There’s a chap in South Australia by the name of Ryan (pictured – yes, he’s just a floating head), who I’ve known since I was about 4 years old, and who is a bit of an expert at putting words next to each other.
Recently he posted the following stuff on Facebook, and I thought it was so well expressed that the best thing to do would be to share it here as a sort of guest-post.
It should be fairly clear, but I’ll explain anyway because it feels like a cop-out if I don’t write some sort of introduction: Ryan recently contacted his local member for Federal Parliament, Jamie Briggs MP (Lib – South Australian seat of Mayo), and what follows is the exchange of messages on the topic of Marriage Equality.
As an atheist with libertarian socialist leanings I support Ryan’s side of the discussion, not only because I believe that the Australian Government’s policy of not allowing same-sex marriage is a massive vote-buying exercise, but also because I’m terrified of ever getting into an argument with Ryan.
So, here we go…
I sent this mail, recently, to a bunch of politicians, via this helpful website: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/
Dear Jamie Briggs and other parliamentary representatives,
On the issue of marriage equality.
I find the current government stance on the issue to be a clear denial of the separation of church and state. Regardless of the obvious discrimination issues, I think this fact alone is a startling indication of just how backward some of our system of law still is.
Please support marriage equality
And he replied!
Thank you for taking the time to share your views regarding the legalisation of same sex marriages.
In 2004, the Coalition amended the Marriage Act 1961 to define in legislation the common understanding in our community of marriage –“the union of man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
This definition does not, in any way, seek to prevent or discourage people from entering into same sex relationships, but to recognise marriage as one of the bedrock institutions of society, which is the basis for forming families and which is underpinned by tradition.
I would not support legislative amendments that alter the status of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
Thank you once again for sharing your views on this matter.
Then I replied!
Thanks for your reply. I must say, however, that I find it utterly insufficient as a reason for your stance against marriage equality.
If I may quote you, in relation to the 2004 amendment to the marriage act: “This definition does not, in any way, seek to prevent or discourage people from entering into same sex relationships, but to recognise marriage as one of the bedrock institutions of society, which is the basis for forming families and which is underpinned by tradition.”
In this one sentence you plainly state that, in your view, people in same sex relationships (which you kindly allow to exist) have no place in this “bedrock” institution of society, or in families, or in Australian tradition. This is precisely the “obvious discrimination” to which I was referring in my original mail.
Your reply contains no reasoning, it is simply a statement of prejudice.
If I might rephrase my original mail as a multiple choice question:
Given that marriage is an institution not only of the Church (whose discrimination against same sex couples is clear), but of the State, the Australian government is either:
a) Not truly separate from the Church. Or,
b) Itself openly discriminating against same-sex couples.
As far as I can tell, at least one of these statements must be true.
I thank you again for your response, and I urge you to respond again, addressing this, the core contradiction in the current policy, as I am yet to find a valid reason for its continued existence.
See how I remain polite. I didn’t use the word ‘cunt’ even once. This is because I really want him to write me back. So we’ll see.
And there’s more!
Thanks for your response.
I understand you have a different view and it is a perspective I understand. However the view of the Liberal Party is that marriage, at law, should remain between a man and a woman. I understand you disagree with that position.
All my best,
Well that’s a whole pile of nothing, let’s re-rephrase the question, shall we? And let’s make it perfectly clear this time.
Thanks again. It’s good to know that you’re interested, and that you understand my perspective. I, sadly, can not understand your perspective, or, I should say, that of your party.
The reason I can’t understand your party’s perspective is that you give no me reasons, you merely state, repeatedly, what it is. To me, it is a clearly prejudiced view; it is an open statement of discrimination. If discrimination against homosexuality is the policy of the Liberal party, all is clear, but I don’t believe it is. At least, I don’t believe you would tell me it is.
Gay people work, pay taxes, raise families, serve in the military, and abide by the same laws as every other person in our society. They are not afforded the same rights as everyone else in our society. I have offered what I believe to be the possible reasons for this, ie: That the Australian government is subject to the Christian church, or the Australian government wishes to discriminate against gay people.
So far you have neither confirmed nor denied either reason, or offered any reasons of your own. The only conclusion I can reasonably draw is that there is no reason. This discrimination is completely arbitrary; as arbitrary as denying marriage rights to Atheists, or the unemployed, or the elderly, or Aboriginal people.
Of course, there is quite a practical reason for holding the stance you do: That your party kowtows to bigots. Albeit at the expense of the basic human rights of a blameless minority. A minority, I might add, whose defining actions harm no one, and whose right to marry would adversely affect no one.
That’s pretty ugly, in this day and age, don’t you think?
Thanks, Jamie, for your continued correspondence. I really appreciate it. I urge you to respond with some kind of logical, or moral stance on this issue. I sincerely hope there is a stance, as the alternative, that my government institutionalises bigotry, is really too revolting to contemplate.
Come on Jamie, grow a pair! I promise I won’t get turned on by your big, hairy balls, if that’s what you’re worried about.
Hey hey! He grew some! They are hirsute and magnificent.
It is unlikely that you are ever going to accept our position and I understand that. However, the position is not discriminatory in fact previous forms of discrimination against same sex couples were removed by the previous government. What this is about is a change to the historic definition of marriage, that is something the Liberal Party does not agree with. It is not about ‘kowtowing’ to ‘bigots’ at all rather it’s maintaining a consistent view on what the word marriage represents in our society.
Again, I understand these reasons are unacceptable to you. I understand and appreciate your position and I do not seek to change it, rather I am explaining the Liberal Party position on any proposed change.
All my best,
Aaaaaand back in I go…
Thank you, yet again, for taking the time to reply, and thanks, especially, for stating a case on this issue.
To refer firstly to the end of your mail, I am thankful that you understand my position, and grateful that you don’t seek to change it. Under normal circumstances I would happily afford you the same courtesy, but unfortunately you are my political representative, and thus it is precisely your position that I am seeking to change. Such is life, in this democracy-thing.
So, it turns out that the Liberal party does in fact have a stance on the issue of marriage equality, that being: They do not agree with “a change to the historic definition of marriage,” and are all for “maintaining a consistent view on what the word marriage represents in our society.”
This feels like progress, Jamie, and I like it. Now, if I may, I would like to present my counter-claim to the Liberal party’s (let’s call it) ‘historical preservation’ defence.
My counter-claim would go something like this: Some history is worth preserving, and some isn’t. I’d like to add that, historically, much of the history that we, as a nation, have chosen not to preserve has been the out-dated and discriminatory dogma in our system of law. I feel that the current stance on marriage equality is destined to be left behind also. To me, it is what our American friends refer to as ‘a no-brainer’.
You’ve kindly reminded me that “previous forms of discrimination against same sex couples were removed by the previous government,” which is true. Indeed, it is admirable. Those previous forms of discrimination were removed, but, sadly, this current form of discrimination has not.
You state also that the current position is not discriminatory, and here I’m afraid I must disagree with you. Clearly you recognise the need to eradicate discrimination against same-sex couples, in fact you state it as a point of pride. If we look back at the wording of the act in question, though, which states that marriage is “the union of man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others,” how on earth can you reach any other conclusion than: this is discrimination?
I honestly do believe that you, and other members of your party would never actively pursue a prejudiced policy. I think you’re simply allowing a prejudiced policy to remain in place, because you’d rather not handle such a hot potato, and there are too many voters on both sides of the fence to risk offending either party. I guess I can’t blame you for that. Much.
This historical preservation defence rings a little too convenient to be true, in that regard. On any other topic, if you told me that “maintaining a consistent view on what the [insert any other issue here] represents in our society,” matters more than the equality of the Australian people, I wouldn’t believe you then, either.
I can imagine a Northern Territory politician in 1975 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party does not wish to discriminate against Aboriginals, but that they wish to maintain a consistent view on what land rights represent in our society.
I can imagine a Queensland politician in 1921 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party simply wishes to maintain a consistent view on what the death penalty represents in our society.
Likewise, I can imagine a South Australian politician in 1893 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party does not wish to discriminate against women, but that they wish to maintain a consistent view on what voting represents in our society.
I’m sure you are aware that in 1894, on the issue of voting rights for women, South Australia led the world. This is a point of pride for our state, and I’m sure it is presented as such to every student in every South Australian school. It was to me, and so it should be for ever more. Our state was a vanguard for simple human rights and equality under the law, one hundred and seventeen years ago.
If you’ll indulge me a moment longer, I’d like you to imagine living in 1890, as a man, and voting in the state election. I’d like you to imagine discussing, and debating your vote with other voters, in the presence of, perhaps, your wife, or mother, or sister, or a female friend, and how that might feel.
Then imagine, if you’re still with me, being a heterosexual, white male, as I am, and being the Best Man at your best mate’s wedding, as I was. I stood next to my great friends, in a perfect place on a perfect day, the celebrant started speaking and I looked out at the congregation. I thought, firstly: I can’t believe nothing has gone wrong yet, and secondly: I can’t believe how lucky we are, surrounded by our friends, both single and coupled, straight and gay, some married, some not. Then the celebrant said this, as she is required to by law: “Australian law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
At that moment everything shifted, just a bit, as it was made clear that this particular celebration of love and friendship is not for all of us, not according to the government. It was a sad moment. Some shuffled their feet, some glanced around, some made a concerted effort to do neither, and then we all moved on.
It may seem like an insignificant thing, and I know that to many it is, but please believe me, for all of us there then, and for hundreds of thousands of Australians, it’s not. No legal wedding can take place without those words being spoken, and those words amount to this: Our government insists that it is fair, and right, and necessary that, in this regard, gay people should be treated differently to anybody else. This is a statement of discrimination, demanded by our government, traditional though it may be.
I think about that every time I read a statistic on bullying, or assault, or suicide rates, or listen to yet another chapter in this ridiculous, circuitous debate that we continue to engage in now. If our government says it is necessary to treat gay people differently to anybody else, in even one way, then how can we ever fix this?
Thanks, again, for your patience and attention. I look forward to your reply.
My brain-mouth is tired! At least I know, even if he doesn’t reply, that I’ve said just about EVERY CONCIEVABLE THING I could possibly say on the matter. Actually, that’s not true. I could go on and on and on.
And he’s replied again. I want Jamie to get gay married to ME.
Thank you for your further email.
You have articulated a very strong argument, in a passionate and considered manner which does make me think hard about this issue. I can only say again that our policy remains what I articulated in previous emails. There is no proposal before the Parliament to change that at the present time. However I imagine that in the future there will be and these perspectives will need to be considered in consideration of our position.
I continue to think about this debate and I appreciate the fact you have put to me information that challenges my current position.
Please stay in touch.
Goodnight, sweet Liberal, goodnight.