Monday, December 12, 2016

Defending marriage discrimination fares no better in Australia than it did in the U.S.

John Skinner
Australian, John Skinner informs us of “The 'NO' case for 'Marriage Equality'.” Opponents to marriage equality in Australia remind us of the inane arguments that were once posed here by religious fundamentalists and the Catholic Church. According to Skinner same-sex marriage has dire consequences. It is Maggie Gallgher circa 2008.
I don't believe in same-sex marriage nor do I believe there are no consequences for those who go down this 'road' but I often feel I'm out there on my own, 'swimming against the tide.'

Those pushing the debate for 'marriage equality' assume the change is a self-evident good and we should all be on board. I wonder how many Australians have just assumed same-sex marriage has no consequences and haven't heard the case against the issue.
Translation: My religion does not approve of gay people. Therefore, I have a religious objection to their marriages.
Violent and Vitriolic

Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby and in a recent article on this same subject wrote of how the assumption of 'marriage equality' was all good and no bad, was shaken when Mercure Hotel staff at Sydney airport received orchestrated telephone calls from same-sex marriage activists threatening violence if their bosses didn't cancel a booking on a meeting room for pro man-woman marriage advocates.
If this guy wants a serious discussion then he should stop referring to same-sex marriage opponents as “pro man-woman marriage advocates.” Furthermore, he is suggesting that a consequence of same-sex marriage is anger at those who are opposed. Their anger is a consequence of Christian opposition to something that proponents think of as a human right. What he is essentially saying is that the country should not approve of something because its advocates are passionate. It is the equivalent of the argument ad hominem. He is attacking the arguers rather than the argument.

That strategy continues:
Mr Shelton said staff at venues booked by the Australian Christian Lobby have faced this many times before, but this time the threats were more violent and vitriolic, creating a genuine safety concern.

“People called together by the pro man-woman marriage campaign were forced to meet in secret; something I never thought would happen in the country I grew up in and love,” he said. “The 130 leaders, who all managed to covertly find their way to the new venue with just 24-hours' notice, met underground in a spirit of defiance of the political elites pushing for change.”
Now he is not only attacking proponents ad hominem but — if we accept these statements as true (which might not be the case) — then he is depicting the pro equality advocates by the actions of what seem to be extremists. No responsible advocate for marriage equality would countenance violence as a means to achieve it. Again, none of this constitutes an argument opposing marriage equality in substance. It is limited to criticizing the advocates of marriage equality.
Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission

So why are those pushing for same-sex marriage and 'marriage equality' trying to demonise anyone who does not want to see change?
It is a rhetorical question that assumes a condition that is not true. And again, this is about the proponents not what they are advocates for.
Further, if you think my case is too 'thin,' then take heed of what happened recently in Tasmania.

Archbishop Julian Porteous spent six months answering to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission over the Don't Mess With Marriage handbook he distributed.

Legal action against dissenters is a real and present threat. Reports of florists, bakers, and photographers being litigated against and fined for living out their conscientiously-held beliefs about marriage are easily dismissed as from the 'only in America' file.
I do not know enough about Australian law to weigh in on the priest. However those “reports” about the plight of Americans leaves out some important information. All of those cases involve individuals who violated nondiscrimination ordinances that were in effect long before marriage equality became a reality. People have had fair hearings and appeals and they have all been represented (for free) by experienced and astute counsel. Those nondiscrimination laws were all enacted by the elected representatives of the people. I don't know how things work in Australia but we are a nation of laws. If people do not like a law there are numerous ways to effect change. Unlawful behavior is not one of those ways.

But let us assume arguendo that those nondiscrimination laws are unfair. That still doesn't constitute a reason to oppose marriage equality. It's not an argument that, in any way, addresses the underlying issue. In fact it is circular reasoning. “I do not like same-sex marriage. Therefore, I am not going to serve gay couples. In doing so I am defying local law for which I am prosecuted. Now I do not like same-sex marriage because I am being prosecuted for defying a law that I also do not like.”
But here at home, Archbishop Julian Porteous, the kindly pastoral leader of Hobart's Catholic community, spent six months tied up before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission. His crime? Distributing gentle and respectful material outlining Christian teaching on marriage. Those who reported Archbishop Porteous to the authorities said he was distributing 'hate' material.
As an American I am predisposed not to like laws that limit critical speech. Nevertheless, none of this has anything to do with same-sex marriage.
In fact, if the law is changed, any of us who wishes to say out loud that the truth of marriage is a man-woman thing could find themselves hauled before a tribunal or commission for breaking the law. Stripping marriage of the gender requirement sends a powerful legal and cultural message that gender is no longer relevant in the institution which is the building block of society.
If the law is changed then the legal truth of marriage reflects the law. My advice is not to disobey the law regarding hate speech. There are competing interests. The first is the right to marry which establishes the right to a marital estate as well as a host of subordinate rights that are obtained through marriage. The second is the desire to express what Australian law might consider to be unlawful hate speech. Marriage is considered to be a critical issue for gay couples. On the other hand one can simply and easily refrain from violating the law without materially altering one's quality of life. Which interest has the greater importance? The more compelling argument?

As for the message, the only message that is sent is that gay couples who constitute a small minority of society can marry. That's it. Trying to establish that same-sex marriage has a negative impact on opposite-sex marriage lacks evidence. In some area of the United States we have enjoyed marriage equality for more than a dozen years. It has been about the same in Spain. Where is the evidence that anyone's traditional marriage has been affected in any way whatsoever? If there is any, Skinner fails to provide it.

After repeating himself a couple of times:
Same-sex Couples already have equality under the law

Another thing most Australians assume is that there is material discrimination against same-sex couples. Few know about the 85 laws changed in 2008 giving same-sex couples equality under the law with heterosexual couples.

Inequality is a myth. The assumptions underpinning the movement to redefine marriage should be subject to scrutiny.
It sounds like, at least to some extent, parts of Australia have what Americans have dubbed “separate but equal” which is unequal per se. Moreover, in Northern and Western Australia there are no domestic partnerships. The best that gay couples can do is a “de facto relationship” which provides some protections under civil law. That is certainly not equality.

Yet again, someone claiming that same-sex marriage has consequences hasn't been able to define what those are. It seems that those mythical consequences are merely an effort to justify a religious objection.

As I said at the outset, Mr. Skinner's religion does not approve of gay people. Therefore, it does not want them to marry. I can assure Skinner that he will never be forced to marry someone of the same sex. Never!

Skinner writes for a Christian outlet known (hyperbolically) as “Press Service International.”

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