Tasmanian Greens candidate Martine Delaney (left), who used to be Martin, has had struggles with her sexual identity. I would imagine that to be a difficult thing to live with and overcome. Well done to her if she has now reached a stage in her life where she happy about who she is. Apparently, she has a female partner and they are caring for a young child. She has strong views on (so-called) marriage equality, as well she might in view of her situation.
I think she has the right to express her views strongly, openly and often. But she doesn’t have a right, in my view, to prevent others from expressing contrary views. When I say ‘right’ in this context, I mean the right of freedom of speech as, for example, set down without a rider in the first amendment to the US Constitution in 1791. Now, of course, in some jurisdictions, Tasmania included, that right comes with the rider that speech must not be ‘offensive’. Voltaire wept.
Australian Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter to all Australians on the ‘same-sex marriage’ debate titled: “Don’t Mess with Marriage”. This was distributed in the form of a booklet to parents of Catholic high school students throughout Australia. Ms Delaney complained to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission that the Catholic Church had been offensive. And the Commission in its wisdom (no guffawing) decided that there was a case to answer.
I first read the booklet. By any measure it is not the least offensive; going to great lengths, as you might expect these days of Christian churches, to be as nice as pie to everyone. I later read an article in The Australian (14 November) in which Ms Delaney was reported to have claimed that the booklet “crossed the line” by suggesting that same-sex couples were not “whole” human beings and that gay marriage amounted to “messing with kids.” I read the booklet again. I must have missed these gross insults, I thought.
See also, Shut Up! (Or We’ll Shut You Up)
It turns out that the use of the word “whole” in the booklet was in context of Matthew 19.5: “… a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one flesh [i.e. whole].” As Jesus had, in the previous verse, made the point that God had made them male and female, I think we are entitled to believe that He was referring to two people of opposite gender. If Catholic bishops can no longer quote Jesus, perhaps the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission should forewarn them that the New Testament is now proscribed speech for the purpose of the Act. Also, of course, if the remarks by the bishops can be tortuously construed as diminishing the unmarried, they are pointedly self-deprecatory, which goes to show how silly it is.
Now, “messing with kids” has all sorts of unfortunate connotations, which have nothing at all to do with what the bishops are saying. It is best that I quote the relevant part of the booklet:
Sometimes people claim that children do just fine with two mums or two dads and that there is “no difference” between households with same-sex parents and heterosexual parents. But sociological research, as well as the long-standing experience of the Church and society, attests to the importance for children having, as far as possible, both a mother and a father. “Messing with marriage”, therefore, is also “messing with kids.” It is gravely unjust to them.
Within context, the bishops are saying that it is preferable that children be brought up by a mother and father. And, accordingly, that we shouldn’t be indifferent to the family arrangements within which children are reared. This is surely a wholly unexceptional position, even if not everyone these days would agree with it. What the heck is offensive about giving it expression?
That is the problem, of course. Offence is in the mind of the offended. What will offend one might not offend another. I personally have met people who become offended at the slightest thing. You have to walk on eggshells around them; which is a common expression precisely because there are those who are easily offended.
The last thing you want to do is to give the easily offended a platform and legal redress (especially if they are would-be politicians in need of publicity). Vexatious claims are bound to explode. There are two bulwarks against such claims. One is reasonable laws. Anti-discrimination laws have largely undone this bulwark. The other is common sense applied by those in position of deciding whether there is a case to answer.
Unfortunately common sense is becoming a rarer in the face of cultural relativism, which is undoing the precepts which in older days informed opinions. That might sound vague. It is. Nevertheless, it is the best I can do.
If someone were jumping up and down while making objection that Catholic bishops were expressing a view that marriage should only apply between a man and a woman; that such a union was better than any other, and offered the best environment within which to bring up children, how would you respond? After laughing derisively or, if kinder, showing faux sympathy, you might suggest that a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down might be in order. But then you would not be a cultural relativist. You would be a throwback to a more primitive time when common sense was, well, simply more common.