Last night, both houses of the Australian Federal Parliament prepared to vote on the issue of same sex union. As part of the senate proceedings, South Australian Liberal Cory Bernardi rose to address the issue; his line of argument was a domino model: same sex union would lead to polygamy and further down the track to sex with animals. It is easy to understand the etymology of his argument: sodomy has also been described as bestiality, thus the link to sex with animals. As one prudent politician noted: Bernardi is known for a series of outrageous statements. The alternative Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull described his comments as “hysterical”. The Leader of the House, Albanese said the words were bigotted. The current leader of the opposition, Abbott, who had employed Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary, sacked him from that role. He described the troublesome words as “undisciplined” which allows one to infer that Abbott saw the opinions as widely held but unwise to air publicly.
The situation did not even leave Bernardi’s powers as a strategist in a good light; it took no great mathemathical prowess to realise that the vote would fail; given that inevitability, extreme rhethoric was simply uncalled for.
Of course the Prime Minister got up in parliament to tearfully farewell her recently deceased father; pity she could not extend her empathy to the gay and lesbian community in their struggle for self affirmation at a basic level.
I switch channels on TV, dismissing the machinations of parliament as an inhouse activity; devoid of contact with wider society. People say that the Australian community thoroughly supports the issue of same-sex union; one wonders whether Gillard & Swan gave their colleagues the option of a conscience vote, knowing the Penny Wong would need a pressure valve on the day; as it was, she spoke passionately yet calmly, though to little effect.
Afterwards, there was a kitcken/cheffing show on the channel; I watched the participants, of whom, many are reputed to be gay and lesbian. A hetero couple went into a mutually supportive cuddle; I wondered how many of the male couples were more than friends but resigned to a neutral seating side by side, lest public sentiment be scandalised. This must change: people should not have to live frozen lives.
At week’s end the ABC’s review of politics, Insiders, allowed its the presenter to deliver a flashback to a previous show where this week’s participant, Piers Ackerman, had previously raised the connection between same-sex union and bestiality. Gender academics labour to discuss the historical situation correctly; the participants of each age must be referred to by the idiom of the age, and approximate anachronism is discouraged. The gay people of a certain era, known as sodomites, are characterised, as Ackerman correctly pointed out, by legislation which conflated sodomy and bestiality. I was reminded of visits to my local Kings Cross sex shop, boys from out of town would gravitate to the shelves of German videos starring girls and stallions.
Most telling about this week’s media commentary were the cartoonists’ treatment of Bernardi: him in the doghouse decorated with extravagant quantities of brown clay. How else can you sum up such a serve of effluent? Sometimes, our politicians serve us by referencing the primal ooze of our origins.