our Asian neighbours are “lesser breeds without the law”!

  • Jody says:

    Our society has long been run by tiny, very noisy minorities. Whether it’s the Greens, the civil libertarians, unions, pro-‘asylum seeker’ activists or their minions the story is the same. The squeaking door gets the most oil.

    But noise and activism don’t make something right!! As in the case of illegal immigrants, Australians booted out the Labor government precisely because they could not control this country’s borders. And you’ll see the same backlash with what’s happened to Dyson Heydon.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    .. but how does such a minority get the time, the wealth or the access to make such a nation dividing noise about their own fetish? … and after this tantrum again is placated with more opium .. what next …compulsory attendance at Mardi Gras in all capital and regional cities?? .. electricity available to ordinary Australians only on Fridays?? mandatory welcome to country ceremonies in workplaces and schools every morning?

  • MickL says:

    This is a new angle. There aren’t many of them so it’s ok to deny them the same rights as everyone else without any evidence.

    The fundamental definition of marriage as already been altered by straight people. It’s no longer for the rest of ones life, it’s no longer about kids, it’s no longer about controlling women and it’s no longer about choosing the genetic makeup of ones grandchildren in order to control the destination of ones property. Now that all these things have been changed there isn’t any reason that gay people can’t enter into marriage. It simply doesn’t mean anything anymore beyond someone loving someone else and agreeing to share their life with them until they decide that they no longer want to any more. It’s an incredibly low bar, thanks to the tireless effort of heterosexuals.

    • bemartin39@bigpond.com says:

      “Marriage equality” is a dishonest weasel phrase. Every adult in Australia has the indisputable right to marry, by mutual consent, one member of the opposite sex. Be honest and truthful, say it for what it is: the right for people to “marry” a member of the same sex. Not long ago the term “same-sex marriage” would have been recognised by all and sundry, including small children able to talk and understand simple, basic words, as a ridiculous contradiction of terms, which, indeed, it is.

      • MickL says:

        So people are free to do what the majority say as much as they like. Interesting angle. And great if you happen to be in the majority. Kinda sucks to be in the 2%. But who cares about them huh.

        • PT says:

          That’s an argument against criminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults (which we have); or sexual orientation being used against people in work and other areas where it’s irrelevant (I do not include military service in this due to the nature of life in the forces). It does not mean a fundamental institution of society should be redefined to give endorsement of said minority! More people attend church each week, yet you and your mates constantly try to say Thiet views are “irrelevant”.

          • MickL says:

            Their views are perfectly valid, relevant and they are free to marry as many people of the same sex consecutively as they like.

            They should not be free to impose their opinion on others and they must not be allowed to limit the freedoms of others to live as they choose.

        • Rhyl Martin says:

          Gays are not being limited in how they choose to live The definition of marriage has not changed, it is still the union between a man and a woman. Gays have been offered civil unions, ie the union between 2 men or 2 women but knocked them back. Why?

    • Jody says:

      All of which makes you wonder why they so desperately desire that “incredibly low bar”!!! As I’ve said before, I don’t think marriage is worth defending and if you want it in its current dilapidated shape go for it; just make sure the decision is based upon the democratic wishes of the society which affords you certain rights and protections. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        The combination of the self righteous left vibrating in excitement as they climb yet another pedestal of self appointed moral superiority and those who find themselves a frenzy of indifference in the matter will, like Ireland, approve the changes in our law. It is a huge yawn by and large, bread and circuses whilst electricity Bill and his ill-begotten ilk continue in their weasel ways undiscovered and unremarked.
        I asked my niece who is in a same sex relationship what her thoughts are, it isn’t rocking her or her partners world to any degree, she is more concerned with keeping her job, raising her child and paying the mortgage, just like the rest of us.

        • MickL says:

          I’m not of the left. I’m a small government conservative or libertarian depending on what the issue is. This is a clear issue of equality before the law. You can’t legislate in a way that bestows benefits, rights and responsibilities on people then exclude some folks because you don’t like them.

          I agree it’s a huge yawn. It shouldn’t be an issue. Just do it an move on. There will be so few gay marriages, weddings, divorces, kids that it’s just a total non event. Conservatives who believe in small government should just get the law changed and get back to the real issues facing the country. By dragging its heels and trying to regulate morality the conservatives just are making a target for themselves for no reason.

    • Patrick McCauley says:

      So do you think that homosexual marriage will show us once again, how to love? Will it strengthen and rekindle marriage? Till death do us part?

      Perhaps there are homosexual couples who believe this … their houses even more septically clean than mothers… the grass always cut – the hedges trimmed – their children better behaved and more intelligent – more socially progressive … etc. They are some sort of vanguard showing us the way into the new progressive future. Mardi Gras like we are dancing our way toward the new enlightenment ??

      • MickL says:

        Not at all. It won’t make any difference to anything. Just do it and move on to the important stuff.

        • PT says:

          Why Mick? So “progressives” can move on to the next part of society they want to overturn? Civil Partnerships do not affect anyone else’s marriage, buy SSM does. For one thing, the terms “bride” and “groom” will disappear. Secondly saying you’re married now says you’re in s committed heterosexual relationship. With SSM the question of whom you’re married to suddenly arises. You may say it’s only about “names” but so, surely is SSM when civil partnerships give the same legal rights. As I’ve said this is really about enforced societal acceptance of homosexual relationships and them being given equal status in society as heterosexual ones, even though they can never have children. As a so-called “conservative” do you really support this?

          • MickL says:

            What the? You are barely coherent here. Bride and groom will survive. There will just be two grooms. Or two brides. You also appear to be advocating the unequal treatment of gay people so no one will think you are married to a bloke? That has to be the lamest reason yet. Flabbergasted.

            Where do you get off asking anyone to expect you to accept their relationship? Why should anyone seek the endorsement of the majority to marry? I know quite a few people who I strongly believe shouldn’t be married. But why would anyone give a flying proverbial what I or anyone else think about them being married? What gives you the right? What gives the majority the right? What if the majority decided that people of different races couldn’t marry? Different religions?

            My relationship with my wife is unconventional, we have our own rules and we don’t think the majority would approve them. Lucky for us the majority doesn’t get to tell us how we should live or how our marriage should work. You would not approve of my marriage if you knew the details. Lucky it’s none of your business. Gay marriage is none of your business either.

            As a conservative/libertarian I believe in small government, individual freedom, the rule of law and equality before the law. In order to use force or discriminate the government requires significant justification and it doesn’t have it in this case.

          • PT says:

            Sorry Mick, I find using a phone problematic for these comments.

            “Bride” and “Groom” are removed from documents where SSM is instituted, replaced with such terms as “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2”. Why pretend this isn’t the case? My point with this and sexuality issue is to point out that SSM does impact upon non-SS marriages despite insistent assertions there are none.

            As for your obtuse misrepresentation of the “acceptance” point, I’ll spell it out again for you. I do not claim all marriages need my approval. What I’m saying is that the gay lobby is pushing SSM not for legal rights (civil partnerships provide those) but to demand acceptance from society.

        • Jody says:

          I wonder if that’s what Hindenburg said when Hitler wanted to become Chancellor; “just do it and move on to the important stuff”.

          I’m very nervous about such glib statements because for many people marriage between a man and a woman IS ‘important stuff’. Not for me, perhaps, but I don’t presume to represent the majority and I don’t expect people to adhere to my particular values and principles.

    • PT says:

      A lot of that is pure rubbish Mick. People can decide whether or not to marry someone of a different “race” – “mixed marriages” aren’t compulsory you know. I’m sick of this purely US “argument”. Social pressure may have dissuaded people from “mixed marriages” but it was alway legal in Australia, and in Britain too. Nor was it illegal across the U.S. either, as the miscegenation laws were State based, and not some States never had them.

      The “controlling women” one is overdone too. For one thing, there are plenty of women right now in abusive relationships, some are not married (some are even in lesbian relationships). For another marriage always implied some obligation on the part of the man.

      As for the “rights” argument. No one has the right of social approval – your fellow traveler were quite happy to abuse Brendan Eich for his private views on marriage. Civil Partnerships can give the specific legal rights, like “next of kin” immigration etc. Demanding “gay marriage” isn’t about legal rights so much as demanding enforced acceptance, since marriage as a term has such respectability in society. Please be honest about this, and the fact most gays and lesbians won’t take it up anyway. Even in The Netherlands, where it was first legalised, only 20% of SS couples have “married” compared to 80% of heterosexual couples. The small number of people who go duck shooting is regularly used as a reason to ban it, despite the fact that it has no effect on those who don’t do it. Yet they are a higher proportion of people than SSM people if the Dutch data is anything to go by.

      • MickL says:

        My comment about choosing the genetic makeup of your grandchildren has nothing to do with race. Fact is that parents once arranged marriages with other parents to ensure their stuff was passed on to people of genetic makeup they approve of. This still happens in many parts of the world today.

        Controlling women was a major part of marriage for thousands of years. This again was so that your stuff was passed on to your genetic children and not the stable keepers.

        The abuse of women today is independent of marriage as you correctly point out, so that’s progress of a kind I suppose?!

        See my comment about your acceptance. Mercifully it isn’t required.

        The conduct of some gay marriage supporters has been absolutely shameful and a total affront to free speech. Most of these people are of the left and think that the issue justifies anything, including torrents of foul abuse. They apply this to every issue they have and it’s just wrong.

  • brian.doak@bigpond.com says:

    Why does such a minuscule minority issue command so much support on the ABC and SBS? Imagine if a strong conservative government floated the idea of linking ABC and SBS funding in inverse proportion to the national debt. If it did then national debt and deficit might then appear to outrank same-sex marriage in national importance.

    • Jody says:

      Interesting question! I suspect the answer is “because they’re not the establishment”. When I worked at the ABC in the early-mid 1970’s the place was controlled by the “gay mafia” and everyone knew it!!

  • pollymarty@adam.com.au says:

    It’s interesting that polls point to a large majority of people supporting changes to marriage, but this majority didn’t appear at the last election. Three states had Marriage Equality candidates in the senate elections and it seems this was an ideal means for voters to express their support for changes to marriage. With our preferential system voters can happily vote one for Marriage Equality knowing their preference can flow on to a more mainstream party. Perhaps it is too much to hope for large numbers of voters to take on the chore of preferencing their vote in this way, but really the final tally is a dismal outcome for Equality enthusiasts. The percentages of the total senate vote for each of the states were SA 0.55, Vic 0.49, Qld 0.87.

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