Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Two Most Irksome Objections to Gay Marriage That Even Intelligent People Make

Alright, it's been a while since I've posted and this isn't even a real one. I have, however, been bitten by the need to have my say on the building storm surrounding Gay Marriage and the ALP's support of same.

There are two things bothering me about this issue. The first is exemplified by MP Tanya Plibersek in the following article:  (sorry about the cumbersome link, I'm sending this via my phone email). I am very bothered by a prevailling attitude from the ALP and the public in general that goes along the lines of 'don't you think you should be grateful for what you have? A few years ago you didn't have the rights you do now.' This kind of thinking, almost tantamount to 'God, haven't we done enough for you people?', is an amazing exercise in missing the point.

What Ms Plibersek, and our much-touted atheist PM Julia Gillard, seem to be brushing over is the fact that near enough is not good enough when it comes to human dignity. It is not enough to say 'we are treating you almost like equals. Can't you just be happy with that?'. That's insulting. That's degrading. Yes, equality before the law has improved for the better. But to demand that a community be grateful that their rights were awarded to them only after years of uphill battle is as ignorant as demanding that women be grateful that men let them work in the corporate sector at all, let alone for 70% of the salary.

The gay community demand only the equality and dignity that they deserve. Near enough is not good enough - you don't celebrate a compromise on human rights. You deride it and try to fix it. So before declaring the gay community ungrateful, consider first that no community should EVER have to be grateful for the right to be treated like everyone else.

The other problem I have is one that I come across time and again, and often from very well educated people who really should know better. I can't scare up the link for the ABC Drum article at the moment (damn phone) but will post it shortly. The comments of said article were illuminating indeed, and many more than one of them made the following point:

'All gays ever talk about is gay marriage. Can't they talk about something else, some REAL problem like climate change or asylum seekers or poverty or something that is far more important?'

It flows so easily from the previous argument. The gay community has it pretty good, so why don't they turn their attention somewhere else every so often? The objection to this is so obvious after even only a few second's thought, but rarely are those seconds invested.

We DO turn our attention elsewhere, all the time. We just don't do it under the banner of 'gays for another cause'. Should I have to differentiate myself when I'm placarding, speaking out or blogging as 'A gay for the separation of church and state', or 'I'm a homosexual and I also want to save the whales'? This is the ridiculous logical conclusion to such an objection. Just because gays don't announce themselves as such when supporting another cause does NOT mean that we do not support other causes.

Strangely enough, I have never heard anyone say 'damn breast cancer sufferers! How come they never talk about anything but breast cancer?'. A specific lobby - like the breast cancer awareness lobby, like the gay lobby, like the feminist lobby - will of course keep to their mandate. It is the duty of the gay lobby to lobby for gay issues. It would be head-scratchingly weird to announce that this year's big issue for the gay community is climate change.

So my plea is this: if you're going to get involved in the gay marriage debate, don't swoop in to announce that there are bigger problems and this is not worthy of your time. Fine, if you feel that way - but your precious time would be better spent commenting on those more important things instead of decrying one specific lobby's specific issue as a waste of time.

Gay Marriage is a contentious issue for a lot of people. Differences of opinion will happen. But when even the most intelligent of people think that close enough is good enough, or that the gay community is wasting everyone's time on something they think is trivial, it's hard not to be bothered.

So come on, Tanya. Come on, Julia. If you're going to oppose it, have the hide to oppose it openly. Don't insist that, while you don't support FULL equality, you should at least be congratulated for getting it close enough. You are not civil rights champions. You are obstacles.