Tonight’s The Drum featured David Marr, gay catholic journalist, Sue Cato of Cato Counsel and Michael Jensen, theologian. Second item for discussion was same sex union; Phillip Ruddock was shown telling the federal parliament that Shorten, the Labor opposition leader should not have proposed the bill to establish same sex unions; on another occasion Ruddock said that same sex union could be legalised without great difficulty; As PM John Howard had amended the Marriage Act (in 2004?) from a wording of “two people” to read “a man and a woman”. He called it the French solution; post the French Revolution the power of the Catholic church in France was deliberately thwarted; thus, couples went to the town hall and underwent civil ceremonies.
In the letters section of today’s SMH, a frustrated reader proposed that ALL marriages should be legalised at a civil office, then if the couple had religious leanings they could undergo a ceremony according to their belief.
Tonight, in the Drum, David Marr simply said that the issue of same sex union should already been resolved. Countries like France, Spain and Ireland, all solidly catholic countries, had managed to amend legislation to make same sex union a reality. He revisited the issues of conservative politicians from both sides who might baulk at the prospect that supporting this issue would lose them the votes of conservative constituents. What Marr did not outline is a situation that cannot be gainsaid: as well as being a bit of a bigot, Tony Abbott simply could not allow this issue to succeed; the reaction from Archbishop Pell would be unpleasant.
Sue Cato supported Marr’s thoughts; except that her observation of focus groups being asked about this question replied that it was inevitable that it would succeed. Finally, Jensen was asked for his thoughts; quite seriously, he replied that his concern was that the Australian people became concerned when the language of equality was used; also, he thought that an unpleasant tinge of “triumphalism” from the LGBT communities was creeping into the situation. He also thought that the innovation involved some social engineering; All of this was proposed with a look of confident righteousness.
Cato agreed that social engineering was involved. Meanwhile, David Marr sat looking downcast.
I am always surprised by the confidence of theologians; clearly, this one felt that we should be grateful for the changes that might happen. Suddenly, what came to mind was an anecdote by Waleed Aly, lecturer of politics at Monash Uni; he gave a very entertaining performance on Channel 10; his group of panelists were musing about Adam Goodes’ indigenous dance. Waleed was asked if he understood the widespread reaction to Goodes’ dance; he replied: ” Of course I understand. Australia is generally a tolerant country until its minorities show that they no longer know their place”.
Personally, at a time when a lot of heterosexuals are no longer bothering to marry, we have taken to the practice; perhaps we will make it new and improved. Someone on Facebook said that we can talk about our identity in public but we have such a problem talking about it with our families.
Lastly, there is the issue of “social engineering”. My reading of the panic the phrase contains is the prospect of two men raising children; two women would not necessarily be as visibly a disruptive public spectacle. But the horror of the phrase is the fervour with which religious groups engage in the “ex-gay” phenomenon; even the catholic church has groups, not readily talked about, that torment appropriately insecure young people to hate their natures, that try to emulate the behaviour of others, until mysery, unhappiness and suicide are the conclusion.
We deserve equality, parity; there should have been a phrase in the Magna Carta protecting our rights. Only we can define ourselves; I remember the joy as a young adult making my own reality; I celebrate younger people behaving likewise.