The same sex marriage debate disgraces our politics
WORDS BY TERENCE DUGGAN
It is deeply disturbing that a party whose core principles are individual liberty, the protection of the family unit, and representative democracy, is currently supporting a policy that jeopardizes all three. Firstly, it goes without saying that a society based upon the rule of law should apply those laws in equal measure to all. A legal anomaly which creates a separate class of individuals because of their private lives is utterly at odds with this view. Second, same-sex families exist, and will always exist, and for those that scream about the destruction of family values, it remains to be seen as to why you should deny families and children the legal protection they deserve by virtue of being Australian. Third, the Liberals have, and always will be, great believers in our system of representative democracy and responsible government. And yet somehow a system which has lasted hundreds of years and created the framework for some of the most successful societies in history is unable to resolve a minor inconsistency in the law.
Not only has “theatre of the absurd” on this issue become a cause for embarrassment between Australia and the rest of the world, it is a cause for embarrassment for the Liberal party within the global conservative movement. Last month The Rt Hon Sir John Key, the conservative former prime minster of New Zealand, spoke to our university’s chapter of the Liberal Party, and was explicit in the fact that he had voted in favour of same sex marriage. Adding that this was despite opposition from the conservative wing of his party and that it was a decision taken in personal conscience. He said that as a father he would not wish his children to be denied their rightful status before the law.
And yet, the deadlock continues. Politics is the art of the possible, and in the furtherance of their principles, politicians should be able to support those principles through any means possible. The fact is we have a party system whereby governments are unable to form agendas because the coalitions they depend upon do not have the overlapping interests that they once did. This is unfortunate. But this is also political reality. If the Opposition believe in same sex marriage more than they believe in party politics, they should support same sex marriage through any means possible, and this includes a plebiscite. Had the Liberal Party achieved its objectives, the debate would be over and a plebiscite would have been resolved in the affirmative earlier this year. As renegade libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm pointed out, he is the only member of parliament that has supported same sex marriage through any means possible.
Labor’s opposition to the plebiscite is covered in a cloak of righteousness, yet the rhetoric they employ is both ridiculous and insulting to many in the gay community, myself included. They assume that we cannot stand any kind of public discussion on same sex marriage. Odd considering all of us have endured the basest insults in our daily lives, it is also odd given that public debate is already occurring, and that that public debate is occurring because same sex marriage is still before parliament, and that their policy is to have same sex marriage before parliament at least until the next election. Bill Shorten has appointed himself the protector and patron of the gay community in Australia, despite having been part of a majority government for six years that resisted legalizing same sex marriage. They want us to forget all that, after being told that our only position in society is as helpless victims, dependent on state protection. One should ideally be doing this so that a “momentous” reform can have the Labor Party’s name on it and they can proudly bluster about it at their party conferences for years to come.
Fundamentally, we have a party system that is, on both sides, incapable of enacting the most basic and rudimentary reform, because of ego and entitlement; either on the part of the right wing of the liberal party or the left wing of the Labor party. At one level, hiding behind the politics of victimhood and paternalism as a cloak to cover the self-serving, and on another, blustering about one’s core values and yet obsessed with appeasing an entitled and increasingly ridiculous minority party faction. Yet here we are, continuing to live under a policy which is at odds with public opinion and common decency.