On Qanda last night, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was asked the inevitable question about her position on gay marriage. To which she replied that nobody who knows her personal circumstances (she lives in a heterosexual de facto relationship) would be surprised to hear her say that a relationship doesn’t need to be a marriage in order to be successful.
If the question had been about the purpose of marriage and whether or not we ought to abolish the institution, then Ms Gillard’s observation would have been mightily relevant. But it was not. It was about why Ms Gillard does not support same-sex marriage. The PM ought not to have been allowed to get away with avoiding the question, and with employing the classic obfuscation by conflation tactic, so beloved by politicians.
There are two separate issues in play. One: is there any need for the state to involve itself in relationships in the first place through the Marriage Act? Two: given that Marriage Act is unlikely to be abolished anytime soon, on what grounds do we continue to prevent same-sex couples who wish to marry from doing so?
The PM does not support same-sex marriage because she deeply believes marriage can only be celebrated between a man and a woman. Every time Ms Gillard refers to the Marriage Act to support her “belief” someone needs to remind her that the Act reads as it does because John Howard made it so. In 2004 the Marriage Act 1961 was amended in federal parliament to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The Amendment also states that any existing same-sex marriage from a foreign country is not to be recognised as a marriage in Australia.
Like any other citizen, the PM is entitled to her personal opinions. Legislators, however, are not entitled to legislate based on their personal opinions. If we are to continue to forbid same-sex marriage, we need to have very good reasons for that. “I believe” is not a reason.
Many of us strongly defend Ms Gillard when she’s subjected to attacks on her personal choices by conservative moralists who believe a woman isn’t “complete” unless she has children. This belief is as silly and as offensive as the belief that only heterosexuals should be allowed to marry. It’s not very long since Ms Gillard would have been prohibited from holding her current job because of ludicrous and offensive beliefs about what women should be allowed to do. Not reasons. Beliefs.
If any politician wants to deny marriage equality to those who seek it, I want to know on what grounds they justify that denial. I don’t want to hear about their beliefs on the subject. I don’t care about their beliefs. I want some good solid reasons to support their denial of this equality. If belief had been allowed to govern our world, we’d still be flat earthers and Ms Gillard would not Prime Minister, living in a de facto relationship in the Lodge.
Time to give something back, PM?