Tag Archives: Same-sex marriage

Why Abbott’s sex life is my business

6 Mar
Mr & Mrs Abbott

Mr & Mrs Abbott

 

There’s only one circumstance in which I consider the sexual lives of politicians to be my business, and that’s when they legislate about what goes on in other citizens’ sexual lives.

Failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott operates from a platform that is largely based on his personal morality, drawn from Catholic dogma. This morality advocates traditional heterosexual monogamous marriage, and argues fiercely that this is the only circumstance in which children ought to be raised.

Abbott supports the current Marriage Act with the amendment added by John Howard specifically to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

Same-sex marriage will, in Abbott’s view, destroy what he perceives as the “sanctity” of monogamous heterosexual marriage.

Abbott foisted the notion of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage on his party, a completely unnecessary, extremely expensive and likely barbaric exercise in which citizens vote on whether or not other citizens are permitted to legally commit themselves to each other in marriage.

As health minister in the Howard government, Abbott refused Australian women access to the non surgical abortion pill known as RU 486 because his personal morality is offended by abortion. RU 486 had been declared perfectly safe, and was widely used in many parts of the world. Abbott directly interfered in the sexual lives and futures of women who did not wish to have a child, by denying us access to this drug should we need to use it, thus restricting our options in the event of unplanned pregnancy.

Abbott has paraded his wife and his daughters as evidence of his personal morality: he is a traditional, heterosexual married male, and therefore we assume him to be upholding monogamy as a significant value in our society and in his personal life.

Tony Abbott has made it his business to comment on, criticise and exercise legislative control over the sexual practices and commitments of Australians. If he is not living up to the ideals he demands are enforced, if Abbott is himself desecrating the perceived sanctity of monogamous marriage by infidelity with a married woman, I have a right to know about that hypocrisy.

If Tony Abbott would care to lose his interest in controlling the sexual practices of adult citizens, I will be more than happy to lose my interest in his. Until then, everything Tony Abbott does that can be seen to affect the sanctity of the ideals he espouses and imposes is my business, and yours, and everyone else’s.

 

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Abbott say SSM is a deeply personal issue but you can’t have a free vote. What?

12 Aug

same-sex marriage dolls

 

Two notable outcomes resulted from the Coalition’s six and a half hour joint party room meeting called to debate the legalising of same-sex marriage last night. The obvious outcome is that there will be no legal same-sex marriage on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s watch, and that should surprise no one, remembering how Abbott once famously remarked that he felt “threatened” by gays.

The second is that the Liberal party is not a party that is supportive of the free vote for its members, contrary to decades of received wisdom on the noble nature and purpose of core liberal ideology. The Liberal party is actually driven entirely by right-wing ideology, much of which is firmly grounded in bizarre religious beliefs that have no basis in reality, and do not withstand the most rudimentary logical and rational enquiry.

It’s my personal opinion that the State has no place in anybody’s bedroom. Neither am I particularly enamoured of the inherently exclusionary institution of heterosexual marriage, and have witnessed many crimes committed under its state-sanctioned umbrella.

That being said, when participation in an institution is a legal hallmark of belonging in a culture, it is clearly an aggressive and hostile act to deny that sense of legal belonging to any social group, purely on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, if LGBTI people wish to throw in their lot with the heterosexuals and commit to the exclusivity of the institution of marriage, it is ridiculous for any government to go to this much trouble to stop them.

Now we are faced with the ludicrously unnecessary and immensely expensive prospect of a referendum on the subject after the next election, should the LNP win government. Unlike Ireland, it is not necessary for us to have a referendum to change the Constitution (see 1.2.3.) on the definition of marriage and who may and may not enter into that state. Indeed, when John Howard was Prime Minister in 2004, he thought the Constitution so open to interpretation he found it necessary to amend the Marriage Act to define marriage as an event that could take place only between a man and a woman.

Deeply conservative ideological forces are fighting an increasingly desperate and losing battle to control society’s narrative. According to polling, the majority of Australians are at ease with the concept of same-sex marriage, a fact Prime Minister Abbott steadfastly chooses to ignore. This is a ridiculous, unnecessary and anachronistic debate.

Abbott continues to insist that same-sex marriage is “a very personal issue.” This apparently contradicts his refusal to permit a free vote, and yet again, we see the trickery of this profoundly duplicitous Prime Minister as on the one hand he concedes the deeply personal nature of the matter, while simultaneously denying every MP the right to address it in accordance with their “deeply personal” feelings.

In so doing, he denies the Australian public the right to live according to our “deeply personal” opinions on same-sex marriage in pursuit, yet again, of his ideological, religious, and in this particular case, “deeply personal” sexual prejudices.

 

 

 

 

Marriage equality: what is it good for?

8 Dec

Marriage Equality

I realised during an enthusiastic debate on Twitter yesterday with @amicus_AU and @chronicfemme on the question of marriage equality, that apparently both ends of the continuum fear that same-sex marriage will result in an apocalypse for their cause. Marriage conservatives fear equality will bring about the death of marriage in an inexplicable metaphysical erosion of heterosexual values, while some in the queer community fear it will bring about the death of queer, as queer couples reject the radical demand to abolish state-sanctioned commitments altogether, and instead seek acceptance within the heteronormative paradigm of marriage.

The marriage equality debate inevitably becomes conflated with the debate about the institution of marriage, which is unfortunate, to my mind. They are two separate and equally important issues, and neither is done justice when they are intertwined.

Nobody wants the state in their bedroom. It is not the state’s business whom one chooses to marry, or live in a de facto relationship with. At the same time, when such arrangements break down, there must be protections in place for the wellbeing of vulnerable parties, usually women and children under current arrangements, who are likely to come off second best in serious matters such as property settlements, child support, access to a parent and all the other miserable detritus that commonly litters the personal landscape when things go wrong.

Humans being what we are, and being even more what we are in times of relationship breakdown, many of us cannot be trusted to behave reasonably when we are in the grip of extreme emotion provoked by the collapse of hope and future and the losses involved. We need laws at these times, and state-sanctioned relationships provide us with these laws.

If the argument is for no state involvement at all then we cannot argue for recognised de facto relationships either, as these are also governed by the state at times of breakdown, though not in precisely the same way as is marriage.

If it is heteronormative for queer couples to marry, is it also heteronormative for them to be covered by the protections offered to de factos?

Are queers arguing against marriage equality actually arguing that creating a couple is heteronormative? This is to my mind an interesting argument, and one that takes us into the fascinating territory of theories of constructed desires, et al, however, in practice as a society we have to contend with coupledom and its consequences for the vulnerable being currently rather more in our faces than theories of desire, and requiring our urgent practical attention.

Which is not to say people shouldn’t think about these things if that is our inclination, and radically interrogate entrenched norms.

I’m at a loss to imagine a system of relationship in which the state is not involved. It cannot be left up to individuals to fairly sort out the messes that occur when intimate relationships break down. Therefore, it is absolutely unjust for that protection to be denied to couples other than the heterosexual. There is simply no valid argument to deny marriage equality: every human being is entitled to the same protections, regardless of sexual orientation.

If you don’t “believe” in the state having anything to do with your relationship, don’t call upon its laws to protect you if your relationship breaks down. Find a radical new paradigm, rather than simply calling for our current arrangements to be abolished. I haven’t heard or read any discussion of viable alternatives that can achieve what state intervention achieves when marriages and de facto relationships collapse, and people have to salvage what they can of their lives and the lives of any children involved.

As for the supernaturally destructive powers invested in marriage equality by opponents of all kinds: if your ideology is so fragile that people loving each other in the manner they choose is going to destroy it, maybe it’s time to find a new ideology?

Marriage, equality, and the sentimental

20 Apr

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE MORE THAN RAINBOWS IT IS PICTURES OF TWO WHITE PLASTIC MEN ON TOP OF A FUCKING CAKE. Helen Razer, April 19 2013.

Gay wedding cake

Razer’s tweet caused me to reflect on sentimentality, what it is, and just how much it has to do with our society’s attachment to getting married. It seems to me that rainbows, and cakes such as the above, symbolise easily accessible emotions and contribute to a wider cultural inclination to substitute such emotions for critical thinking and reason. This isn’t peculiar to same-sex weddings: there seems to me to be a strong element of the sentimental in the very nature of weddings, no matter how “tasteful.” Which, of course, can be half the fun, but just how much does that aspect blind us to the faults of the institution?

“Sentimental” is in current usage a pejorative term, though it was not always thus. The sentimental is considered shallow, excessive, spurious, dishonest, false, and mawkish. It is emotion devoid of reason and critical judgement, indeed the sentimental stands accused of privileging diluted and short-lived emotional experience over logic to such a degree, that ethical and intellectual judgements that ought to be applied to a situation are abandoned in favour of the thrill of a temporarily heightened state.

In a sense, the sentimental has served to obfuscate the debate we have to have, which is about the institution of marriage itself, and redirected our attention and energies to the question of marriage equality. I don’t think anyone can deny the presence of the sentimental in this dispute, and perhaps the wonderfully excessive Maori wedding song sung by that joyous group in the New Zealand parliament the other day is an indicator of the rush of heightened emotion associated with all weddings, but especially so when those weddings have been forbidden and are now sanctioned. We don’t think about the failings of the institution, and how it functions in society, so carried away are we by the uncomplicated thrillingness of the romance of it.

I have to say here that as long as we have marriage in our culture and remain in its thrall, there is no question but that it ought to be available to everyone who desires it and is of an age to consent. Forbidding a group of people what they very much want to have  while it is freely available to everyone else, simply on the grounds that they have the same genitalia, is absolutely wrong, and counter productive. The marriage equality debate brilliantly demonstrates how we are distracted from arguing the deeper considerations of the ethics of the institution itself.

No one who wants to marry and is prevented by our laws from doing so, is going to want to start questioning the institution from which they are unfairly excluded, because the exclusion and the desire to be admitted will take precedence. I don’t believe we will be in any position to seriously challenge marriage until it is available to everyone, and the dust of the fight for equality has settled.

Rainbows, hearts, and plastic gay or heterosexual couples on excessive confectionery, can be read as symbols of the sentimental, signifying  a dominant aesthetic of sentimentality that obscures the deeper questions and feelings, and quite rightly thoroughly aggravates observers such as Razer who rail against our collective willingness to settle for the sentimental, and allow it to dull our judgement and reason. Judgement and reason ought to cause us to first think critically about this institution we are celebrating: sentimentality seduces us into settling for the heightened emotion that inevitably surrounds the desire of two people to commit themselves to lifelong state-sanctioned monogamy. Sentimentality is strongly present in that desire: the desire is, I would argue, not born of logic and reason, and it is perhaps not particularly ethical either, unless qualified as an intention, rather than a vow.

I recall a wedding a few years ago, non-religious, colourful and casual, pretty much your north coast upmarket hippy event, and a lot of fun. After the couple exchanged their vows, a friend standing next to me said in a voice that was much louder than she’d intended, owing to a sudden lull in the celebrations, “Well, it’s all down hill from here.” The bride and groom looked aghast. I dug her hard in the ribs with my elbow. “Well, it’s true,” she hissed at me defensively. “I know, but you don’t have to bloody well say it,” I hissed back.

All the weddings I’ve attended have been joyful, including both of my own. But there has been a great deal of sentimentality associated with them and more, with the idea of them. Personally I’m very taken with the love and hope that cause two people to throw their lot in together for life. I suppose that’s why I’ve done it twice and would probably do it again, because third time lucky and anyway I’m closer to death than I was the first two times.

The impulse to fidelity and mutual trust seems to me a worthy one, however I think I would add “To the best of my ability” or “I’ll do my very best” next time, because one never knows what’s ahead, and reason and logic suggest vows are sentimental in their very nature, and therefore untrustworthy.

Then there is the question of the regulation of the expression of emotion. It makes people very happy to marry one another at the time, and on the whole. It usually, one hopes, makes their friends and relations happy as well. Who has any right to deny others this happiness, even if the aesthetics and politics of it are not to one’s taste?

Yes, the institution may be a flawed foundation stone of a conservative agenda. Yes, conservatives love marriage because they love what they consider family. There is actually nothing in the least bit wrong with loving family, it is the traditional conservative notion of what a family consists of that is at fault here.

That the state has no business deciding who may or may not marry is a given. The fact that our Prime Minister does not approve of marriage equality ought to be of no consequence to anyone other than Ms Gillard herself. Nobody will make her marry another girl. It is remarkable to me that Ms Gillard, herself living in a de facto relationship, continues to take this obstructionist stand against marriage equality. Apparently marriage is not an institution she values for herself, yet she is perfectly willing to deny it to others on the spurious grounds that it is supposed to take place only between a man and a woman.

It is not so very long ago that Ms Gillard’s de facto relationship would have made her  occupation of the Lodge an impossibility. The Prime Minister has much to be grateful for. Society’s changes have worked to her great advantage. Why then, does Ms Gillard persist in denying these same advantages to others? I’m certain her stand has little or nothing to do with the sentimental.

rainbowA very sentimental rainbow but at least there is no unicorn

Belief versus human rights

13 Jun

After my blog yesterday on Prime Minister Gillard’s belief that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry, I became embroiled in several robust Twitter fights. One of the points of contention was that the PM, like anyone else, is entitled to her personal beliefs. I was threatened with Voltaire, told belief does not require any knowledge, described as intolerant and blind to the mote in my own eye,  and finally accused of risking the downfall of the government and an Abbott ascendency, by criticising Ms Gillard’s personal belief about same-sex marriage.

While there’s a good community here at Sheep, Rupert Murdoch I’m not.

Be that as it may, the fights led me to thinking about belief. While I agree that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, I don’t agree that everyone is entitled to act on those beliefs to the detriment of others. Once a belief is extrapolated from the personal realm and used to determine the lives of others it is no longer personal, it is political.

Personal belief can legitimately determine the course of one’s own life. If you don’t believe same-sex marriage is right, for example, then don’t make a same-sex marriage. Nobody in our country will force you into an arrangement that powerfully disturbs your moral sensibility.

What disturbs me, however, is the argument that personal beliefs ought to be set apart from the interrogations we are at liberty to apply to all other human processes. The personal belief is elevated to the sacred, inspiring respect and reverence simply because it is a personal belief, and regardless of its substance. While I find this bizarre, hinting as it does at some transcendental exterior governance, I have little problem with it, as long as the belief remains in the realm of the personal. When it becomes prescriptive, I argue that it is no longer protected from scrutiny and critique by reverence.

Tony Abbott, for example, holds a personal belief that abortion is wrong, as well as being opposed to same sex marriage. In this article titled Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings Mr Abbott explores his personal beliefs about this procedure, including his belief that abortion is a lifestyle choice made to suit the mother’s convenience.

Of course Mr Abbott is entitled to hold these beliefs. Anyone can believe anything they want. He is not entitled to impose his beliefs on others. When he does, the belief has ceased to be personal, and has become political.

If I am expected to unquestioningly respect Ms Gillard’s personal beliefs on homosexual marriage, I gather I am also expected to respect Mr Abbott’s beliefs on abortion and refrain from challenging them?

What about Hitler, because no argument about belief is complete without a reference to Hitler. Hitler’s personal belief was that  human beings who did not fit his ideal didn’t deserve to exist. Including homosexuals. When Hitler’s personal belief burst out of his private realm, millions upon millions of human beings were starved, tortured and murdered. Yet Hitler’s personal belief ought to have gone unchallenged because personal beliefs are sacred?

I could go on with endless examples of the dire repercussions of actions based on personal beliefs, but I know you’ve got my drift.

Perhaps a belief can be considered sacred only as long as it remains personal. Once it affects anyone other than the believer it is no longer personal, and no longer entitled to protection from interrogation.

Were I to be given the chance, I would ask Ms Gillard if she has reasonable, plausible evidence for her core belief that homosexuals should not marry. I use the term core belief  because I’m assuming that the PM has actively thought about her position on same sex marriage and has come to a state of justified true belief. Otherwise we would be dealing with something more akin to superstition, of the kind practised by Jim Wallace and the ACL.

The reason I care about this has nothing to do with marriage, about which I personally give not a toss. It has to do with the right all homosexuals have to be treated equally. It is about the right homosexuals have to be recognised as being as fully human as heterosexuals, and as entitled to participate in our institutions to precisely the same degree. This is not, in my opinion, a matter for anybody’s personal beliefs to determine. It’s a matter of human rights.

 

 

The PM, belief, and marriage equality.

12 Jun

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?

Dear Joe Hockey

21 May

Dear Joe Hockey,

Meet Archie. According to you Archie has the ideal parental configuration, that is, he has a male and a female parent as his primary carers.

Note I don’t say he has a “mother and father.” That’s because in my experience the attributes the dominant culture (as represented by you in this instance) associates with mothers and fathers aren’t necessarily founded in biology, rather they are cultural constructs and as such, can be assumed by either sex. I have seen male parents in my family engage in “mothering” while I’ve witnessed female parents happily “fathering” away and nobody much cares, as long as the babies are getting what they need.

While Archie meets your standards in terms of immediate family, after that it gets a little wild. This fortunate infant has four grandmothers, two of whom are called Jennifer because one grandfather married the same name twice, though not simultaneously because as yet, nobody’s done polygamy. I don’t see this in our futures either, as the women in our extended family are exceptionally feisty, and most of us see polygamy as favouring the male of the species. The prospect of having more than one male partner at a time leaves us uninspired, though several of us have engaged in serial monogamy.

That being said, Archie does have Mormon-by-marriage cousins in the US, albeit lapsed.

Archie also has five cousins whom we all call the Caramels, owing to their Indian mother and Anglo-Celtic father. These parents were married in two ceremonies, one Catholic and one Hindu. Archie himself recently enjoyed a Catholic baptism and an atheist Name Day, to cater for the disparate choices of his nearest and dearest. All four grandmothers were present including the bisexual one, and nobody got into any recriminatory fights.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot. One of Archie’s great-aunts is also bisexual, and her partner is transgender.

Archie’s parents both work and the extended family as a whole has a strong work ethic, even the sexually adventurous among us. We are all good citizens paying our taxes and staying out of jail.

As yet, we have no idea how Archie will decide to express his sexuality. We don’t much care.

However, all us four grandmothers  love him with a ferocity you don’t want to mess with. If anybody like you tries to put Archie down because of who he loves, they’ll have us to contend with.

Until I was seven, I was brought up by my grandparents. They were then forced to relinquish me to my birth mother and her new husband. A heterosexual pair. In that configuration I experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse that I barely survived. What I’m saying to you Mr Hockey, is that you and those who think like you are making too many assumptions, and there are too many of us with too much experience who will continue to challenge your assumptions, and we will win.

My family is a big family and we contain many differences. The babies in our family grow up accepting difference because it’s in the familial air they breathe. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

I am sorry for you and your kind, Mr Hockey. I am sorry for your small minds and shrivelled spirits. With my history, I know the miracle of finding human beings who love me and let me love them. I feel sorry for you, Mr Hockey, that you are compelled to judge and reject human beings who don’t fit your narrow vision of what families should be. Maybe if like me, you’d lived in darkness from which you never imagined you’d emerge, you wouldn’t be so damn picky.

I don’t think you will win this battle. There are too many of us who can say, echoing the magnificent words of Penny Wong: “I know what my family is worth.” I know what my hard-won family is worth, Joe Hockey. And none of us need you to tell us how we should be.

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