If you heed the loudest activists, politicians and advocates, nothing could be more important than winning the right to wed. Examine either of two comprehensive surveys of attitudes and outlooks in the gay community and a very different picture becomes immediately apparent
The ALP’s Bill Shorten and Penny Wong argue that we cannot have a plebiscite on marriage because the Australian people, supposedly, are homophobic, transphobic and heteronormative –- as argued by the Marxist inspired Safe Schools Coalition material. Both the ALP leader and senator also argue that marriage is one of the last obstacles to true liberation and equality and this explains why the LGBTI community overwhelmingly endorses changing the Commonwealth’s marriage act to include same-sex couples.
Wrong. The real reason is because Shorten and Wong are afraid that if the question of changing the marriage act is put to the Australian people sanity will prevail and the answer will be ‘no’. Add the fact that a sizeable number of Australia’s LGBTI community are not interested in same-sex marriage and it’s clear why the ALP want the decision made by Parliament. Not only do many gays and lesbians prefer the freedom of multiple partners to a relationship “to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” but surveys also show that being able to marry is definitely not a priority.
Describing itself as one of the “largest surveys of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) people ever conducted” the report titled Private Lives: A report on the health and wellbeing of GLBTI Australians concludes that marriage recognition is a very minor issue. The report states “Only a small percentage of men and women (between 5-10%) reported formalising the relationship with a marriage or commitment ceremony, while most others had no wish to do so”.
When discussing relationship status the report also notes, “It is of interest that the majority of respondents between (52% of men and 39% of women) indicated no intention or wish to formalise their current relationship”.
A second national survey, titled Monopoly: A Study of Gay Men’s Relationships and involving 4,215 gay and bisexual online respondents plus face-to-face interviews, reports a similar conclusion in relation to gay men. Under the heading ‘Marriage & Other Ceremonies’ the survey states, “only a minority of men indicated they would like to marry their primary regular partner”. In relation to men with multiple partners, as might be expected, the percentage answering ‘yes’ to the question ‘Would you marry partner’ sits at 11%.
As to why marriage is not an important issue, the second survey goes on to suggest that one of the principal reasons is because a significant number of gay men are not committed to monogamous relationships. In relation to gay men with a regular partner the second survey concludes, “only a third of the men described their relationship as monogamous” while the first survey notes “gay men are much more likely than the other groups to have known their most recent sexual partner for less than 24 hours”.
While is it true that marriage between a man and a woman is not always monogamous or lasting, as previously stated those wishing to marry pledge themselves to a relationship “to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. The ideal is where two people commit themselves to one another in a lasting bond based on mutual trust and respect. While an uncomfortable truth to some, it is also the case that marriage involves procreation; something denied in gay and lesbian relationships (see “The Gay Deceivers“, Quadrant Online).
GLBTI school programs such as the Safe Schools Coalition and Victoria’s Building Respectful Relationships, as they are seeking to normalise GLBTI relationships, present a positive image that fails to acknowledge the dangers and risks. In relation to domestic violence the Private Lives survey reports that the incidence of partner abuse is “disturbingly high” and “the levels of experience of domestic violence represent a considerable burden of distress and injury for GLBTI people”.
While concluding, “it is also clear that most GLBTI people live happy and fulfilled lives” the survey also notes that GLBTI people face unacceptable levels of discrimination and violence and high levels of anxiety and depression.
In relation to mental health, “Nearly three quarters of the sample reported some experience of depression in the past” and, even worse, “16% of all respondents indicated suicidal ideation (thoughts) in the two weeks prior to completing the survey”. While same sex marriage is an issue at the top of the ALP’s policy wish list, it is significant and revealing that those most affected by any change to the marriage act seem so little concerned or interested.
It’s also the case, based on the two national surveys, that if Bill Shorten and Penny Wong are seriously committed to improving the life of LGBTI people then they would address the issues that most impact on them, instead of wasting time, energy and resources on a politically correct, largely irrelevant campaign about marriage.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of Taming the Black Dog