When the Yes and No marriage equality campaigns kicked off, my social media flooded with commentary from people who agree with my position in favour of the Yes vote.
So, to hear the other side of the “respectful debate” we were urged to have, I left my social media echo chamber and went straight to the source of the No campaign, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Facebook page. I decided to start chatting with people there but first gave myself ground rules: be respectful, stick to the facts, don’t respond emotionally, argue the point. Although I generally managed to keep to the rules, I was eventually blocked from leaving comments but, in the process, I gained a fascinating insight into the mind of the average ACL member.
What’s clear is that they perceive themselves to be the victims in this struggle, rather than the oppressors. The fear that marriage equality will lead to discrimination against them is very real among the ACL and with little wonder – they’ve been told repeatedly that it will. What none of them realise is that churches and church-run schools, hospitals and aged-care homes are already exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act. This means that the religiously inclined can already refuse to bake a gay wedding cake without fear of prosecution in the same way that a church can sack a gay teacher or expel a gay student or refuse treatment to a gay patient without prosecution.
The other thing that’s clear is that they have no rational arguments against same-sex marriage, as I discovered time and again when I asked, “Why don’t you think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry?”
I paraphrase the most repeated responses…
“Because the Safe Schools Program will teach children how to be gay.”
It won’t, but that’s not the question that’s being asked. It’s about whether two adults of the same sex can legally marry.
“Because same-sex couples can’t procreate.”
That’s not a rational argument because same-sex couples can and do procreate, just not in traditional ways. Many already have children, and is marriage only about procreation?
“But where will it end? Polygamy, bestiality, people marrying bridges?”
Again, that’s not the question we are being asked. And, besides, should a whole group of people in society be discriminated against because you’re frightened that someone might marry a bridge? That’s not a rational argument.
“Because Adam and Eve.”
Citing a biblical creation myth is not a rational argument.
“Why don’t you stop imposing your way of life on everyone else?”
We aren’t. If you don’t want to be gay married, don’t marry someone of the same sex. Simple.
“The gay lobby is a left-wing conspiracy.”
There are currently more openly gay people in Australian parliament representing the Liberal Party than gay people representing Labor and The Greens combined. Same-sex attraction happens across a broad spectrum of people and is not an ideology. Religion is an ideology.
“We stay out of your business; you should do the same.”
You’re not staying out of our business – that’s why you are campaigning against us having equal rights. Staying out of our business would be not expressing your prejudice and not voting No in the survey.
“It’s not traditional marriage.”
Not a rational argument. Human culture created marriage to promote social harmony. We define its terms, and we often redefine them. Old Testament marriage allowed polygamy, marrying slaves and selling off daughters as wives. Is that the “traditional marriage” you want?
But the comment that finally prompted the ACL admins to block me from their page was when I quoted Jesus. I wrote: “Jesus would vote Yes because he said, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I love you – which means without judgement.”
That, clearly, was a bridge too far and our respectful debate came to an end. It was sad to be expelled from The Garden Of ACL. I doubt I changed anyone’s mind but I hope I challenged some of their assumptions and, maybe, made them think twice before regurgitating the falsehoods that keep them going.
Some of the opinions expressed there are extreme and the ACL Facebook admins should self-censor them. For example, that same-sex marriage is part of an international Marxist plot and/or connected to Nazism. I pointed out, respectfully, how offensive that suggestion is considering the thousands of gay men who died in Nazi concentration camps and Russian gulags.
However, some of the conversations were comical. There was a serious crisis of faith triggered when someone suggested that Jesus wore a dress. It was a smock, apparently. Phew!
All these conversations, though, are distractions from the core question: should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? And to that question ACL members have no rational arguments to support the No case. Not one.
These are fearful people who’ve been misled by politicians – Tony Abbott in particular – and by the ACL itself in their discredited TV advertising. They’ve been promised fire and brimstone and, I suspect, some will be disappointed when the Rapture fails to appear after marriage equality becomes law.
Andrew Creagh, Founding Editor