Senator Eric Abetz recently spoke at a national marriage day rally against marriage equality. Yes, this was the same rally where they sang a song called ‘stand up for marriage’ set to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. No, I’m not kidding. At the rally Senator Abetz spoke against same-sex marriage and highlighted a number of the arguments made by those who oppose marriage equality. Senator Abetz began his speech by quoting Dame Enid Lyons:
‘The foundations of a Nation’s greatness is in the homes of its people.’
So spoke that famous trail blazing first female House of Representatives member, first female Cabinet Minister and mother of ten – Dame Enid Lyons.
Briefly, Dame Enid Lyons actually had twelve children and she was also not ‘the first female Cabinet Minister’. That was Florence Cardell-Oliver, a Western Australian women’s rights activist who would likely be sympathetic to the plight of gay Australians fighting for marriage equality.
He continued with one of the major assumptions made by those who oppose marriage equality, that the best way to raise children is with a female and male parent. He states:
The pre-eminent institution for the raising of the next generation is the family unit institutionalised though marriage.
Marriage is designed to provide security and the vital role models of a man and a woman for the socialisation of the next generation.
Which is basically code for ‘gay people shouldn’t have children and the only proper way for children to be raised is for them to have a mother and father.’ Firstly, Senator Abetz’s statement denies the fact that gay Australians are already having children, and have been doing so for quite a while. Moreover, it denies peer-reviewed research that has found that in cases of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered families “research does not support negative assumptions about the experiences or outcomes of children of lesbian mothers” whilst separate research showed that ‘there was no systematic difference in the psychological well-being of children with same-sex attracted parents.”
These kinds of comments aren’t just disappointing in the sense that they are plainly wrong, they also send a horribly insulting message to those children who were not brought up in a family with ‘the vital role models of a man and a woman’. As someone who is surrounded by people who have grown up in single parent or same-sex parent families, I can proudly say that they are some of the most beautiful, grounded and intelligent individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. By continuing to rely on this insulting argument to fight against marriage equality, the movement truly exposes the extremity of their position.
Senator Abetz’s continued his line of arguments against marriage equality with more inflated rhetoric:
If “equality” is the test and love the only pre requisite why shouldn’t 2 brothers be able to marry?
OR a person already married?
OR three or more persons?
Why should this so called “equality” be available to only a twosome and not a threesome?
And let’s be clear – those in polyamorous relationships are hitching a ride on this push for their relationships to be recognised in marriage. Why shouldn’t they?
Just when I didn’t think this could get any better, Senator Abetz counters with a slippery slope argument! That legislating marriage equality will lead to a number of unintended consequences, namely polygamous marriage. Let me make this very clear to Senator Abetz: no one in the mainstream marriage equality movement is pushing to legalise polygamy, nor will it flow from legislating same-sex marriage. This debate is about whether two same-sex attracted people should be able to get married and not about polyamorous relationships. By conflating these two very different issues Senator Abetz once again reveals just how ridiculous his arguments are.
Finally, and perhaps most glibly, Abetz states that:
Whilst at university those on the extreme Left of politics always denounced marriage as a vile institution – a tool to oppress women – you know the jargon.
Now this same group all of a sudden believe marriage is so wonderful it should be available to all. – You know what – I don’t trust them.
This point is unsurprising. Senator Abetz probably wishes history hadn’t progressed over the past thirty years since he was at university. Or that the polemic that defined his time as an undergraduate would be dead and in its place there would be a new society that valued women, a society that valued gays and society that valued the rights that these groups deserved. But Senator Abetz, history has moved on.
By referencing his time at university some thirty years ago, Senator Abetz highlights the truth about the anti-marriage equality movement: they are on the wrong side of history and stuck in the past. Marriage is not an infallible and staid institution. Nor is it a religious one. It is an institution designed to celebrate and enshrine the relationship of two people who are deeply in love. To that end, a bunch of gay people do believe they should have this opportunity. And you know what? If Senator Abetz’s arguments are the best reasons why they shouldn’t, then it’s probably time they did.