In need of a good laugh, I decided to take Essential Reading’s advice and read Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs’ opinion piece in The Age concerning same-sex marriage and her logic — the word is used advisedly — that the legal recognition of unions in which both parties share an equal passion for appropriate soft furnishings is a fundamental human right. It was one of those rare moments when Quadrant Online proved less than reliable. What Triggs had to say was funny, alright, but “funny” as in peculiar, even demented. Such merriment as I drew from her article arose from the grim irony that this forever prominent and richly compensated headline-grabber is blessed by enablers keen to see her peddle sophistry in support of their shared and partisan agenda.
Quickly, I was struck by Triggs’ statement, “It is a truism that our rights will atrophy if they are frozen in time.” Could it be that our eminent jurist, someone for whom the English language is, or should be, her stock in trade, does not know that a truism is, as the dictionary states, a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting. In other words, a cliché or platitude.
Triggs is, first of all, a “progressive” and woman of the left, so no surprise that she once again elevated platitudes above rational thought. Where would her ilk be without the fuzzy thought, the seemingly high-minded but ultimately hollow assertion? After crying “Misogyny!” or “Islamophobic!” or some other “phobic”, the likes of Triggs & Co might actually have to lay out logical and reasoned arguments were they not so indulged and promoted by enablers in the media and elsewhere.
I had never before heard the assertion that liberties “atrophy” if not constantly re-worked and amended. It struck me as a peculiar concept, so I googled it. What I learned was that it does not appear to have been used in any other context but the “marriage equality” debate, having first seen the light of day in a ruling of the Constitutional Court of South Africa on that very issue. So, to paraphrase Jane Austen, it is not a truth universally acknowledged.
And what, in any case, does she mean? What is the “right” in question? The right to get married? The right to identify as a married person? Let’s say, for the sake of argument, it is the right to get married. Let’s also accept that, under its current definition, marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. In what way will that existing “right” be weakened if we do not change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples (or, to stretch a point, threesomes, quartets and/or inter-species nuptials)?
To appreciate just how specious is the “human rights case” Triggs’ insists decent people must accept, let us look at another liberty: freedom of speech. There is no ambiguity about this right, the most fundamental of them all and yet we see — as in 18C, if you’ll pardon the pun — that it has been clearly weakened for not being, as Triggs puts it, ” frozen in time”.
Now let me state here and for the record that I don’t have a problem with same-sex marriages and will probably vote ‘yes’ in the proposed plebiscite. What I object to is that the campaign on its behalf is being couched and promoted in human-rights terms. Why not, for argument’s sake, conceive and advocate another right, a “societal right”, if you will? Marriage in its traditional form has been an unremarkable and standard feature of Western society for quite some time. If its definition is to be changed, should not the wider society be consulted, its collective “right” to approve of a such change respected?
If the concept of marriage needs to be dusted off every few years in order to to avoid “atrophy”, what’s the next step? Polyamorous marriages (as already exist in some cultures)? Arranged marriages between adults and children (as already exist in some cultures)? Marriages between consenting 14-year-olds who are expecting a child?
Proponents of all and any of the above could (and undoubtedly will) claim “human rights” to support their cases. It’s true that society will probably draw the line at all these scenarios, but Triggs is clearly angling for society to be denied a voice in this same-sex marriage question. She would rather it be left to parliaments and courts because what is implicit in her article is the arrogant and condescending belief that the general public can be trusted only so far and no further.
Little people, you see, don’t have the same “right” to express opinions on the fitness of this or any other contentious topic because, well, the caste of scolds and social engineers of which Triggs is a card-carrying member know better, or think they do. An example: the Australian public seems rather to approve of Tony Abbott’s successful policy of stopping the boats, but Triggs & Co did not. So even as her country was spared the immigrant invasion now afflicting Europe, she and her lackeys cranked out condemnations of Operation Sovereign Borders and its ancillary aspects. Perhaps, when her stint as Human Rights Commissioner has run its course, Germany’s Angela “No Borders!” Merkel might have a job for her — although not, or so one would hope in the name of safety, working out of an office located anywhere near Cologne’s railway station.
If same-sex marriage gets the go-ahead it should be because Australian society at large has accepted that it is a worthwhile adjustment, not because it is imposed upon us as a human-rights issue by either Parliament or the courts. And certainly not on the strength of the tendentious dribble that passes for a reputed legal scholar’s logic.