As I was about to go to bed last night, I saw on Facebook, the news trickling through, that Australia had overwhelmingly voted to support same sex marriage, in its non-binding postal vote. Looking at the videos of people celebrating, I felt a real happiness for the gay community in Australia. Particularly for those who plan to get married, or who would one day like to get married.
The last six months will have been grindingly horrible for them.
Being forced to listen to straight people ‘debate’ your humanity is a toe-curlingly awful experience. Theoretically of course, the debate is not about your value as a human being, when of course that is exactly what it is.
The bigots will inevitably have crawled out from their swamp, to try to link same sex marriage to child abuse during the campaign (they tend to only use gay men in the adverts shrieking about the ‘danger’ to children – they’d like us to forget the lesbians in this instance. I think they use gay men to invoke images of buggery, and sodomy and other fabulous things, as this terrifies certain straight men. They then to use the images of children, to drive home their message that gay men are predatory monsters. We are not people to them after all. We are merely sordid sex acts.)
They are careful not to openly state their opinions – most people who would not automatically support equal civil rights tend not to be as extreme as the No campaigners. Instead they couch it in a veil of ‘concern’ and ‘compassion’.
In Ireland various ‘institutes’ – homophobic hate groups in other words – opposed same sex marriage in 2015. During their sleazy campaign they didn’t acknowledge that they’d also opposed civil partnerships five years earlier (although now they pretended that these were wonderful). Nor did they reference the fact that many of their core members were opposed to decriminalising homosexuality in 1993.
The frustrating thing is that during the debate you couldn’t call them out on their bigotry. You have to smile, and pretend that their ‘concerns’ are reasonable and worthy of discussion. Not motivated by the toxic hatred and stupidity that you know is behind it.
You have to avoid being seen as ‘uppity’, and thereby frightening the horses – the more moderate people you require to get the referendum passed (for example your mother/father/granny/neighbour who might go to mass every week, and who has no open hostility towards gay people but would be inclined to vote no). You must not scare these people with strident militancy.
It is very tiresome.
You feel like screaming ‘What the actual FUCK? How on EARTH is it acceptable that minority civil rights – my civil rights – are being subjected to a popular vote?’
You either have rights or you don’t. It’s not a popularity contest.
What next? Some religious group decides that it is ungodly for women to vote?
Let’s have a VOTE on whether they get to keep it then, shall we?
Or how about a vote on whether catholics in Northern Ireland be allowed to own property?
The above two examples will (hopefully) never happen, but when it comes to gay civil rights, a public vote seems to be the ‘get out of jail for free’ card for cowardly politicians.
Irish politicians have always been notorious for their cowardice and duplicity in dealing with divisive social issues.
Knowing full well that same sex marriage would be a touchy topic, successive governments (including Fianna Fail; Green Party; Fine Gael and the Labour Party) hid behind the constitution, pretending that a vote was required to legalise same sex marriage – despite the fact that it was not prohibited by the constitution, and that this document specifically mentions that all citizens are equal.
They should have legislated for it, and defended their legislation if it was challenged in court.
That would be too politically awkward for those political minnows though.
A vote was held. The LGBT community was put on trial over a period of six months. And to Ireland’s credit we voted overwhelmingly to support equality.
Absolutely no credit for this goes to politicians though. So when opportunists like Alan Kelly from Labour claims that marriage equality is the highlight of his political career, he ought to be reminded that this was achieved in spite of, and not because of him and his duplicitous party.
Malcolm Turnbull in Australia will do the exact same. In a ceremony of great pomp and splendour he will sign into law the bill that affords gay Australians equal civil rights. He will position himself as the knight in shining armour who delivered Australia from the Dark Ages.
He is nothing of the sort. He deserves absolutely no credit whatsoever. That all goes to the 61.6% of Australians who voted for fairness.
I think Turnbull owes the LGBT community an apology (as does Enda Kenny in Ireland) for subjecting us to trial, and for kicking us under the bus, for an easy life.
Having said all that though , the joy that comes from knowing that your fellow citizens don’t in fact hate you, and that they in fact welcome and support you is absolutely lovely.
The exhilaration felt by ordinary LGBT people on the morning of 23rd May 2015 in Ireland, as the results started to come through was extremely special.
Unforgettable in fact. The closest we were ever going to get to an apology for the manner in which we were treated by the majority, for centuries. It was amazing.
Likewise I think the celebrations in Australia over the next weeks and months will be incredible. After the ordeal they have been subjected to over the past six months, they absolutely deserve it.
With poetic justice, the swivel-eyed loons cannot now turn around and pretend that this was imposed on them – the ONLY benefit of having a vote on this issue in fact. It wasn’t imposed on them. There was a vote.
And they lost absolutely nothing, as no-one will be forcing anyone to marry someone of the same sex.
Three cheers for Australia.
I am buying a wedding hat, as I type.