A night with the Association of Cynical Liars (ACL)

As I was walking home from work last night, about 8 o’clock, I passed a church hall near our house that seemed more occupied than on a usual Tuesday night. So I popped my head in the hall, and saw a both heartbreaking and heartwarming sight – a tiny gathering of older people sitting to watch a bunch of lying bigots organised by the ACL (Association of Cynical Liars) lying to them about marriage equality. (Heartwarming because there were hardly any of them, and fewer than five percent of that number would’ve been under 60.)

Yes – the ACL had organised a laughably-named “defining marriage” webcast to participating churches, far away from the eyes of anyone who could call them on their deceptions and outright lies. It was a time for introducing and reinforcing untruths before anyone could point out the reality (such as the lie about Denmark forcing churches to marry gay people), a time for presenting slick, vaguely plausible-sounding retorts to standard equality arguments (like the response to “but what about all the childless marriages” being some very fast talking indeed) but without anyone present to puncture the misleading edifice.

I sat in for a little while, until my grumbling stomach made postponing dinner any longer inconceivable, and observed the following, captured on the #aclpropaganda hashtag on twitter:

  • General rambling about how great sex (titter) and marriage are, with the implication being that gays having either would somehow take them away from Christians.
  • See, they can’t be homophobic because some of their friends are gays. This one woman knew a girl at school who was gay and she didn’t stone her. Another has some gay people come to her church, and sometimes she trusts them more than her heterosexual friends, so it’s okay that she’s advocating for them to be treated as second-class citizens by the law.
  • John Anderson (a former Coalition deputy PM) told the ACL’s targets that they can feel okay about discriminating against gay people because in their charity work they don’t expressly exclude gay people from assistance.
  • Another bloke announced that he’d been tempted to cheat on his wife, and resisted the urge, so gay people should be fine living celibate lives unable to marry the person they love.
  • One of the speakers told the gag about it not being that marriage leads to men living longer, it just “makes it seem longer”. Whole church laughed uproariously, as did the audience on the webcast. Because this precious marriage thing is apparently a shared suffering for them.
  • An audience member asked if gay people went to Hell. Answer given: Jesus came to enforce the Old Testament. So the ACL will be demanding a ban on cotton and the reintroduction of stoning of gays, I guess.
  • Don’t worry about being called “politically incorrect” (although it’s not much of a risk because nobody on the equality side of an argument has ever used that term in the history of the universe) when you say horrible things about gays – because Jesus was “politically incorrect” too! Maybe he said horrible things about gays in his club where the gospel writers weren’t taking notes.
  • Gay people are probably struggling with their sexuality and how wrong it is, so we should encourage them in that belief and help them make their lives miserable by fighting their natural sexuality.
  • Apparently the polls indicating that an increasing majority of Australians believe that marriage law should no longer discriminate against gays are actually warped by “celebrities”. “Celebrities” use their mind-control mojo to trick Australians into answering “yes” to questions from pollsters about marriage equality, even though a majority of Australians really think the answer is “no” when they’re not being overrun by “celebrity” mind-rays.
  • John Anderson doesn’t think “marriage equality” is inevitable because when he was at university some progressives were opposed to marriage as an institution. Therefore their long-standing opposition to discrimination will eventually crumble under the weight of their hatred for marriage that they’ve only temporarily forgotten about.
  • John Anderson declared that children have the “human right” to live with their biological mother and father even though the ACL admits that 30% in Australia don’t actually live with their biological mother and father. Also the state mustn’t separate children from their parents, so John will be proposing amendments to the criminal law for states to adopt such that no parents can ever be sent to prison because their children have a “human right” to be raised by them.
  • And then John Anderson completely lied to the attendant audience by claiming that we “know” that after gays are permitted to marry they’ll be forcing churches to do it because THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENED IN DENMARK. Even though that’s an outright lie and that’s not just what happened in Denmark at all. Gullible audience appears to buy the lie. I cannot resist gasping, out loud, “LIAR!”
  • Patrick Parkinson fears that people are losing interest in marriage. Accordingly, people who are interested in marriage and qualify under every aspect of the definition except their gender must be prevented from marrying. We must encourage marriage by discouraging it. Patrick looks a little like Giles from Buffy, only mad.
  • Patrick claims that marriage has “always” meant one man and one woman. He apparently hasn’t read the Old Testament all that closely.
  • Patrick also claims that gay people have equality already. He apparently hasn’t noticed that the ACL is fighting pretty hard to make sure the law does not treat them equally to heterosexuals.
  • John Anderson tells the audience of the importance of making that declaration, of making a formal marriage commitment to another person, instantly undermining Patrick’s claim that gays and lesbians have equality in all the important respects.
  • Anderson promises his willing dupes that the state is going to stop them telling their kids that being gay is horribly wrong. That the state might stop them traumatising their gay kids early in life. The fact that there is no such plan to protect such children from their parents’ religiously-motivated abuse doesn’t alter Anderson’s conviction that he KNOWS IT’S COMING.
  • One of them suggests that gay marriage will lead to polygamy. Interestingly, she appears to have completely blocked out all the polygamy in the Old Testament. Nobody with an ounce of sense is on the panel to point out that the “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy and polygamy raises issues of consent and oppression that are simply not present in gay marriage.
  • The panel eventually went back to talking about the benefits of stability and marriage for children, apparently forgetting that the whole reason they were there was to stop the children being raised by gay parents enjoying those benefits.
  • Another speaker declared that only heterosexual relationships could be selfless and giving, on the basis of nothing whatsoever.

You can see why they had to keep all the non-fundamentalists away.

And then today they launched a disturbing little video called “what is marriage”? The video asserts that marriage is when a “boy” and a “girl” want to have “boys and girls of their own”, thereby insulting every childless married couple (they’re not marriages, apparently) and every non-married couple with kids. And then, at 0:56, there was even a charming little endorsement of domestic violence:

These people are weird.

UPDATE (10/7): The ACL have now decided to put the video of the panel broadcast on their website.

ELSEWHERE: Traditional marriage, from the New York Daily Mirror some time between 1924 and 1963:

Marriage must never change! It’s been exactly the same since God designed it 5000 years ago!

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16 responses to “A night with the Association of Cynical Liars (ACL)

  1. Reblogged this on Welcome to my Ocular Deficiency and commented:
    Someone braving the tens of people at a church signed up to the ACL ‘marriage’ webcast is able to give us a look at what it is really like.

  2. Could we please have a link to the video? Either it’s not on the Googles or I’m using the wrong search terms.

  3. Sadly, I suspect ACL isn’t planning on putting the video where you can watch it.

    Oh – unless you mean the “what is marriage” one with the domestic violence, which is at whatismarriage.org.au

  4. narcoticmusing

    That is so great, particularly when we consider that domestic violence is the leading contributor of death, disability and illness for women!* So clearly at least one partner is totally on board with the sacrifice part.

    *http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/Publications/Freedom-from-violence/Violence-against-women-in-Australia-research-summary.aspx

  5. The webcast is publicly available in its entirety on the ACL’s website. I think the tone of this review is a bit of a shame. I don’t think contempt encourages fruitful conversation. You do raise some important points. Kind regards, Steph.

  6. Try reading the comments under the anti-gay marriage posts at the ACL website. They’re chock-full of contempt for gay marriage and anyone in favour of it. And then try posting comments at the ACL website that are supportive of gay marriage. You’ll be hard-pressed to get your comment up there. I know, because I’ve tried numerous times. So please don’t come here pretending the ACL is interested in conversation, fruitful or otherwise, on this topic.

  7. The webcast is publicly available in its entirety on the ACL’s website. I think the tone of this review is a bit of a shame. I don’t think contempt encourages fruitful conversation. You do raise some important points. Kind regards, Steph.

    Cheers, but isn’t contempt an appropriate response to someone who lies and deceives in the interests of promoting prejudice and discrimination?

    As Fred Clark pointed out, when demanding the law deny people basic human rights, you don’t get to be “nice” about it.

    Thanks for letting me know they’ve now uploaded a video of it. Readers can compare my response with the full broadcast (of which I missed the beginning and end).

  8. Hey buns3000. I hope I didn’t miscommunicate: I’m not for a moment suggesting that one side is full of contempt and the other isn’t. I’m just writing a thesis on the topic, and have a heavy heart after reading the tone, from both sides, day in and day out. I would hope that whatever opinion one holds dear, we could refuse to engage in a tit-for-tat descent into bitterness, and instead model respectful discussion.
    I understand that is difficult when one has been personally hurt by the words and actions of the group in question.
    I guess I just hold to Rohr’s mantra, that ‘The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.’ I hope I haven’t been offensive in my plea to a better tone of conversation. Sorry if I have.

  9. Yes, Jeremy, you’re right – it’s a difficult oscillation I go through in my own mind (regarding not being “nice” to those who deny basic rights).
    I think the complexity comes in when it’s acknowledged that they are not thinking of this topic on the same terrain; they fundamentally do not conceive of marriage as a ‘right’ which can be extended to this group, or denied to another. Yes, many do understand marriage that way, and consequently it is a matter of equality and discrimination.

    But it’s difficult when the group opposing what you understand to be a matter of justice and equality (and so you deem to be discriminatory), fundamentally doesn’t adhere to that ontology. I’m not sure if I’ve made sense, but I’d be happy to clarify.

    Of course, I understand what you mean. I just struggle to see how calling them bigots is going to encourage them to think differently. In my experience of debates, name-calling only serves to entrench and polarise.

  10. I wasn’t calling the audience bigots – I called the people on the stage advocating for others to be denied the rights they themselves enjoy bigots. I think they need to be called on it, and others need to see what they are.

    It’s interesting this line they have that marriage is not a “right”. I suspect if the law was to stop them getting married they’d change their mind on that quick smart.

    Did you read the link to Fred Clark? I think he makes the point very well.

  11. Thanks for the link. I understand the point Clark makes. I agree with it, generally speaking.

    I don’t think I explained what I meant by the ‘rights’ point very well. But I think, as indicated by the use of the question ‘What is marriage?’ by the ACL, they understand that the very institution called marriage is something which isn’t just a legal recognition of an emotional bond. They understand ‘marriage’ to be a total union of two persons, so characterised that this particular union is one only actually, physically, possible between a man and a woman.

    Whatever you think of that, that’s what makes the ‘equality’ point more complicated than Clark portrays. Because whilst if they were denying something which was possible to be had to a particular group, they understand marriage in such a way that marriage is not possible between a same-sex couple, so that there is no denial of a right, because it is an impossibility.

    Anyway, that’s how they understand it. Some church leaders I’ve come across are in favour of a separate piece of legislation allowing for ‘gay marriage’, separate to ‘marriage’. I suspect the Alex Greenwich would point out that that perpetuates discrimination. But yes, I think this debate is much more difficult and complex than a matter of equality.

    Over and out.

  12. I hope I haven’t been offensive in my plea to a better tone of conversation. Sorry if I have.

    No, you haven’t. And apologies for undue snarkiness on my part.

  13. They understand ‘marriage’ to be a total union of two persons, so characterised that this particular union is one only actually, physically, possible between a man and a woman.

    They also understand “marriage” to be a religious union that should involve God. And yet, if they function in modern society, they should be aware that other people have very different views of marriage to them. And they should consider just how much they’d like it if they were forced to adhere to another person’s conception of marriage – like, say, the muslims’. And then consider that perhaps the law should respect different views of marriage than their own, provided there are no other problems with it (consent, administration etc, which are problems with the alternatives they say are “just like” gay marriage).

    The point is that marriage in the law is already well beyond the Christian version. We have civil marriage. We have divorced people marrying, despite that being opposed by the Vatican. We even let muslims, buddhists and atheists marry. The point is, consenting adults committing to joining their lives together is the constant in EVERY marriage. Raising children isn’t. Being endorsed by Christian churches isn’t. And there’s no substantial reason why gender should block people from marrying their partner.

    But there are plenty of reasons why we should encourage people to marry – something that every speaker on the panel above talking about the value of the marriage commitment implicitly recognises. They recognise it’s a good thing – they just don’t want to share it. And they want the LAW to do their dirty work.

  14. They understand ‘marriage’ to be a total union of two persons, so characterised that this particular union is one only actually, physically, possible between a man and a woman.

    What’s their understanding based on? I think we can all agree that two people of the same gender can’t have heterosexual intercourse with one another, physically. But if you’re asserting capacity to have heterosexual intercourse is a pre-requisite to getting married, then – aside from not being consistent with current law – that’s a fairly circular kind of logic: only straight couples can do it; ergo, gay couples can’t.

    Whatever you think of that, that’s what makes the ‘equality’ point more complicated than Clark portrays. Because whilst if they were denying something which was possible to be had to a particular group, they understand marriage in such a way that marriage is not possible between a same-sex couple, so that there is no denial of a right, because it is an impossibility.

    Again, this is circular. Before women had the right to vote, men understood voting as “something which was not possible to be had” to that particular group – women – because women had never been entitled to vote before. But that wouldn’t have been an argument against giving them the right.

    I suppose you have to establish that it is more important that gay people be treated by the law as second-class citizens than that Christians should be asked to change what they “understand” marriage to be.

  15. narcoticmusing

    I understand where ajoyfulvapour is coming from, in that those against gay marriage do not see it as a rights argument at all, which is why they struggle so much in defending their position against rights arguments from those that support gay marriage. For example, they see it as analogous to health issues, that we should intervene to prevent people doing things that are harmful to themselves. So those that advocate against gay marriage think they are doing some sort of public service in protecting gay people from themselves.

    Nevertheless, that cannot be reconciled with the points Jeremy made above, which is why it IS a rights issue. That being that discrimination, no matter how pretty you paint it, is essentially a group (A) seeking to impose a standard on another group (B) that they themselves (Group A) would never accept imposed upon them (Group A).

    In other words, whether they like it or not, whether they wish to define the argument in terms that makes them feel all warm and glowy on the inside, it is still discrimination. It is still the same argument that was used to stop marriage between races. It is the same argument to prevent marriage between religions. Ultimately, like most discrimination, those fighting for the law to remain wish that it is so because it suits them to be so.

    There are strong analogies here to other forms of discrimination. Much like it suits slavers to have slaves, much like it suits misogynists/sexists to have 50% of the population (women) to be subservient. Sexists (just check out the repugnant manosphere) have fabulous arguments for why women should be subservient, including stable families etc that all sound very warm and fuzzy, but ultimately, they only wish women to be subservient because it suits them for it to be so. It is a standard they would never impose on themselves, despite that all the benefits of having a parent at home would occur regardless of which parent stayed.

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