Politicians should just come out and say where they stand
I propose a new name for those politicians who blame everyone but themselves for voting against marriage equality even though they personally support it. Let’s call them “John Alexanders”.
I’m joking of course, just like John Alexander was joking when he proposed calling lesbian marriages “Navratilovas” and gay marriages “Alexanders” (after the ancient conqueror whose two marriages, by the way, were to women). There’s plenty of other potential names for pollies who say “yes” but will vote “no” – “Chris Bowens” or “Ed Husics” come to mind.
But no-one has deflected quite as comprehensively and self-consciously as John Alexander did on this week’s Q&A.
He said his electorate doesn’t support it (even though polls show it does). He said gay people are happy with things as they are (which every poll of the gay community also shows to be nonsense).
He said he believes every other partnership right should be available to same-sex couples (without giving any reason why the greatest partnership right, marriage, is different). He said it will happen one day (just not now). He said something about a pre-election promise by Tony Abbott (even though Abbott said nothing before the election about not allowing a conscience vote). He made a joke it wasn’t for him personally. He made the above joke about finding different names for same-sex unions. He even admitted he was “just trying to squirm around and get out of it”.
He gave every reason but what appears to be the real one: Tony Abbott has a religious prejudice against same-sex marriage which, in an abuse of his position, he is forcing on his Party, while Julia Gillard is opposed because she owes her tenuous grip on power to the undemocratic and Vatican-aligned officials who run the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union.
In short, the fangs of ideologically-driven, anti-gay prejudice are sunk deep in the neck of Australian democracy. Gillard and Abbott do their best to hide this.
Gillard tells the nation that, like her relationship with Tim Mathieson, gay relationships don’t need marriage to be loving and committed. But Gillard and Mathieson have a choice to marry which Gillard wants to deny gay partners.
Denying us this choice matters as much as denying us marriage itself because it says our relationships are too flawed ever to be considered marriages, and that we are too immature to make such an important life choice.
Gillard is also keen to remind the nation at every opportunity that her fellow Labor MPs have a choice to disagree with her and vote for marriage equality. But she knows full well there will be many who vote as she does so as not to appear disloyal.
Like Gillard, Abbott desperately wants to appear tolerant. He does this by telling the nation that he accepts his lesbian sister as part of his family. But by opposing same-sex marriage he is effectively saying he does not want his sister’s partner to be part of the Abbott family. A lesbian sister is his cross to bear, but a lesbian sister-in-law – no way!
Also like Gillard, Abbott stresses at every opportunity that Coalition members are free to cross the floor and vote against him.
But he never mentions the fact that Shadow Ministers who do this will lose their portfolios and others will probably lose their pre-selection. Gillard and Abbott are trying to be mirrors, not leaders.
When gay Australians look at our two national leaders these leaders want us to see ourselves, not the grim reality of their weakness and prejudice.
But we don’t have to look beyond the illusion to know something is wrong. We only have to look across the Tasman.
New Zealand’s conservative Prime Minister, John Key, has joined his Labour counterpart, David Shearer, in supporting marriage equality, making it likely a bill will pass when it is debated in the next few weeks.
No prizes for guessing how Australia’s “John Alexanders” will explain away this highly embarrassing development.
They’ll say New Zealand is ahead of us because it has had the “stepping stone” of civil unions for several years.
This is nonsense, of course, because civil unions are already available to 80% of Australians through state and territory schemes.
The real reason is that our national leaders are owned by conservative religious ideology in a way their New Zealand counterparts have thus far avoided.
If New Zealand achieves marriage equality first, if thousands of Aussie couples fly across the Tasman and spend money on weddings that should have been spent here, if Australia begins to look backward in the eyes of the western world, there will only be one real reason: a political class so used to blaming others and perpetuating self-serving myths it has forgotten its hypocrisy is actually wrong.
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