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171 responses to “How to conduct the debate on same sex marriage”

  1. Mindy

    But in the end someone’s right to happiness and protection under the law should be held above someone else’s right not to be squicked by the thought of consenting adults consenting to an activity that they both enjoy. Why is someone’s ‘morality’ so much more important to society than another person’s right to make decisions on behalf of their loved one/share their superannuation/have the same rights under law just because they happen to be gay?

  2. Mindy

    Actually what Yusuf seems to be calling for is for someone to understand that his fee fees get hurt when people call him a bigot because he holds his morality to be higher than someone else’s human rights. It’s always someone else who has to be patient, wait a little longer, ask nicely and maybe you’ll get it. Maybe people who want gay marriage are sick of asking nicely, and being polite.

  3. Mindy

    But he is still calling on people to appeal to him, rather than looking at what they are saying and taking it upon himself to understand and fit it into his own belief systems, if he can. That’s the bit that irritates me.

  4. Mindy

    But I’m disagreeing with the way he thinks the debate ought to be conducted. He is taking the typically privileged position and saying ‘so convince me’. If everything said up until now hasn’t convinced him then what hope is there. If he is convinced then he should just come out and say so and not pretend that having polite debates is going to mean anything. Polite debates just degenerate into impolite debates. If he is still a spiritual person but believes that a secular society should have gay marriage then he should be arguing for it, and saying why, like Kristina Kenneally does. That is the way to convince people.

  5. Nick

    I’m increasingly interested in the debate despite being pretty much far removed from it for sometime. I’m a person of relative comfort in the discussion of marriage. I’m not white but I’m middle class and have a wife and two children (plus one on the way). But in a very secular reading of same-sex marriage I do wonder about the role of the State in deciding things based on love relationships. My inherent concern isn’t one that is morally coded, but rather, I do wonder how this notion of ‘social justice’ and universal human rights in relation to marriage is somewhat disconnected from the reality of why the State is interested in marriage anyway. For my mind, the State isn’t interested in regulating Love. Why would it be? What purpose would it be to the State? Rather, I can only imagine that once upon a time the narrative derived into the institutionalisation of marriage was shrouded in religious concern but coupled with the reproduction of society. In other words, the State legitimated sexual relations that reproduce children into the society.

    Of course, this has all but changed now despite whatever the conservatives say. De facto couples, solo parents and even same-sex couples can all parent with the state’s sanction (well partially). But the question remains that if we are to conceive of a State ruling on the notion of equal love for all, then this potentially opens the State up to some fairly obscure readings of marriage in the future. Under the social justice paradigm, what’s the problem with the growing interest in polyamorous relationships?

    It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I for one don’t reject the notion of human ethics in this important piece of potential legislation, but wonder about the role of the State in all of this.

    Lastly, without being completely tarnished as bigoted, etc, etc, I do wonder about if we’ve got our priorities slightly off point. We still don’t have an indigenous policy that works and the work of reconciliation is far from complete. Yet, that very real (in relation to structural constraints) human rights issue seems to fall into oblivion in the papers.

  6. Fine

    “So when I hear of the idea of gay marriage, it makes me squirm. But before you all label me a homophobic bitch, consider this.”

    Except he is being homophobic and I see no reason to respect his arguments. See that’s the thing. All because someone has a sincere belief informed by a tradition of thought, there’s no reason why their belief should be respected.

    Neither am I going to respect the misogynist “bitch” either.

    His analogies about gambling etc ring false as well.

    I’m happy that he’d end up agreeing to gay marriage is nice, but why is it any of his business?

  7. Fine

    “Perhaps he’s gesturing to how those unlike him and Kristina Keneally might be persuaded?”

    Why should we bother to persuade them? And who’s job is that? Are gay people expected to nicely and politely educate bigots?

    And to correct what I wrote above I meant: I’m happy that he’d end up agreeing to gay marriage , but why is it any of his business?

  8. Mindy

    @Mark – again I think he is wrong. It is up to people like him to persuade people – like him in their beliefs but not sure about gay marriage. It is not as if the gay marriage debate has only just started and this is the first anyone is hearing about it. He either needs to get off the fence or out of the argument all together.

    @Nick – the government is able to do more than one thing at a time, it’s just that this one has grabbed the media’s attention. Gay people are trying to get the right to marry one person of their own sex. Polygamy is a whole other ballgame and has no place in the same sex marriage debate.

  9. Nick

    @ Mindy – I appreciate that but in the grander scheme of things I lament that we still don’t put as a national priority indigenous affairs. I don’t mean to offend anyone with that statement at all. I realise that this is a very real issue but in relation to structural concerns, this has taken precedence over the very significant human rights issue for some time. It’s not just cropped up overnight. While governments can do more than one thing at a time, public discourse tends to run with only one thing at a time.

    In relation to the polygamous thing, I never said polygamy had any part in the same-sex marriage debate. Rather, there is a growing interest in polyamorous relationships and I was trying to make a point that as the State moves to regulating love relationships embedded into the paradigm of social justice and ethics, what does this then position the State in the future for claims for alternative marriage structures?

  10. Nick

    @ Mark – the very reality of the value conflict is such that inadvertently, one side begins to degrade the other by polluting remarks (Mary Douglas?). I can’t help but think though that the conservatives started it (said in my best Bart Simpson voice) through a long history of degrading same-sex couples and relationships. However, in saying this I agree with you entirely. The notion that opposition to same-sex marriage gets labelled as bigotted and stale seems to me to under-appreciate the fact that people have different value sets in our society (not referring to your contributors on here thus far). People should be able to proceed reasonably in this discussion on both sides.

  11. Fran Barlow

    The key question is surely whether the state has sufficient warrant to restrain same sex couples from regtration as married. The proper business of the state is, after all, to restrain those seeking to excercise their discretion in ways that might harm others who haven’t consented to the harm. The onus is thus on those who say that sufficient warrant exists to make the case that same sex marriage should be restrained. As things stand they have not. Yusuf turns the matter on its head. Until fairly recently in histroical terms, for a variety of reasons, few had noticed that the state had exceeded its remit in this respect. Now that we do recognise it, the state should be forced to retreat to what it can warrant.

    Simple really.

  12. Obviously Obtuse

    Rights don’t come from “nice” debate. Slavery, whales, women’s rights, eight hour days, conscription….. None of the good outcomes in these areas came from politely trying to persuade those on the wrong side of history (no to mention bigotry). Why be polite about this issue? Bugger the bigots, I say.

  13. Fran Barlow

    Some of my thoughts on the use of the slippery slope in this context can be found here and here

  14. Adrien

    But I’m disagreeing with the way he thinks the debate ought to be conducted. He is taking the typically privileged position and saying ‘so convince me’.

    Unfortunately that’s the way it is. Our society derives in large part from the medieval period in Europe and tradition basically prescribes the code that Yusuf outlines and adheres to. For him and other subscribers to Abrahamic faith homosexuality is a grave sin. That is what we are dealing with. What we also dealing with is someone who is willing to consider the issue of civic liberty and human rights apart from his faith in a reasoned manner.

    Considering the blind hatred this debate provokes amongst other people of the book those of us who support gay marriage should be respectful of that. He doesn’t appear to be writing from a position of fear and loathing.

    Actually what Yusuf seems to be calling for is for someone to understand that his fee fees get hurt when people call him a bigot because he holds his morality to be higher than someone else’s human rights.

    Is he a bigot? Is he bigoted? Goes around wearing a God Hates Fags t-shirt does he? Well if not let’s just presume he’s conflicted and try to understand his position. To exercise the empathy that many conservatives do not when discussing this issue. If we can perhaps we can persuade him.

    I think that’s perhaps the theme of the post. I disagree with it only insofar as it might be assigning ‘privilege’ to the gay marriage debate. In truth it would be better if political debates were always conducted bearing in mind that the opposition are not Satan’s little mutant horde.

  15. Fran Barlow

    I also disagree with Nick’s implication that discussing gay marriage in some way obstructs dealing with other important areas of policy. On the contrary, a political context for public policy in which ethical dealing is central is exactly one in which ethical dealing in policy towards indigenous people, the disabled, the aged, people in the developing world etc. is more likely.

  16. Adrien

    I should add that to a great extent Yusuf’s tradition has been abandoned. Very few people wait until they’re married to have sex.

  17. Mindy

    Mark, what (I think) Fine and I are saying is that putting it onto gay people who want gay marriage and their supporters to once again persuade people is bullshit. It is up to religious people like Yusuf and Kristina Kenneally, who self identify as both religious and supporting gay marriage, to get people who self identify as religious to listen to them. Opponents of gay marriage have proven time and time again that genteel debate does not change their minds in the slightest. It is only by having someone that they identify as ‘one of their own’ telling them that the sky won’t fall that they might listen and might be persuaded. It is up to Yusuf to take up the load now if he believes that gay marriage is the right thing to do.

  18. Fine

    Mark, I wish that bigotry and homophobia could be countered by listening and reasoned debate. Experience teaches us otherwise.

    My question as to who should do the educating is a serious one. Irfan Yusuf is being rather disingenuous in this article, I think. He’s smart enough to know there’s no rational reason to oppose gay marriage, yet he still pleads that he needs persuading because of his religious beliefs. He’s not taking any responsibility for his political position in this plea to ‘persuade me’. He knows the arguments already.

    I’d argue that if it’s anyone’s job to do the educating, it’s people like Irfan Yusuf. He maybe someone who reactionary Muslims listen to. But, he seems to be refusing that responsibility.

  19. Fine

    Mindy just said what I think in a much more elegant way.

  20. Mindy

    Adrien, you are right in saying that society always says ‘ask nicely or we won’t listen’ but what society chooses to forget is that we (women, gay people, people with disabilities etc etc) have been asking nicely for a long time and getting nowhere. So when someone turns around yet again and says they need to be asked nicely is it any surprise that they get told where to go?

  21. Nick

    @ Fran Barlow – I agree with the context of what you are saying and there is merit to the idea that if we produce a society that is conducive to universal human rights then we ultimately are able to deal very specifically with very real structural concerns. However does our society or any society in the west work in such unproblematic ways? I feel that’s too clear cut an assessment of public discourse and the deliberations of the average Australian. As mass media continues to sensationalise specific issues such as this, the space for considering something like reconciliation is minimized. In the grappling for power (exposure is a better word here), lobby groups inevitably limit the ability of others to be seen.

  22. Nick

    @ Mindy you are entirely correct to say that. In all situations, it takes the group’s ‘voices’ to appease the concerns of the groups. In relation to this issue, I’m not sure why there is such concern. The fact is that same-sex couples happen regardless and subsequently, nothing is going to change too much really.

  23. Chris

    Frain said:

    The proper business of the state is, after all, to restrain those seeking to excercise their discretion in ways that might harm others who haven’t consented to the harm.

    The state does a lot more than that though. It also restricts those who might cause increased risk to themselves (eg seatbelt laws) and regulates those who consent to harm each other (eg boxing/cage fighting). And there those on the anti-same-sex marriage debate who genuinely believe that same sex relationships are harmful to those involved (with consent).

  24. wilful

    As the fine satirists at Pure Poison point out, God has got quite a lot to say about marriage. Marry your rapist, marry your brother’s widow, etc etc. I find these claims to biblical authority quite absurd and illogical.

  25. Huggybunny

    What do we need state sponsored marraige laws for any-way?
    I have four children with two mothers and I did not marry either of them.
    The sky has not fallen in, the legal situation of the children has not been compromised in any way.
    Who you live with his no business of the state.
    If the institution of marriage was abolished tomorrow, nothing would change, except of course for the marriage industry. Priests and Parsons will be out of work – so sad – but they can always get a job in the Childrens department of large shopping chain where we can keep an eye on them.

  26. Incurious & Unread

    Irfan says:

    “One of the things I believe God taught was that human sexuality needs to be regulated.”

    Does he mean regulated by the State? If so, I’m surprised. If not, what on earth has that to do with same-sex marriage legislation?

  27. Sam

    “Bugger the bigots”

    That’s what they’re afraid of.

  28. wilful

    If there was no marriage act, I would have still gotten married.

    Funny aside, my celebrant was the gayest man there. As well as the most religious. And he brought his husband (legally married in Canada, at the time – since annulled by Howard) along, who he’d met at a church camp.

  29. Occam's Blunt Razor

    I don’t understand why same-sex couples would want to get married seeing as they have all the legal rights that married couples have, but if they want too then good luck to them.

    What I am not happy about is that this will cement same-sex parenting as equal to normal parenting, which it is not. Children have a right to a mother and a father. Same-sex couples should receive no financial assistance for IVF or surrogate procreation. And they should be last in line behind heterosexual potential adoptive parents.

  30. Mindy

    I think your comment about same sex v equal parenting deserves its own blog, at your place.

  31. Fran Barlow

    <emChris said:

    The state does a lot more than that though. It also restricts those who might cause increased risk to themselves (eg seatbelt laws)

    Yes, but in the case of seatbelt laws unrestarined people in moving vehicles can also harm others. One could also argue that there might be a lack of clarity about just what harms those sitting in cars might consent to. Moreover, if seatbelts aren’t compulsory, then people riding casually in cars may not get a choice. People will make the decision to have their minor children unrestrained and so forth. Of course, it’s also the case that there is a community cost to road trauma caused by unrestrained people in cars. In short, what amounts to consenting to harm requires more precise definition in cases where serious and even catastrophic risk is a possibility and where measurable harm will be borne by non-consenting third parties.

    and regulates those who consent to harm each other (eg boxing/cage fighting).

    And again, as above, because of the very distinct possibility that life altering injuries will occur and some of this cost will be borne by others, there needs to be clarity about consent, suitable insurance and so forth.

    And there those on the anti-same-sex marriage debate who genuinely believe that same sex relationships are harmful to those involved (with consent).

    This is a red herring because current marriage laws do not restrain same sex relationships. Whether they are relatively harmful or benign compared with opposite sex relationships is not germane here, at least as far as state marriage policy is concerned. Thet state has no policy of discouraging such relationships or privileging opposite sex ones, whatver people genuinely believe.

    While there is ample room to debate how the state should in practice go about fostering the well-being of those over whom it exercises power and how adequate warrant for such action can be obtained, it seems to me that the general principle ought to be that the state should allow people to act as they please, save that there is a sound reason for restaining them based in the protection of the legitimate claims of others to likewise act as they please. If those others seek restraint, then they need to show not merely notional harm but actual and measurable harm or the plausible prospect of it. They must show that the harm is greater than the net benefit of the behaviour of those others being left unrestrained, or else that it would measurably prejudice a compelling interest — typically their life chances or those of another.

    That doesn’t apply here.

  32. Kim

    I agree Mandy.

    This thread has a very specific topic. Please stay on it.

  33. Kim


    Commenting on phone again!

  34. Alex

    I’m sick to death of the ad nausea verbal diarrhoea that accompanies the issue of same sex marriage. It’s simple; 99.99% of those who oppose do so on religious grounds. God botherers can assert their own moral superiority in the privacy of their own homes, and spare us their repulsive bigotry.

    And Razor, it’s none of your business why a same sex couple would want to marry. I thought you wingnuts were all about personal freedoms; or is it just your own freedom and those that share your ideology that interest you?

  35. Fran Barlow

    OBR said:

    Same-sex couples should receive no financial assistance for IVF or surrogate procreation. And they should be last in line behind heterosexual potential adoptive parents.

    I don’t agree that anyone should receive financial assistance for IVF or surrogate procreation or reproductive services. These ought to be an entirely private matter.

    Discrimination in adoption on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation should be struck out wherever it exists. Making children (especially those who might be in need of adoption) hostage to someone’s prejudices is a dreadful way to act. The interest of the children who are the subject of processes should be the only concern.

  36. Michael

    “If the institution of marriage was abolished tomorrow, nothing would change, except of course for the marriage industry. Priests and Parsons will be out of work”

    Not to mention civil celebrants.

    For many millennia, marriage has been an institution administered by the family/clan. In Europe, the rise of the modern state meant that it took over that role, often in struggle with the Church early on, a struggle the Church lost, whether it be Protestant or Roman Catholic, most decisively in France where a religious wedding does not make a couple married in the eyes of the State. In the Anglo world the State subcontracted to the Church, initially the Church of England in mid 18th century, and then progressively extended as religious pluralism was recognised in the 19th century. But it remains an institution of the State, the capitalist state of course, to regulate, reduce, maybe even privatise?, our affectional lives and the raising of children in the interests of the capitalist state.

    With the rise of state organised marriage also went the demise of a variety of other kin-making institutions that were part and parcel of medieval life and which counter-balanced marriage as well. Now we are left with a co-dependant affectional regime in which marriage is made the be all and end all of our affectional lives.

  37. Nick

    @ Alex – you have backing for those statistics? Seems like a fairly confident claim.

    @ Fran Barlow and Chris – you’re talking about two issues there that the State obviously has a role to play in because it’s also an issue that has influence on the State itself – that being the restriction on the opportunity to danger to the self that results in public monies being spent to heal wounds, etc, etc. I find the comparison (as Fran has suggested) uncompelling.

    Subsequently, talking about opposition to same-sex marriage on the basis of harm is frivolous. The conservatives argue vehemently that same-sex relations are bound to result in increased or at least the normalisation of children being raised in same-sex families. The problem with this assertion is that it’s already happening. Further, this isn’t the reason why same-sex couples advocate for marriage. Rather, it’s about equal opportunity and equality amongst the ‘different’ sorts of marriages.

    My query, still unanswered, is that when we begin to open up the decision to the State to regulate love relationships under the social justice paradigm, do we not open the State up to making decisions that are inherently difficult to decide open when you open moral coding like that?

    One person suggested to me, which is a plausible argument, that we de-institutionalise marriage from the State referring it back to the societal institutions to decide what they deem is appropriate for marriage. The problem with that notion is that you essentially de-value marriage and subsequently open up societal institutions to embrace all types and forms of marriage which can be quite underwhelming.

    I’m not advocating for the maintenence of the marriage act as it stands, just problematizing the issue beyond the slander and into a reasoned debate.

  38. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @40 – where did I say I was against same-sex marriage? Be careful what you wish for, that’s all. I would have thought that seeing all the failed marriages, it is hardly something that a sane person wants a part of.

    Can’t wait to hear Gillard spin this when the Marriage Act gets changed.

  39. John D

    Nick @9:

    Lastly, without being completely tarnished as bigoted, etc, etc, I do wonder about if we’ve got our priorities slightly off point. We still don’t have an indigenous policy that works and the work of reconciliation is far from complete. Yet, that very real (in relation to structural constraints) human rights issue seems to fall into oblivion in the papers.

    Gay marriage will continue to be an issue until it is approved because there are too many people for whom the issue is too important to let go of. It is time for us to grow up and accept gay marriage so that we can get on with issues that are important to other people.
    Experience since the legalization of homosexuality is that people have grown to accept it. Gay marriage should follow the same path.

  40. David Irving (no relation)


    Whether they are relatively harmful or benign compared with opposite sex relationships is not germane here

    Actually, a lot of hetero relationships are pretty harmful as well, and the state usually doesn’t interfere until the harm spills out into the health system.

  41. Kim

    I’m still out and about but will be back in front of a computer shortly.

    Future off topic comments will be deleted.

  42. Sam

    Razor 35, I suppose there must be a lot of research showing that children raised by two gay men or two gay women have all sorts of problems, right?

  43. Huggybunny

    Michael @ 42
    Agree, the clan regulated marriage for lots of reasons, property, inbreeding avoidance and general social homogenisation.
    Also, of course, as a way to control the Youf.
    The State took over for the very same reasons but mostly as an instrument for the state control of the population. Inheritance laws, divorce laws etc etc.
    Why our gay cousins would want to place themselves under state control is a mystery to me.


  44. Dave McRae

    Michelle Lancey at the ALP Nat. Conf. had it in her speech. Describing herself as a Christian and a mother, she distils the debate succinctly between two viewpoints, love and hate. I’m sure you can work out which.

    I loathe the weasel words, “support traditional marriage”. My missus and I don’t need their bloody “support”, we’ve already got the perks and what the heck are they doing in my bedroom even if it’s to give us the tick of approval. There is no way that extending my privileges to citizens denied in any way negatively affects me or the haters whatsoever.

    Haters, like deniers, should not be denigrated, but just ignored. I suspect there is not alot be gained from engaging the rotters.

    The ACL will hate the PM whatever way she votes. They already despise her so it’s got me buggered why the ALP panders to it.

  45. Chris

    Fran @ 37 – I don’t agree with the argument, but I think it is a reasonable one to make and simply calling those people homophobic is unlikely to actually change their minds. Although I rather doubt that a debate will either, probably only personal experience will.

    And generally speaking I don’t think a public debate will change the political situation much at all. The view of politicians and public has been slowly changing and if the legislation doesn’t get through next year, it won’t be long before it does. Those who disagree will just have to learn to adjust. And religious marriage will continue to exist whatever the marriage act says or even if the legislation didn’t exist at all.

  46. alfred venison

    dear Huggybunny @31
    so, four kids, two mothers & no marriage. i SALUTE you! i really do; i even put on the caps-lock for you.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  47. Occam's Blunt Razor

    [deleted for being off topic /admin]

  48. Adrien

    Mindy – Adrien, you are right in saying that society always says ‘ask nicely or we won’t listen’ but what society chooses to forget is that we (women, gay people, people with disabilities etc etc) have been asking nicely for a long time and getting nowhere.

    I disagree that those human groups you mention have gotten nowhere. I do however agree with your implication that asking nicely isn’t enough. In fact society often thinks asking at all is an outrage. I am not saying ‘be nice’. I’m saying that one should make a distinction between those who hate and those who are merely conflicted and/or uncomfortable.

    Yusuf’s piece is a tad inelegant but he does strive to do the right thing; he is not motivated by hatred. Above you say somewhere that there’s an onus on him to persuade his more hardline co-religionists. Well that’s for him to decide and he will be more inclined to do so if he’s regarded in respect of his actual position and not categorized a bigot simply because he adheres to his faith.

  49. tssk

    Let’s knock the polygamy thing on the head. There will be a time and a place to debate the complex legal issue of polygamy. For now though gay marriage is almost the same as hetrosexual marriage. All you need to do is remove some words about gender from the act and it’s problem solved.

    Especially since those words were only inserted into the act recently in historical terms by a past prime minister (the Hon John Howard was it not?) That’s your tradition right there. Ace of Base has greater tradition than his cheeky insertion!

  50. Christian

    Perhaps this is OT so delete if you wish but I dont understand how religious people like Yusuf can believe that same-sex desire is okay but acting on it is not? What exactly are homosexual people like myself supposed to do, stay celibate for the rest of our lives?

    And why would God make me homosexual and then expect me not to act on it? Presumably to rationalise this religious people would have to believe that God didnt make me homosexual and that Im just disordered – contrary to decades of psychological and psychiatric evidence showing otherwise.

    I agree we need a civilised debate but its a little hard not to become emotional when arguing with someone who choses to ignore science in favour of a few lines contained in a 2000 year old book!

  51. Guy

    From a centre-left perspective, here’s hoping that the latest developments instigated by the ALP result in some serious progress being made at a national level. It’s wearying to think we’re still grappling with this question after all these years.

    A more mature, less socially conservative polity would have done the moral thing and legislated for gay marriage years ago, and moved on.

  52. jumpy

    In the circles I move in ( posh way of saying tradesfolk, golfers and neighbours ) there is no debate.
    The average comments are ” If they wanna get married, let em, I don’t give a sh!t”
    I honestly don’t see a ” red hot debate” in my community.
    I don’t hear any arguments for or against.

  53. akn

    Mark, you nailed it with this:

    … the separation between secular and faith values also requires a parallel recognition that civic and human values may clash with personal values (which may or may not be informed by faith).

    Liberal democracy must continually seek to extend civic and human values to all citizens who make legitimate demands or have grievances that they are being discriminated against for one reason or another. This is part of the democratic project. Personal values, faith based or not, that conflict with the extension of civic or human rights to others are invalid because they are specifically private. This means that in a liberal democracy the democratic project of inclusion within the polity by the extension of recognition and rights to others trumps private beliefs.

    People are entitled to their private beliefs but these are not fit to enter the public realm in a democracy where the demand for equality of treatment overrides any grounds for inequality of treatment.

  54. lomlate

    I couldn’t disagree with the OP anymore.

    I hate to create a strawman, but my emotional gut reaction to the drum article is that he is trying to say “hey, just because I’m against marriage equality doesn’t mean I’m a bigot”

    The fact of the matter is it DOES mean you are a bigot. Unless you are a cynical politician or against marriage all together there is no possible way to be against marriage equality without being a bigot.

    What’s more, you can’t say “I despise the vilification of homosexuals. I abhor any injustice to gays” and then say one sentence later say:
    “I’m uncomfortable with gay marriage because it institutionalizes forms of sexual conduct that I am uncomfortable with”

    That’s a contradiction. You ARE homophobic if you think that and if you voice those thoughts you ARE vilifying gay people.

    Apparently It’s gay people’s job to convince these people not to be bigoted. Can you imagine that being asked in relation to racial equality or sexual equality? The drum would simply refuse to publish that article if it was written about race or sex.

    But of course not for gays. We should apparently engage with our vilifiers and as Julia Gillard put it on Saturday “respect” them. Well I’m sorry Mr. Yusuf, I do not respect bigots.

  55. GregM

    People are entitled to their private beliefs but these are not fit to enter the public realm in a democracy where the demand for equality of treatment overrides any grounds for inequality of treatment.

    Umm, how does that work?

    Democracy is not a project. Democracy is the right of any person deemed to be qualified to participate in it, and in Australia that is effectively everyone who is aged over 18 who holds citizenship, to participate on whatever terms they like as long as their participation is peaceful and lawful, for example that they do not indulge in threats or libel.

    This includes their right to hold ignorant opinions, to express ignorant opinions, to seek to influence others with their ignorant opinions and to exercise their democratic right in voting based on their ignorant opinions.

    It is not a pure way of governance but that is its strength. Everyone eligible to vote, and many who are not, can participate in the decision making and their contribution goes into the mix as the decision is made.

    When the decision is finally made by those who are entrusted with making that decision then those who disagree with it cannot say that they did not have their chance to put forward their point of view. In a democracy they are then expected, after the decision has been made to accept that decision or to seek to exercise their right to lawfully seek a change to it.

    So how to conduct the debate on same sex marriage? As a democracy always should. By having an open debate where people can express whatever views they hold, including their privately held beliefs, whether founded in their religious convictions or otherwise, and trust the electorate, or its representatives, to make the right call on them.

    Conducted that way if those who oppose same-sex marriage will have little to complain about if the vote for it gets up and if they do complain (as they no doubt would) their complaints would be treated with the respect they deserve.

    And if the vote doesn’t get up then follow the democratic path, work harder, and put it before the Australian people again for their reconsideration.

  56. Martin B

    the recognition that marriage equality constitutes an instance of a universal human right

    I can hang universality on equality but I sure have trouble hanging it on marriage.

  57. Sam

    The state of New York legalized gay marriage quite recently. In the city of New York is a huge sign that says:

    “if you don’t like gay marriage don’t get gay married.”

    That’s all that needs to be said in this debate.

  58. Patrickb

    “It’s perhaps more about a public respect for the other’s conscience”
    No it’s not. It’s about discrimination. There is no ethical or moral reason that I can find for denying the institution of marriage to homosexuals.

  59. lomlate

    Greg I think you are on the whole right. People should be able to express their bigoted points of view. Whether the national broadcaster should publish that is another matter.

    I can’t possibly understand why Mr. Yusuf doesn’t just come out and say it. “i’m a homophobe”. “I’m a homophobe because my sacred text tells me to be so.” That’s the truth here. Having religious reasons for your bigotry doesn’t change the fact that you are one.

  60. jumpy

    lomlate, you do realise the term ” homophobia ” first referred to straight men fearing being thought of as gay, not fearing gays.
    To me it’s a nothing word that doesn’t help the debate.

  61. Martin B

    Seems to me the institution of marriage can be described as evolving (non-Darwinianly); it is both inherited and constructed.

    It’s not as if democracy gets to consider the issue from scratch. It come to us in a particular form, one different to even earlier manifestations and one shaped by what would seem to be pre-democratic influences.

    I certainly blame them for the frequency of association of the dissonant ideas of ‘against discrimination’ but ‘unsure about gay marriage’.

  62. Emma

    Yusuf, if he is a religious Muslim, presumably thinks that all Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto and civil marriages are equally invalid. Catholics, if they were honest, would also admit that their church teaches that Protestant marriages are a heretical sham. What possible interest could any religious person have in anyone else’s civil marriages, given that all of them are equally invalid, if you accept religious premises? Leave us fornicators to our sins and STFU, is my response to this kind of pseudo-earnest pontificating.

  63. lomlate

    You’re right Mark, if I had done a marketing degree and understood public relations well I would likely say that this isn’t the best way to go about it. But you know what? I feel like calling a spade a spade. And I don’t like it how everyone seems to be of the opinion that while racism and sexism isn’t to be tolerated, homophobia* is just fine.

    Now sure, it might not advance the cause. But am I wrong?! Tell me I am incorrect and explain why

    Racism exists in Australia. However society, quite apart from the legislature, has made the decision that such opinions cannot be expressed publicly. To do so risks social exclusion and ridicule. You simply aren’t allowed to publish on the ABC’s website that asian or black or aboriginal people make you “squirm”.

    Mark, I’d hazard a guess that if someone did publish that you’d be calling them racist, and not bothering to consider what the best strategy is to change their mind.

    *I’m using the word as defined in wikipedia, but the merriam-webster definition is functionally similar. The oxford definition adds the word “extreme”, and while I doubt the word extreme is universally accepted as part of the definition, I’d say the fact that he ‘squirms’ means that his aversion to homosexuals is quite extreme indeed.

    Perhaps the compromise here is to say to Mr Yusuf: “look, you’re a homophobe. But it’s obvious you’re becoming uncomfortable with this side of your morality and we’re really encouraged by that and we hope that you make further steps towards… yknow…. not being a homophobe.

  64. jumpy

    I realise this comment may get the chop, but don’t underestimate the fear in the religious community that with a change ( never a good thing for them) could result in law suits against their church or priest for refusing to marry gay folk.
    Could that fear be justified?

  65. Nick

    @ tssk, if you are referring to my comments I fail to see it as a moot point at all. But in the interests of the editorial intervention I’ll refrain from pushing the issue (which was not polygamy either).

    The problem of how to argue against gay marriage is problematised by hard liberal philosophy that remembers the universal ethics but neglects the freedom of speech and values. Calling someone a bigot based on the socialization processes they’ve developed undermines liberal values as much as telling same sex relationships that they are sinful.

    Reasoned logic however needs to come from within. Internal social groups need to have detractors from the norm to lead reasoned policy through potentially charismatic leadership. Oh that sounds far too Weberian for my own good!

  66. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected]: “lomlate, you do realise the term ” homophobia ” first referred to straight men fearing being thought of as gay, not fearing gays.”

    Actually, I think it referred to ‘fear of sameness’, but that’s way off topic. I apologise for my weakness and seek forgiveness.


  67. Emma

    Jumpy, how many lawsuits do you think were brought against churches refusing to marry unbaptised people, or divorced people, which they do all the time? That’s right, none. Churches don’t have to marry anyone they don’t want to for any reason, and that’s not going to change. This is about civil marriage — the kind churches already don’t believe in, which is why I think the opinions of religious people should have nothing to do with it.

  68. Fran Barlow

    Actually, I think it referred to ‘fear of sameness’, but that’s way off topic. I apologise for my weakness and seek forgiveness.

    Err … no Daryl … one of the first printed usages of the term homophobia was in this text: Weinberg, G (1972) Society and the Healthy Homosexual Weinberg, a clinical psychologist began using the term as early as 1966. Apparently, he prevailed on a p*rnographer-acquaintance, Al Goldstein, to start using the term in magazines he published. One of his students, Ken Smith, used the term in a published paper in 1971 to describe aversion to homosexuality. (Homophobia: a tentative personality profile)

  69. Jack Strocchi

    Mark Bahnisch said:

    The missing step in Faulkner’s oration is that many need to take a journey to reach the recognition that marriage equality constitutes an instance of a universal human right.

    I don’t take any notices of appeals to high-falutin’ ideologies. The strong evidence-based case for gay marriage is that it will encourage the integration of gays into the mainstream community, rather than their differentiation into fringe ghettos.

    Marriage is really a public health policy. Gays should get married because it will promote their sexual health in their prime and preserve their mental health in their dotage.

    The glory-gory days of foot-loose and fancy-free gay liberation turned into a slow motion public health disaster of the gay scene, promiscuous sodomy and rampant STDs. And now that the carnival is over many gays, estranged from their families, are the seeking the legitimation their long-term commitment. No one, gay or straight, wants to spend the last phase of their life partnerless and childless in some aged care facility.

    So I, as a cultural conservative, would like to extend gays a rueful welcome hand as they join the ranks of the married with mortgage and kids.

  70. Link

    Feel free to vilify us, but don’t expect such vilification to change our minds. And don’t expect us to withdraw from this debate just because we are having some trouble accepting your opinion.

    I appreciate this sentiment, it’s very honest and it’s very human.

    Personally, I have no strong feelings one way or ‘tuther about this issue. as I no longer believe in marriage for anyone. I guess we should all have the right to be equally legally, miserable.

  71. Katz

    The fact is that the Marriage Act (1961) thoroughly desacralised marriage.

    Belatedly, desperately, as late as 2004 Howard attempted to perform a latter day resacralisation:

    Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

    Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

    It was ersatz. The term “union” is an empty category. There is nothing in marriage that is inherently unique.

    It is established that under Australian law there is no spousal privilege.

    It is established that there may be r*pe in marriage.

    The Family Law Act removed adultery, desertion and cruelty as grounds for the dissolution of marriage.

    Given the phoniness of Howard’s alleged resacralisation, those who attempt to invoke theological arguments to preserve the alleged status quo should recognise that this status quo is inimical to their cosmology. Their arguments are based on a profoundly erroneous reading of Australian public policy.

    These folks could attempt to resacralise Australian public policy. That is their right. But they should be prepared for opposition from folks who view with alarm the prospect the slippery slope of rule by god botherers. For example, many religious folk still think that homosexuality per se is an abomination.

  72. jumpy

    Thanks Mark, your answer, if widely distributed , could quell that fear and assist the the rationality of the debate in certain circles.

    Emma, Like it or not, churches* take a form of “ownership” of marriage.
    They cherish it, revere it and view it as a pillar of the church.

    On this, of all issues, if confronted with “force” they respond in kind.
    Thats human nature.

    *from the sunday punters to the pope.

  73. Patrickb

    Looks like we’ve won then. But seriously, how can a rational debate proceed? The types of assumptions that underpin the counter arguments to the establishment in law of a right to allow couple of the same sex to marry are, by modern standards, prejudiced in the extreme. The only use a debate in the parliament will serve is to provide an abundance of head shaking opportunities as the parade of neanderthal proceeds. Sadly the legislation probably won’t get up, that’s how bad things have become.

  74. Patrickb

    And BTW, Mindy’s argument as very difficult to refute. Did the majority of the population have to brought along when it came to abolition, racial equality, universal male suffrage or women’s suffrage. Sometimes it’s necessary to lead from the front, waiting for some people to grow up morally can cause a great deal of unnecessary suffering for those who are injured by blackhearted prejudice. And it should be remembered that it’s the 21st century. We’ve seen it all before and the fabric of society has yet to be rent in twain.

  75. tssk

    Nick, wasn’t specifically directed at you. I was just getting frustrated that at the last moment it seemed like some conservatives were saying to the gltb community ‘hey hang on a moment, you need to defend the marriage rights of this group of people too!’

    It’s a really successful derail and it works all the time on a lot of people on the left. (Along with, ‘hey what about disadvantaged group x over there. How can you be so selfish to fight for your rights without thinking of theirs.’)

    This is so damn easy to fix now. Just amend the marriage act. As for the church thing, I think we all know that a lot of churches will continue to be bigots about this sort of thing just like some churches used to discriminate against non-white people. But that battle can come later, if it even needs to happen. Let’s give gay people the same rights as we take for granted. Let’s let them get married and call it marriage. I know plenty of hetro couples who didn’t have a wedding in a church. (Sorry if this is rambly…need sleep or coffee.)

  76. Patrickb

    “Surely bigotry and homophobia themselves are best countered that way, not by declamation and condemnation.”
    I think they are best countered by ignoring there influence. It is indeed the case that on this topic “bigotry and homophobia” have a disproportion influence in the parliament when compared to the general community. Surely you aren’t suggesting that we should enter in a debate with people who peddle “bigotry and homophobia”? There is no value in that.
    “I’m sorry to say the way the debate on this thread is proceeding is not filling me with hope.”
    Well don’t be sorry, be happy that their are people here who simply cannot accept that “bigotry and homophobia” have any currency in any debate.

  77. lomlate

    @79 Mark

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post. We should try and pursuade. We should try and better inform Mr. Yusuf’s conscience. We should talk to him, try and discuss his prejudices and understand them better.

    but we should not excuse them. It’s my opinion that this whole article is saying “look, just because I’m anti-marriage doesn’t mean I’m a word this society associates with negativity” – (whether it be vilify, bigot, homophobic etc). Mr. Yusuf realises these things are bad and is asking permission not to be labelled as such.

    We should not grant him that permission. We should talk to him, persuade him, engage him. But part of that surely should be to make him realise the truth: that his opinions are homophobic and he needs to come to terms with that. Just like racism or sexism, homophobic opinions can never be respected.

    @78 Nick
    “Calling someone a bigot based on the socialization processes they’ve developed undermines liberal values”

    So be it then.

  78. lomlate

    I’d be interested in understanding why people aren’t more eager to admit their prejudices. Obviously concepts like racism and sexism are a deep part of people’s thought processes, almost automatic. Why can’t people like Mr. Yusuf realise in their conscious thought: “Hey, I’m a bigot. I really need to work on that.”? Surely that would accelerate the journey he is on?

    What scares me is the possibility that the words in his article are actually closer to this: “hey, i’m a bigot. But I value my church’s teachings more than my desire to be non-discriminatory”.

    That is a very dangerous place to be. It purports a desire not for patience as he evolves but rather acceptance of his position. Apparently we should respect his religion enough to completely forgive the homophobia he derives from it.

    And that’s what I most certainly refuse to do. People who think like that are in the minority anyway, so in a practical sense it’s a waste of time trying to convince them. Most people are in the former category thank god, and that’s why we’ve been able to shift the polls so dramatically in the last 10 years.

  79. Patrickb

    I would differentiate between “innate” and “unshakeable”. The former implies a built in or predetermined disposition and I don’t believe that to be the case with regard to “bigotry and homophobia”.
    Unshakeable? That’s different, the implication there is one of strength in the face of adversity, a worthy characteristic don’t you think? I’m sure many who hold what I would consider to be “bigot[ed] and homophobi[c]” attitudes would be happy to have those attitudes described as unshakable. If you have a look at what was said loudly and proudly by the opponents of civil rights in the US in the 1960s you’ll find plenty that is unshakable and unspeakable. I think you are mixing up nature and nurture.

  80. Chris

    patrickb said:

    Did the majority of the population have to brought along when it came to abolition, racial equality, universal male suffrage or women’s suffrage.

    When it comes to same sex marriage, the majority of the population are already there. Its the elected representatives who have not caught up. Its just one policy (voluntary euthanasia is another) where for whatever reason the politicians don’t actually represent the views of the people they are meant to, but instead the views of the people who make up their faction/branch of their political party (this goes for both Labor and Liberal/NP parties).

  81. lomlate

    p.s. Mark: fancy that. Conversation on the internet leading to a greater understanding. Somebody take a screenshot!

  82. Jacques de Molay

    As Keating said on ABC TV recently (in relation to something else) “You don’t worry about trying to sell it to the public, the public need to get sold”.

    I’ve never heard of Irsan Yusuf but you don’t worry about people like that they’re the ones that need to come around.

  83. Emma

    Jumpy, churches may consider that they ‘take a form of ownership’ of marriage. But as Katz and I have tried repeatedly to point out, in relation to civil marriage they are wrong. It has nothing to do with them, it will not make them change their practices, it will force no change on them. Many of the people who will take advantage of the change have no religion and nothing to do with any church (often because of the direct bigotry directed by many churches and their members towards gay people).
    Churches have been authorized to tack civil marriage onto their religious ceremonies, which I agree with Mark ought to br stopped and separated, as it is in many European countries. If we had fully civil marriage, then churches could indulge their bigotry and mumbo jumbo to their heart’s content and keep their opinions out of non-religious people’s lives.

  84. tssk

    Um, just as an aside to the whole church marriage wedding thing. Didn’t this only start up in 1560 as a way of the church controlling marriages? I thought before then marriages could be held anywhere, even without a priest or member of the clergy.

  85. Katz

    Jumpy, as Emma has stated, marriage is strictly a civil matter.

    Consider s. 26 of the Marriage Act (1961):

    The Governor-General may, by Proclamation, declare a religious body or a religious organisation to be a recognised denomination for the purposes of this Act.

    The civil authority has under law absolute discretion as to which organisations and which individuals acting on behalf of those organisations are entitled to perform marriages.

    Indeed, the GG could withdraw that authorisation from any organisation or any agent of that organisation for any reason or pretext whatsoever, including presumably any refusal to perform same sex marriages.

    Those who oppose same sex marriages on religious grounds clearly do not understand that under Australian legislation marriage has nothing to do with any religious position on marriage.

    Irfan Yusuf et al would be well advised to do a refresher course on Australian civics.

  86. Emma in Sydney

    The other thing is that any church has the right to refuse to perform the civil marriage part of their ceremonies (mostly filling in forms), and just carry out their own god-bothering. The marriages so performed would have no legal force, but presumably the man in the sky would be fine with that, as long as the correct form of words were spoken. What does he care for our puny civil laws, right? Then people who wanted a legal marriage could go down to the town hall or the registry office like they do all over Europe, and get the forms filled in. Too easy.
    Oddly, this doesn’t seem to appeal. Perhaps because it’s only because of the confusion with civil marriage that they get the paying customers in the door for weddings?

  87. Emma

    Sorry, both Emmas are me — different cookies on different machines.

  88. Fine

    This debate makes me think about the people who still picket a certain abortion clinic in Melbourne, even though abortion is pretty much legal in Victoria now.

    They’re there every day, with their honestly held belief that abortion is murder. On that basis, they continue to harrass women. Undoubtedly, their belief is formed by their religion. Is it innate? Of course not. Is it unshakeable. I’d say so.

    This forms the nub of the argument I have with this piece, Mark. Is it the job of the women going in for an abortion to debate, persuade, educate, inform those people? I’d say no. Who’s job is it? Why should anyone have to persuade someone that they deserve their rights? You don’t persuade, you demand.

    Yusuf speaks from a position of privilege in this particular debate. He’s never had to question his right to marry. Why is it the job of the people who aren’t privileged here to do all the work? Yusuf is already educated, yet he persists in his ignorance. Yet, he wants to portray himself as the reasonable one.

  89. Mindy

    I think there are probably a few Ministers around Australia who would happily marry same sex couples in their churches once the Marriage Act is amended.

    I think making all unions ‘civil’ with the option of getting ‘married in the eyes of the Church’ a great idea. Bride and Groom/Bride and Bride/Groom and Groom/ Couple could take care of the paperwork a few of days before the big ceremony and everyone’s happy.

    Could you imagine the fuss then, regardless of the fact it would make no difference?

  90. Emma

    Already, more than 62% of all marriages in Australia are celebrated by civil celebrants, and only 37% by ministers of (any) religion. Religious marriages have not been a majority since 1998 (ABS figures). 76% of couples have lived together before they got married.
    Tell me again why we should be interested in the opinions of religious people on this issue?

  91. Mindy

    @Emma – as members of our society they do have the right to have their opinions heard and I do think it is important that they do. If only because then we can shoot down their arguments, but also so that we gain an understanding of what it is that motivates them – which sometimes is just garden variety bigotry. If they express their opinions and are surprised to find that more people than they thought disagree with them then maybe that will be food for thought for them too.

  92. Emma

    Mindy, they are entitled to their opinions and their ‘consciences’. They aren’t entitled to try to impose them on other people, which is what many of them incessantly attempt to do. With decreasing success, as the figures show, which may explain the shrillness.

  93. Mindy

    Good point Emma. In my country town there seem to be three distinct groups emerging: the marriage is between a man and a woman group; the marriage should be available to everyone who wants it group; and the ‘we don’t give a toss either way, just amend the Marriage Act and stop arguing about it’ group. So yes, I think the ‘against’ group is shrinking by the minute.

  94. akn

    The civil union is the major type of union in France which also has a very strong tradition of civil space bounded by the institutions of the state which delegitimise the role of churches and private belief in the public space.

    In Australia the debate around equal civil marriage rights is beginning to have the same effect. Faith based social attitudes are not valid in the civic sphere. People with faith based views are perfectly entitled to live as they choose but the authority of their views is limited to the community of of people who share those views. Others, who do not share their views, are entitled to assert their needs for recognition, as in for equal recognition of civic marriage, but are not obliged to accept limitations on their rights to recognition imposed by people whose faith based views they do not share.

  95. Mercurius

    (Pleading this is on-topic as an illustrative example of how to conduct the debate…)


    as members of our society they do have the right to have their opinions heard and I do think it is important that they do. If only because then we can shoot down their arguments,


    Children have a right to a mother and a father.

    Like, for example, how the assertion that “children have a right to a mother and father”, if used as a basis for law-making, would see us return to the days when divorce for families with children was effectively illegal, difficult if not impossible to obtain.

    But why stop there?

    If we are to make “children have a right to a mother and a father” as a basis for positive law-making, then shotgun weddings should be compulsory for unplanned pregnancies. Widows and widowers should compulsorily re-marry after a statutory mourning period. Life support machines for permanently vegetative parents must remain switched on. The Family Court should in shared parenting cases order that children must spend time with their abusive parent because they have a “right to a mother and a father”.

    Am I doin’ it rite?

  96. Nick

    @ 103: “Those who oppose same sex marriages on religious grounds clearly do not understand that under Australian legislation marriage has nothing to do with any religious position on marriage.

    Irfan Yusuf et al would be well advised to do a refresher course on Australian civics.”

    Katz, maybe I read wrongly yesterday or missed something, but I thought Irfan’s point was fairly straightforward, and in agreement with you on this.

    My religion might belive it’s wrong to eat pork, but Australia is not a religious country. There’s no way I would expect everybody not to eat pork, or for legislation to exist purely for the sake of enforcing that religious belief.

    Likewise, same-sex marriage. It is equally unreasonable of me to expect legislation to enforce what is only my religious/personal belief against it.

  97. Katz

    Correct Nick. I apologise to IY for misrepresenting his position.

    IY confesses to feeling “uncomfortable” about his decision to support marriage equality.

    Many of us are squeamish or even phobic about the strangest things — spiders, mice, clowns. So long as people master themselves by overcoming the urge to project their phobias on to others, then I’m prepared to not judge sternly those who are victim to phobias.

  98. Nick

    “Many of us are squeamish or even phobic about the strangest things”

    Wet towels getting caught on or dragging against something…usually pegs on the clothes line…no idea why, but it’s always made my stomach churn!

  99. Hal9000

    It’s curious to me that the most trenchant opposition to reform of the Marriage Act comes from those whose own religious position rejects the validity of any marriages outside their own sect’s rites. What does it matter to Joe de Bruyn whether this or that couple is permitted by law to do something that his sect rejects as illegitimate whatever the gender of the couple? It would be like a muslim or jew trying to dictate how pork should be cooked.

    On the subject of Yusuf’s squeamishness, I personally find the stylised cannibalism practised by most christian sects rather distasteful, but provided they leave the sacrifices at the symbolic level and don’t harm anyone in the course of conducting these bizarre rituals it’s none of my business. And neither is it any of Yusuf’s.

  100. Incurious & Unread



    There is no need for bigots to change their tastes. They just need to stay quiet and keep out of the debate, which has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    Yusuf says:

    “And don’t expect us to withdraw from this debate…”

    But that is exactly what I “expect” (in the sense of believing that it is the appropriate thing to do).

  101. Fran Barlow

    Many of us are squeamish or even phobic about the strangest things

    Indeed that’s so. I’m horrified by typos and other errors in text — doubly so if I’m the one who composed it. I also hate it when public figures pronounce as follows: nucular or nyucular, inferstruckcha, particuly, julery, edjucaysh’n.

    I also hate food being left out overnight or uncovered in the refrigerator and people who park on the ends of the aisles in shopping centre carparks.

    All these things are troubling. I don’t agree that the state should restrain them however. (Well maybe the owners of carelessly parked cars should be restrained).

  102. Katz

    Agreed, I&U. IY is a self-confessed phonic.

    Phobics are often obsessed by their phobias. Sufferers are often deluded into thinking that the rest of the world is as obsessed by their phobia as sufferers are. Thus, they are unable to perceive that the world is bored by their obsessions.

    Accordingly, phobics don’t keep their lips buttoned because they cannot.

    These obsessives don’t need a forum. They need treatment.

  103. Fran Barlow

    Mercurius said:

    Like, for example, how the assertion that “children have a right to a mother and father”

    That’s obviously silly. Biologically, all children have a father and a mother. That’s not a right. It’s a feature of human reproduction. If one is asserting that they have a right to have someone act in this capacity, that’s ridiculous on different grounds. There are orphaned children or children who have only one primary caregiver, who, presumably has to fulfil “both” roles. Now that June Cleaver and whoever Fred McMurray played in My Three Sons have become caricatures, the idea of having a distinctive mother and father is not merely silly but offensive. One might wonder why the state isn’t supplying mothers and fathers for those who lack responsible caregivers, if this is indeed a right.

    In a world slightly closer to the ideal than this one, children everywhere would have ready access to socially competent and loving caregivers. The adults in their environment would work together to make sure they got what they needed to one day become socially and intellectually autonomous adults. Subject to this standard, what the sexuality of those caregivers turned out to be would be entirely uninteresting.

  104. Incurious & Unread


    But what arachnophobe wants the State to eradicate spiders? What claustrophobe wants elevators to be banned? Even if they wanted it (which seems unlikely), they would be unlikely to speak out. If they did, they would just be laughed at or ignored.

    That is probably the best response to the religious homophobes.

  105. Mindy


    The quote used by Mercurius was from an earlier comment by OBR. Mercurius was making a [good] point about the use of ‘rights’ in comments and taking it to its logical extent. I don’t think he actually believes what he quoted.

  106. Fran Barlow

    Oh I know, I & U. I read Merc’s post and that was clear, and in any event, I know his posting pattern. I was just adding to what he said.

  107. Fran Barlow

    oops … should be Mindy not I & U

  108. Sam

    “whoever Fred McMurray played in My Three Sons”

    I am going to answer this without checking.

    Steve Douglas, and it was Fred MacMurray.

  109. adrian

    As someone who is neither gay nor a fan of marriage, I find the attention that this has attracted quite mystifying.

    Sure, if a section of the population want equal rights to state sanctioned servitude good luck to them, but the fact that this has become such a hot topic is surely indicative of a profoundly conservative society where everyone’s desire is basically to become, as much as possible, like everyone else.

    If I was gay, I’d say stuff them, I want no part of this institution, which is what I’ve done anyway.

  110. Fran Barlow

    Fair comment Adrian, but this is not about what choice any individual should make, but about the choice any individual might make.

  111. Mindy

    @adrian – what I’m arguing for is same sex couples to have the choice to do exactly that.

  112. Fran Barlow

    Thanks Sam … I couldn’t recall it without bothering to look.

  113. John D

    Gay marriage is a bit like the carbon tax. Lots of huffing and puffing and scare campaigns before it comes because of uncertainty re what it really means. Most people will calm down when they realize their spouse doesn’t want to run away with someone of the same sex and that same sex couple up the road is not much different from any other married couple.

    Lets just get on with it.

  114. Patrickb

    Here’s why I find the whole idea of trying to engage in a rational debate with bigots absolutely pointless:


    Not only is the “Rev” Court an execrable example of humanity, her disgusting views are not only presented uncritically, they are supposedly given more value due to her legend status. This is a deliberate act by the author, Bridget Lacy, to express an editorial line that opposes same-sex marriage for patently discriminatory reasons. Rather than treat Court as the loopy christian fundy she is, she Lacy puts her on a pedestal..
    I think we we have to be realistic and face up to the fact that if this wicked person had any real power large numbers of innocent people would be in danger. That is how deep their irrational hatred runs, not innate perhaps but very, very deep.

  115. Patrickb

    Oh and if anyone does bother to read that tripe in the West, substitute gays for christians and image if it would be published so uncritically or indeed if at all.

  116. Incurious & Unread


    “The Rev. Court, who is regarded as the greatest female [tennis] player of all time”

    [from your linked article]

    Really? What about Billie Jean King or Martina Navratilova?

    Maybe the greatest straight female player.

  117. Sam

    Maybe the greatest straight female player

    Chris Evert, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf all trump our Margaret.

  118. adrian

    Yes, Mindy and Fran I understand your points and totally agree with them, but it’s the fact that this has become such a ‘hot button’ issue that is mystifying to me.

  119. Fran Barlow

    Adrian said:

    it’s the fact that this has become such a ‘hot button’ issue that is mystifying to me.

    Stuff that seems existential always works like that. That’s also why “boats” and “live cattle exports” are/were hot button issues.

  120. Fran Barlow

    I just thought I’d mention that Kerry Shine’s office responded just now to my letter on Civil Unions. He did vote for the bill on the basis of equality of treatment and right of protection under the law, he says. He cited Catholic sources as well.

  121. Patrickb

    @135 & 136
    Yes, it’s part of the WA inferiority complex compensation mechanism.

  122. Chris

    adrian @ 137 – I think its a hot button issue because views don’t split along party lines and with the current parliament has a chance of getting considered and through. There’s lots of other legislation which gets through with very little or no reporting because the major parties (including the Greens) agree and no-conflict news even if its good, isn’t considered newsworthy.

  123. Tim Macknay

    I thought the Margaret Court article was actually quite good, because it set out the fundamentalist position in all its ugly, bigoted glory. It had everything – “God’s divine law overriding all human laws”, the word “unnatural” – the whole works. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why Margaret Court’s opinion on the subject is worth publishing, however I don’t actually think it hurts when anti gay marriage campaigners come across as religious loonies. Most Australians don’t identify with religious loonies.

    The Margaret Courts are the people for whom Mark’s proposed rational discourse can’t work. I agree, though, that the appeal to reasoned liberalism is potentially effective to sway the Irfan Yusufs.

  124. Tom R

    Re Mercurius @114:

    If it does exist, then that particular “right”, like just about every other claimed “right”, would be subject to limitations at the margins. You know, much like “Everyone has the right to freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean Andrew Bolt can publish incorrect claims that denigrate Indigenous people or that House Murdoch can own 70% of the newspapers.”

    Trying to prove a claimed right has zero content because it doesn’t apply universally (“if gay people have the ‘right’ to marry, does that mean the government should fund mail-order spouses for the unattractive ones? Huh? Huh”) is an eleventh-grade debater’s tactic.

  125. Tom R

    Regarding Margaret Court – there is at least as much condemnation in the Bible of female clergy as of homosexual sex. Yet she’s a pastor of some denomination or another. I believe she’s also of the “The Queen is descended from King David” branch of British Israelism, which is why she campaigned so strongly against the Republic referendum.

  126. paul walter

    Haven’t read Irfy’s piece yet, so I would say from this distance I would be inclined to sit with Fran Barlow for a bit, after all the real point is the one she made, that in a civilised state, the government can recognise where the limits of its own discretion may be and withdraw, beyond a certain point as individuals make their choices from that point.
    Am sad to see Irfan is copping a hiding from some here, he’s an FB friend of mine also and an educated man rather than some cracker from Macon County.
    Still, I suppose I’d better read him before proceeding further, my sense is that Mark is suggesting this is tricky topic and it’s too early in the day for my own tarring and feathering yet.

  127. paul walter

    Having showered and then read Irfan’s column, am inclined to Mark’s more moderate meaning.
    As I thought, Irfan is just trying to get a discussion of underpinnings and underlying attitudes, including no doubt the ones he was brought up with himself. I don’t think he was calling for the banning of gay, so much as expressing possible reasons why he is uncomfortable with certain aspects of it.
    He’s not gay himself and he explains why: this sort of sex, to him, is selfish or self indulgent- to him, people use each other for sex the same as capitalists use customers, or smart people use fools. Hetero people are the same, given the right circumstances. It’s a question of dignity and respect for him.
    What he doesn’t realise is, that it is likely that it is perfectly natural for a homosexual to be homosexual as it is for Irf or me to prefer women (unless there is a goat about).
    Btw, Kerryn Goldsworthy has a good thread on it up at Still Life With Cat, for those interested in more thoughts on it. Kerryn’s comment about the power of instilled “belief” was personally a good one, for me.

  128. Mercurius

    Even for those who feel justifiably that they shouldn’t have to “respect the feelings” of those who have villified them, or “be nice” when being nice has for years/decades meant in practice ‘STFU and let us keep oppressing you’…

    …nevertheless, it is still possible to empathise with the process that IY is going through, and furthermore to respect that he has taken some hard steps on along progessive path that cause particular cognitive and emotional distress because of his beliefs…

    …based on his article, IY appears to have come to a realisation that there are aspects of the faith he professes which he is unable to reconcile with features of liberal democracy (Islam is hardly unique in being so — the RC church is no better off in this respect)… AND, that, recognising this, he is choosing to prioritise the public values of secular liberal democracy, over those of his personal values — as he says “…injustice against even one of us will end up hurting all of us.” Recognise also that his taking this position is not without risks to him personally, in that he could now face being denounced and/or ostracised by hardliners in his own community. There is courage in IY putting his head above the trench in this way.

    IY has come to a hard realisation that if he wishes to live in a secular liberal democracy, that comes at a price of certain laws being in effect that are axiomatically “wrong” in his belief-system). But IY emphatically does NOT want to live under a caliphate, he wants to live in a secular liberal democracy. For true believes, this comes at a price of cognitive and emotional distress.

    It’s possible to empathise with the distress caused when a person’s faith comes up hard against political principles which they also hold dear; he’s in a tough emotional/cognitive place, because of his beliefs. (You know those scenes in screwball movies where the guy is standing with both feet on the back of two different moving cars that are driving parallel to each other but slowly getting w-i–d—e—-r apart? Yeah, he’s that guy).

    It doesn’t cost anything to acknowledge that — and it doesn’t mean you have to treat his political views with kid-gloves.

  129. Mercurius

    Oh, and Fran, TomR and others —> yes I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when it comes to the “right of children to a father and a mother”. But, in the context of ‘how to conduct the debate on same sex marriage’, I believe we should never miss an opportunity to show that nonsensical assertions give rise to nonsensical conclusions.

    Invoking the “right of children to a father and a mother”, make no mistake, is an insidious attempt to haul us back to the days when divorce was scarcely obtainable, and shotgun weddings were de jour. It may be nonsense, but it’s dangerous nonsense. It is also the clarion call of the ‘fathers’ rights’ movement –> a very dishonest framing by some men who are basically all about getting their own way, but saying it’s “for the children”. Yes I know I’ve dangled about 27 bits of troll-bait out there, but you can’t let such innocuous-sounding tropes as the “right of children to a father and a mother” go through to the keeper –> the very notion is a rhetorical Trojan horse to deliver a whole gut-load of good ol’ white male hetero privilege.

    Besides, if children have a right to a father and a mother and we are going to make that the basis of law-making, I would expect that the State should immediately stand-down all serving members of the armed forces who are parents. It would be an unconscionable infringement of the rights of the children for the State to be putting their fathers and mothers in harm’s way. In fact, I would expect war orphans to be able to sue the State for a considerable sum for its infringement of their human rights.

    Speaking of orphans…and children of single parents…it’s compulsory adoption to hetero childless couples for you!! The State has an obligation…nay, a duty to uphold your rights to a mother and a father…it’s your rights at stake, little Johnny, now stop whining over that harlot, leave her behind and get in the car with nice Mr and Mrs Smith!

  130. akn

    Thought I’d interject another tone into the discussion that leaves aside the theoretical/political framework…my son is gay. I’ll fight to the death to back his claim to rights. The religious nutters and conservatives haven’t calculated the consequences of love into their program. They’re outta time, outta date, outta cred. I’m absolutely delighted with the debate and this thread.

  131. Patrickb

    “I thought the Margaret Court article was actually quite good, because it set out the fundamentalist position in all its ugly, bigoted glory.”

    Hmm, I’m not sure we should treat the Court piece so glibly whilst having a good old chin stroke of the IY piece. The Court piece was chosen to be run on page 3 of the only daily in this state, why is that? What does it mean when a major daily allows unreflective, uncriticised extreme hate speech to be wrapped in a veneer of respectability (“legend”, “Reverend”)? I for one don’t really think that the West is playing some sort of “hang here by here own petard” kind of game. It is meant to dress up bigotry in a a sensible suit so as to give it licence to be at large. It’s weird, but it’s not a positive article when it comes to informing a rational debate on same sex relationships.

  132. paul walter

    Unfortunately, must back Mercurius’ comments to the hilt. The blokes movement was useful for allowing frustrations to be vented, for a male generation battling to adjust to changing times, but the thought of inflicting upon a kid the sort of situation my parents unwittingly had me go through whilst focussed on enduring each other is unpalatable. I wouldn’t have had them stay together any longer than they did just for my sake and I’m glad they let it go when they both knew it wasn’t working, not least for the quiet after it was all over.
    Heterosexuality is no guarantee of a working template for family life. On the other hand a good loving gay couple adopting a kid surely is better for the kid than that kid being shoved out onto the street early by drunken, abusive straight parents.

  133. akn

    That’s right Paul Walter. A quick look at the institution of heterosexual marriage shows that many people have had the full lesson in C&W philosophy having laid down on a bed of roses and woken up on a bed of nails.

    Mercurius gets it right saying that in a liberal democracy it is necessary to “prioritise the public values of secular liberal democracy, over those of … personal values”. This goes to the heart of the debate between the communitarians and liberals; communal rights must always be subordinated to individual rights and freedoms. Anything else threatens the foundations of liberal democracy. Communalists of all stripes including muslims and christians are free to adhere to their communal values within their community but not to impose their values outside their community. Within their communities their values have authority up until the time that anyone within their community lays claim to individual rights at which time they become subject to civil rights and freedoms.

  134. Moz

    akn FTW:

    Communalists of all stripes including muslims and christians are free to adhere to their communal values within their community but not to impose their values outside their community.

    While I agree with you, where does “individual liberty” as a value come from, if not communal ideas about the value of science and abstract reasoning over superstition and arguments from authority?

    I respect Yusaf for coming out and saying that he supports equal rights for all, even though his religion makes that difficult for him. And I appreciate it.

    I’m distressed by the reluctance of the media to ask questions like “do you also support/oppose the right of Hindus and atheists to marry?” which appear to be a lot more relevant to the religious marriage question. It makes their agenda very clear.

  135. akn

    Moz, the centrality of individual liberty was argued by John Stuart Mill in ‘On Liberty’ (1859). It was a very clear articulation of the idea of the sovereign self and a considerable rupture with traditional communalist thinking.

    Individual freedom, though I prefer the expression self sovereignty, is a foundation stone of modernity. It didn’t leap into existence as either an idea or a new way of experiencing the self overnight. It developed with the enlightenment; roots can be found in Hobbes’ arguing for restrictions on the power of the state. I recall Foucault added a lot to the history of the idea of the individual maybe Archeology of Knowledge? I’d have to spend time digging that reference up.

  136. Tim Macknay

    Patrickb @150, my point was that Court’s own words marked her oput as a religious extremist. I agree that the prominence given the article could be read as an unseemly attempt to promote the reactionary message on the part of the paper, however I’m unconvinced that that is necessarily its effect.

    In what way was I “glib”?

  137. Moz

    akn, my point is that valuing reason over tradition is a preference not shared by everyone. As you say, it’s a considerable departure from the norm that arose very recently. Just because it’s more or less self-consistent and you personally happen to like it does not mean that it’s the only such value.

    Especially in this context, where on one level we’re asking people to reject an authority because we say so, in the absence of evidence either way. Why is the word of a nutty jew less relevant than that of an eccentric englishman? The pom doesn’t have 2000 years of “it works” behind him in the same way that the abrahamic religions do, let alone the broadscale social experiments that have gone into refining them over the years. Deciding which bits are irrelevant to that success and which are critical is a fraught process. Even my take on it is coloured by my preference for the scientific method… it’s unlikely that Jesus thought “I’ve got an idea for a new and improved judaism, I’ll try it on these muppets here, while leaving those muppets as a control group”.

    Admittedly I don’t really care one way or the other, I know what my values are and have a few ideas about why, but I’m not under the delusion that they’re necessarily better than some other options. There are values of “better” than go both ways in at least some cases.

  138. akn

    I’ve no dispute with your argument.

    However, I’m no relativist either and consistently support reasoned argument over any argument lacking in evidence (theism). Arguments derived from theistic beliefs are ruled out of common consideration because they fail the test of reason in so far as they lack evidence that can be rationally evaluated.

    The only problem with rationality as a guiding principle is that the dominant model of rationality is instrumental rationality. Moral rationality is under developed in the public sphere. Rationality is not a matter of subjective preference in the same way as theistic and/or other spiritual beliefs because it does not depend, like so much else, on “belief” or a system of unscientifically testable propositions.

    My adherence to rationality derives from a long acquaintance with critical theory which ““has as its object human beings as producers of their own historical form of life” (Horkheimer) and argues that humans must fully develop our rational human skills as part of the project of bringing ourselves into being as humans.

    More on critical theory if you want: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/

  139. Nick

    “I’ve got an idea for a new and improved judaism, I’ll try it on these muppets here, while leaving those muppets as a control group”.

    Pastor of Muppets?

  140. Fran Barlow

    Patrickb said:

    hang here by here own petard …

    Oh dear …

    Typos aside … Petards were bombs. One can be ‘hoist’ by them but not hung, even if there is/was such a thing as a “hills hoist”.

  141. David Irving (no relation)

    However, Fran, a petard could hang fire … (and thus not hoist its owner or anyone else)

  142. Patrickb

    Sorry I meant pedant. Way to miss the point …

  143. Patrickb

    Sorry, “glib” may have been to strong, I’m not a pedant so I can’t be sure. However I think that the institutional context (MSM) and the framing of the Court article fuel deep seated prejudice. At times this prejudice has been allowed to get out of control and the result has been collective madness.

    The Drum article is a thoughtful, reflective and complex piece of analysis that will have a small audience and, potentially, be held up as an example of the kind of intellectualising that has sent us down the slippery slope of moral decay etc. Fundamentally I just get very angry and worried that the kind of bile expressed in the Court article can still appear in a major newspaper. I have complained to the Press Council about it.

  144. Moz

    [email protected]: gold 🙂

  145. Tim Macknay

    Patrickb @162 – Fair enough. Court’s views are certainly obnoxious, and were presented uncritically in the article. My (admittedly hopeful) take on it is that the article won’t sway anyone who doesn’t already agree with Court, and will probably alienate many readers from her point of view. But I agree it is disturbing that a view like that was given such prominence in a major daily.

  146. myriad74


    I am surprised and I have to say viscerally disappointed to see you lend some credence to Yusuf’s argument.

    Everyone else has explained the other problems with it. Let me put the one remaining one that no-one else has raised (sorry if I missed it):

    The LGBTI community *has* argued reasonably, for years. And years. We have pleaded and persuaded in order to secure government inquiries and interest, and we have then earnestly fronted all public and government interrogatories in all forms for year on year. In each and every one members of our community have with great courage, dignity and without recrimination of those in privilege like Yusuf, appealed to their better selves.

    Not only has this been fronting government inquiries it has involved intensive personal appeals to elected representatives.

    We have exposed terrible, humiliating and painful stories of discrimination in law and society; we have appealed for compassion, to common humanity, to love, we have walked in other’s shoes and pleaded for them to walk in ours.

    And amongst all that has been listening to and hearing over and over people’s “uncomfortability” and their “difficulrty” not to mention repeated and appalling outright statements of homophobia, othering, bigotry, prejudice. We have listened to why we can’t have full rights, or we can’t be trusted with children, IOW a now decade-long intense and prolonged public inquiry into what level of deserving humanity we sit at – all from people of privilege, particularly religious ones like Yusuf.

    We have listened and returned to persuade and explain now matter how much it hurts or wearies us, again and again and again.

    So the reality is that people like Yusuf have been exposed for years to these ‘gentle & civil’ persuasions he demands. I am astonished that you didn’t stop to think about this.

    This is the false cry of victimhood from a bigot still searching for a pity-pat for feeling icky.

    Fuck. Him. And please re-think your stance of giving this any credence whatsoever. In doing so you are supporting a tabula rasa argument, as if the LGBTI community and its allies have not done *precisely* what he now so disingeniously asks for, for years.

  147. Fine

    Great comment myriad74.

  148. Fran Barlow

    True enough Myriad. In a way, the appeal to speak reasonably and respectfully to those who can’t accept that the LGBTI community are entitled to make the same claims upon the state as those who are not, and who feel “uncomfortable” even at their presence in public discourse parallels the victimhood of climate change policy opponents, who likewise act as if no attempt at rational discourse has been made by the advocates of science.

    It’s hard not to see Yusuf as concern trolling in circumstances where the bigoted position of some identifying religionists on this issue is under siege.

    I should say that while I see little to be gained by hectoring abuse of those determined in practice to see members of the LGBTI community as lesser beings merely in virtue of their LGBTI community status, I see no obligation to avoid calling out homophobic bigotry when it arises. If they don’t like that, that is a matter for them, IMO.

  149. alfred venison

    dear anyone
    ” ‘acceptance’ is a faith community existing for almost four decades, supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (glbt) catholics, their family and friends”:-

    re. the queensland bill: “the anglican church of australia’s very reverend peter catt says a same-sex unions bill would not deny or denigrate the legitimacy of marriage”:-

    this article has some interesting breakdowns by faith & denomination (e.g. figures for anglicans as well as catholics, at least, are given) it also gives the results for “christians” from two different recent polls (galaxy & ambrose centre for religious liberty(?)). it also cites opinions of religious spokespersons as well as community spokespersons:-

    this article also references the same galaxy poll also referred to in the above article & has some interesting quotes:-

    this is “christians 4 equality” an initiative of “australian marriage equality”, they say: “if you’re a christian who supports marriage equality, click here”. its for their letter campaign to mps:-
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison
    p.s. – michael kirby’s an anglican.

  150. Patrickb

    Had a quick look at the letters page in the West today. Looks like M. Court has let loose the dogs, not much in support but plenty of putrid pontificating.

  151. Patrickb

    And “hear, hear” Myriad. The time for understanding has long passed. Legislate and be damned (or not in this case, strike a blow for atheism as well).

  152. alfred venison

    dear Mark Bahnisch
    how to conduct the debate on same sex marriage.
    first, i’m not interested in defending & extending the bourgeois institution of marriage.
    but, if i were, i’d start by not assuming all opponents are religious (julia gillard).
    and i’d continue by not assuming all gay people are atheists (michael kirby).
    then i’d aim to persuade with sweet reason.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison