The acceptance of the claim that homosexuality leads to bestiality is, unfortunately, not a new one. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi did not recently discover a great new reason, or any supporting science, to use that argument as justification for why we should not accept or legally allow same-sex couples the equal right to marriage.
But is this slippery slope argument driving the outrage and focus away from actual damaging beliefs he and as many as 139 other members of the Senate and the House Of Representatives hold that some people are not entitled to equality.
Absolutely there should be anger that people in positions of power are spouting idiocy on the possible repercussions of supporting equality; beliefs which pander to a particular public, feed homophobia, and are used as reasons to keep arguing against progress.
Horrifyingly, it seems to be necessary, if only for Senator Bernardi’s benefit, to stress the difference between consensual sexual relations between two human adults (of any sexual persuasion) and what he claims is “consensual sexual relations between humans and animals”. The second situation simply does not exist. There is no explicit way an animal can communicate to a human being its consent to engage in a sexual act.
So while his suggestive comparisons were highly offensive, hurtful and so ridiculous he was swiftly pulled to the backbench, Senator Bernardi will not sway anyone currently for, or even undecided, on same-sex marriage. Which is why we also need to look at those parts of Senator Bernardi’s speech not delivering an astonishing sound bite this past week.
According to Senator Bernardi, if you are not a heterosexual (married) couple raising biological children, your rights, for the good of society, should not be equal to those who are doing so. This was a key argument threaded throughout his speech. Not the slippery slope ride into the back end of a goat.
He implored that the “gold standard” of marriage would be attacked and threatened by the “radical social change” of giving equal rights to those who he believes are simply not equal. He muses it isn’t even about people wanting equality, but a calculated threat that has been, and will continue to be,”‘chipping away at the institution of marriage”.
These are the kind of assertions leaders should be called out and questioned on. Are homosexuals simply lesser human beings in the eyes of someone like Senator Bernardi?
Senator Barnaby Joyce, who was also against the Bill, continued to stress the importance of the traditional family as the right way to raise children. However, because of our changing social and government support structures, which can aid in removing those in dangerous yet otherwise traditional situations, it is essential the idea of ‘the family’ should be broader in meaning.
Favouring the argument that marriage exists to build an environment where a mother and a father can bring up their, ideally, biological children also discounts the worth of single parents, adoptive parents, the remarried, those unable to bear children, and those who do not desire to bring children into the world.
Bizarrely, and also possibly to placate some of the above non-traditionals (but still handy to have as voters crowd), Senator Joyce at one point in his speech took a reverse psychology approach.
“It is also really important to understand that it is just another reality of the world that you cannot have everything just because you want it. Everybody has to make sacrifices. We all want so much, but marriage itself is a statement. It is not the gaining of rights but the acquiescing of rights. It is basically about stepping away from rights. If you want to keep all your rights then the best way to do it is to not get married, because then you have all the rights. It might not be the ideal set-up. You can have children if you want; there are no real bounds. But the statement of marriage is a statement that you are prepared to acquiesce your rights and to go into a situation where all those rights that you had formerly are not there.”
Yes, this was said by Senator Joyce on 18 September 2012, regarding personal and legal rights a married heterosexual in Australia apparently doesn’t have in comparison to an unmarried Australian of any sexual persuasion.
Also staying clear from farmyards was Senator Helen Polley, who instead was thinking of the children in a broader sense.
Citing the 2003 Judicial Court declaration in Massachusetts that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (in the United States), Senator Polley spoke of what she saw as negative outcomes in the ensuing years being same-sex marriage; businesses unable to discriminate based on sexuality; the wedding industry having to provide goods and services to homosexuals; and, her biggest fear, schools teaching children that homosexuality is normal.
Senator Polley fears same-sex marriage will lead to evidence and the social support for future generations that being homosexual is a perfectly acceptable way for a neighbour, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a parent, or yourself to identify.
Senator Polley is not speaking out against same-sex marriage. She took the oppurtunity to speak out against the acceptance of homosexuality in its entirety.
It’s important that while fighting for change we do not become lost in the distractions of lunacy claiming we are merely years from stampeding to the country to marry horses. Instead we must focus on disputing the arguments which really will speak to the homophobia that’s standing in the way.
Image by Mait Jüriado.