Recently, prompted by a discussion on the Bolt Report, I have been pondering the issue of same-sex marriage. Andrew Bolt, quite correctly, posited the idea that it is a bottom-order issue for most and yet, oddly, the entire program seemed to revolve around the subject. And here was I, also seemingly obsessed by it. So, at the risk of bringing coals to Newcastle (brandishing my climate-scepticcredentials), here are some random thoughts on this issue.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has agreed that this matter will be put to the people after the next election in the form of either a plebiscite or a referendum. A referendum is not strictly necessary because no change to the Constitution is needed for Parliament to legislate and recognise gay unions. The only reason to hold a referendum is, first, that the result will be binding on the government and, second, that all must vote, thereby rendering the result truly representative.
On the other hand, a plebiscite is not binding and voting is not compulsory, either of which could lead to a situation whereby the government of the day refuses to accede to the popular vote, particularly if voter turnout is not almost universal. Personally, I think this risk is small. In any case, I can see no reason why a plebiscite could not be established by legislation that would also make it compulsory to vote.
Same-sex marriage advocates fear a referendum on the grounds that it is notoriously difficult to get a proposal up. The same-sex lobby claims that about 70% of voters ‘support’ their latest cause. However, it is inevitable that a significant proportion of those supporters are not prepared to ‘die in a ditch’ over this issue. There is a natural resistance to changing the Constitution, a step many of these putative supporters will be reluctant to take on an issue that is not immediately germane to their principal concerns. It seems beyond question that the same sex lobby is correct in this assessment and that a referendum could easily fail.
Most polls split the vote roughly 70/30 in favour of same-sex marriage. In a referendum this ratio would not hold up, but it probably would in a plebiscite. If the PM is sincere in letting the people decide, he will not go down the referendum path. If a referendum fails, it will be interpreted that he has manipulated the process to get the outcome he wanted. He will be seen as ‘tricky’ and the issue will continue to fester.
Recent polls also suggest that a clear majority want the issue decided by a popular vote. not by government legislation., which brings me to the hypocrisy of Labor. It did nothing about this during its’ six years in power, but now parrots the line that ‘we are elected to make decisions.’ Tanya Plibersek, (who, along with Senator Hanson-Young, surely must be the standout example of the aphorism that it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool, rather than speak out and prove it) claims that ‘we don’t have a referendum on the GST, we don’t have a referendum on asylum seekers etc etc’.
Plibersek’s logic is a particularly egregious example of the specious reasoning that seems to infect so much of our political debate. Yes, politicians are elected to make decisions on behalf of their constituents – decisions that go towards protecting the economic and physical wellbeing of the nation. In many cases those decisions will offend a certain proportion of any and every MP’s constituents, but these are the occasions where MPs are expected to make the hard calls. In some cases, they need to make decisions that they know are in the national interest but which they also recognise to be hugely unpopular. These are issues it is not prudent to delay until the next election. Same-sex marriage does not go to the core business of government and, as far as the national interest is concerned, it is neither here nor there. Neither is it particularly urgent, despite the frenzy. So, in this case, MPs have the luxury of allowing it to be put to the people.
For proponents of same-sex marriage to suggest this is an urgent priority is ludicrous. Until relatively recently, homosexuals had been persecuted. Now they are widely accepted, protected by anti-discrimination legislation, can establish de facto relationships and are even permitted to adopt children. They may now openly celebrate their sexuality, paradoxically demanding that they be treated as ‘normal’ even as more than a few march down Oxford Street in bottomless chaps.
And we applaud them for it, even as we avoid saying the un-sayable. That most heterosexuals find the idea of homosexual congress decidedly unappealing. That most heterosexuals feel that homosexuals are not, in fact, normal. That most parents, on discovering that their cherished child is homosexual, experience dismay. That many heterosexuals on learning that an admired public figure has ‘come out’ also feel something akin to disappointment.
Heterosexuals are not so much ‘proud’ of their sexuality as they are thankful for it. Homosexuals should not take such conspicuous pride in their sexuality, as many do, for if it is an entirely natural, hard-wired leaning, as many claim, there is no personal achievement in it. If it is not, then it is merely a peculiar taste — like, for example, the attraction some heterosexuals feel for redheads. Let them be proud of their achievements, of who they are as individuals and their accepting of their sexuality, recognising that it still has its’ drawbacks, as unjust as this may be.
The degree of acceptance of homosexuality by society has been in spite of unworthy, but nonetheless human, feelings. It has taken time to reconcile the objective with the subjective in most people’s psyches. Once offers advice on this topic in the sure knowledge of being immediately branded a homophobe, but let me suggest that the gay lobby cool its heels for a spell, accept that a little more time, and a lot more balanced discussion, will be needed to see Australia take the desired step. step. If it is to happen, it should not happen in a spirit of rancour on either side.
Speaking personally, I have no particular objection to the idea of same sex-marriage and would almost certainly vote in its favour. What I do find objectionable is the way in which this issue has been used, — just another trendy ‘progressive’ cause– to corrupt the standard of public debate.