MPs’ miserable efforts on marriage equality debate

The return to parliament of MPs supposedly consulting with their electorates on marriage equality occurred while we were away on our honeymoon. Sadly, most of those who responded were those whose electorates were as conservative as the big old parties that between them hold 149 of the seats in the place (it seems that most MPs with more progressive electorates declined to pass on their constituents’ lack of support for their official party policy). And these MPs’ efforts to attempt to justify discrimination against Australian citizens were so shameful, so pathetic, so unbefitting the building in which they were delivered, that I think a response is required.

I’ll start with my local MP, Mike Symon – the person who is supposed to represent me in Parliament, who utterly refused to meet with me on the issue, or even respond to correspondence:

I believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and I do not support same-sex marriage. That is entirely consistent with the ALP platform that I was elected upon and I will not be changing my personal beliefs or principles for the sake of others’ differing views or perceived political gain.

Symon didn’t bother to present a single reason why he holds that fatuous “belief”. What contempt for the parliament. What contempt for the people against whom he insists government continue to discriminate.

(Fortunately, like the 1.5 million other people who voted Greens, I do have a representative in the House of Representatives – Adam Bandt. In contrast, the man who claims to represent the people of Deakin represents fewer than 32,000 of them, and certainly not me. He only got my preferences over the even worse Phil Barresi from the Liberals, and he’s in danger of my reconsidering that.)

Next, the person I had thought was my local MP, and discussed the issue with, member for Menzies and 1980s Bond villain Kevin Andrews, didn’t even bother putting his confusing “but straight people won’t bother getting married if gay people can” line. He just went straight for the political sledge:

This motion is being debated because a weak Labor government is once again dancing to the tune of the Greens.

He blamed the contact from citizens in favour of equality, like me, on those diabolical schemers at GetUp. (Interestingly, he didn’t dare say that to my face. Easier to smear progressive constituents when they’re not in the room, I guess.)

Paul Neville, Nationals Deputy Whip, justified his support for discrimination on tradition, objecting that “that what was good enough for centuries is no longer good enough today and that a culture’s symbols, traditions and ceremonies should make way for the holy grails of political correctness and individual gratification.” (I assume he gets around on a donkey and keeps slaves.) Then he cited Miranda Devine’s notorious column where she attempted to link lesbian mothers with the London riots. Neville, moving quickly on, made the increasingly absurd claim – given the number of childless marriages, children raised out of wedlock, and gays raising children – that marriage is “the formal expression of love and commitment between two people in which children are conceived and raised”. And then he claimed that gay people would turn marriage “into something it is not”, as if two adults committing to each other for life was somehow alien to the institution. He claimed it was “a ridiculous proposition” to call discriminating against gay people in the Marriage Act “discrimination”. He did not explain how that made any sense at all.

Chris Hayes in Fowler said he didn’t believe in marriage equality because he was a Catholic. And Catholics must follow the teachings that Jesus never actually gave, on issues He never actually mentioned, and support discrimination against gays. Because READ BETWEEN THE LINES.

Unsurprisingly, given his conservative electorate, a majority of the responses Hayes received were opposed to equality. The best argument they could come up with was apparently that gays must be kept out of marriage for “stability”. Naturally he could not explain how that made any sense either. But, he declared, I won’t apologise for it! He met with a transsexual woman who was planning to have a child with her lesbian partner. She was very nice, but he could not support her having the same right he did. Because, you know. Religion and stability somehow.

George Christensen in Dawson was cranky that he had to talk to people about their civil rights when he would rather be talking with them about the Bruce Highway. Why does the Parliament keep expecting him to deal with more than one issue at a time? What is he, a functioning human being? Anyway, he disregarded the emails he could blame on GetUp – THOSE DIABOLICAL FIENDS – and, when you took out the pro-equality emails, suddenly a vast majority of respondents were against it. And why? Because of the definition. You can’t have same sex marriage, because you can’t have same sex marriage! If the Marriage Act currently discriminates against gays and lesbians, then it must always discriminate against gays and lesbians. How can you change laws? What is this, a parliament that can change laws?

Also, apparently stopping discriminating against gays will “water down” marriage. That’s right – suddenly your commitment to your wife or husband will be, you know, less, because somewhere out there there’s a gay couple who are also married. I’m not sure how this would work – Mr Christensen didn’t say.

Oh, and Christensen claimed that “the definition of marriage is the only argument we have against polygamy”. Really? I wonder how he’s solved the difficulties many of us have with polygamy, like how the government would administer adding and removing partners from such a multiple-person arrangement. What about if some members want to add someone and some don’t? I thought that polygamy raised some quite complex difficulties involving consent and regulation – but apparently Christensen has solved all the problems with polygamy. Somebody should ask him how.

Member for Higgins, Kelly O’Dwyer (Liberal), whinged about the Greens and the carbon tax and then eventually addressed same sex marriage – by declaring irrelevantly that “I do not believe that the churches, mosques or synagogues should be forced to marry anyone that they do not want to”. As if they do now. As if the legality of Hindu marriage means that a Hindu couple could force Archbishop Hart to marry them in St Patrick’s Cathedral (it doesn’t, and they couldn’t). She asserted there would be “LEGAL IMPLICATIONS” and that these “LEGAL IMPLICATIONS” could “AFFECT CHILDREN”. Why would anyone need to hear what those “legal implications” are, or how precisely they’d “affect children” negatively? Why should Kelly be expected to actually own what she’s hinting at there? She’s not hinting at anything! Not that you could quote her on later.

Finally, Ms O’Dwyer, completely flunking her opportunity to stand up as a small “l” liberal, and standing well apart from her generation (she’s a year younger than me), tried a bit of a 3rd Negative high school debating rhetorical device, trying to throw the onus on ending discrimination onto those who want to end discrimination. Prove it won’t have any negative consequences! Travel to a a parallel universe where Australia has gay marriage and then bring back proof that people aren’t eating their own children! Until you can show me evidence from the future, I will not support any legislative change whatsoever! (Don’t worry, Kelly doesn’t apply that test to Coalition proposals.)

Alex Hawke, another young Liberal – one who’s previously told fellow Coalition MPs that if they believe in marriage equality they should go and join the bloody Greens – attempted to blame “division” in our society on the fight for equality:

I think this is a foolish attempt and that we get a lot of the division and problems that we are seeing in our society today with this attempt to redefine marriage.

Which was a little inconsistent with his subsequent attempt to have it both ways (we mean rhetorically) and shore up his libertarian cred:

We should move towards legal recognition of same-sex relationships in a civil way and treat everybody the same way… the next logical step at the point of society we are in today is to move down the path of legal recognition of same-sex relationships and afford them the same rights as any other kind of relationship. That would be a positive step forward. Even if I would not personally seek that, or personally not encourage people to do that, that would be a responsible view from a governmental level for us to proceed with.

So, gay marriage activists, Alex doesn’t personally seek equality for gay people, and thinks that calling for it is destructive, but he agrees that it would be the responsible thing for government to do. Presumably that makes sense in his own head, somehow.

Darren Chester (Nationals), MP for Gippsland, promised to vote against marriage equality if it was before parliament. Which, as with Alex Hawke before him, was somewhat strange because he also declared that “I believe it is also extremely important that we continue to work as a community to eliminate discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality”. So important that he’d vote to continue discriminating against people on the basis of their sexuality? Teams of linguistic and polemical experts are analysing Darren’s statement as we speak to try to figure out how precisely he reconciles the former with the latter.

Shayne Neumann (ALP) from Blair represents another socially conservative electorate. He declared that he had always supported discrimination in marriage, advocated for it at branch meetings and regional meetings and national conferences. It was, he said, “a personal view that I have accepted from my religious convictions, a personal view that I think accords with the history of human experience”. Also Jim Wallace’s group is obsessed with it. But many of Shayne’s best friends are gay. He likes his sister-in-law’s lesbian partner more than he ever liked her husband, so, you know. You can’t accuse him of thinking that gay people are inferior human beings just because he declares that they can’t raise children as well as heterosexual people.

Also, marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman so it must always be defined as being between a man and a woman. It just is. Stop asking him questions.

Luke Simpkins (Liberal) the MP for Cowan, reckoned the emails he received in favour of discrimination had more “personal involvement” than those in favour of equality – ironic, given that unlike the people they were demanding be treated as second-class citizens, none of the people opposed to gay marriage actually had any of their rights actually affected by marriage equality legislation.

Luke’s only attempt at an argument in favour of his proposed vote against equality? “I believe that the natural family needs to be supported and the definition of ‘marriage’ as being between a man and a woman does this, and this special position should not be watered down under any circumstances.”

How does locking out gay people from marriage “support” anyone? How would removing discrimination against them in the Marriage Act “water down” protections for families? What protection? What support? What exactly does Luke think the gays are going to do to married couples and their kids?

Next was Alby Schultz (Liberal) from Hume, was more interested in using the opportunity to whinge about the Greens and Labor:

an instructive illustration of how this parliament, under this government, continues to lurch further and further away from taking time to address the concerns affecting the majority of Australians… the Gillard Greens government’s march backwards towards a controlled economy… indulge the fantasies of the inner-city elites… I suggest to the new member for Melbourne that he spend less time fantasising about neo-Trotskyist social engineering projects…

Ha ha, those are the bits the party likes!

Alby is proud to defend discrimination. He “will not be intimidated” by those calling for equality. He ruled out those contributions from constituents he didn’t successfully “verify” (apparently conveniently ruling out most pro-equality messages) and found that a majority of the remainder happened to support his position, which was lucky. This is the guff he gave to “explain” why he was so determined to keep gays from sharing the benefits of marriage:

Marriage is a bedrock institution worthy of protection under law. There should be no doubt about what the word ‘marriage’ means… Traditional mainstream marriage is an enduring social institution that benefits family members and provides for stability in society. More specifically, it benefits children by ensuring their welfare not only is maximised but is
paramount. It is my belief that moving away from the traditional definition of ‘marriage’ would be to the detriment of our society. Marriage provides stability and a solidly built roof under which children can grow and be nurtured.

To which I’d say – of course marriage is a bedrock institution worthy of protection under the law. No, there shouldn’t be any doubt on what marriage is – two consenting adults committing to each other for life. Marriage does have those benefits to family members, society, and children. All well and good, but why exactly would letting gays marry undo these good things? Why exactly would it do anything but extend those benefits to adults and their children who currently are excluded from those protections? Alby? Do you have a single reason?

Well, not that he expressed in his statement, funnily enough.

Oh, but Alby did have one final “argument” against equality – he has some old gay friends who don’t want to get married. So, you know, that settles that – in exactly the same way that finding an old heterosexual couple who don’t want to marry each other is an argument against government recognising heterosexual marriages.

Stuart Robert (Liberal) for Fadden, found that if you excluded the young people with Gmail accounts who supported equality, then by a ratio of 16 to 1 his electorate was in favour of discrimination. And if he actually went himself to the local churches and mosque, it would be, say, pulling a number out of the air, 30 to one!

So the fact that Stuart didn’t have a single argument to put in favour of his pro-discrimination position didn’t bother him. AND IT SHOULDN’T BOTHER YOU.

Scott Morrison (Liberal) from Cook naturally started off whinging about the Greens and immigration (BORDER SECURITY! BORDER SECURITY!) before quoting this line from John Howard as if it contained an actual argument:

Marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children … I think if the same status is given in our society to gay unions as are given to traditional marriage we will weaken that bedrock institution …

Howard never explained how giving gay unions equality would “weaken” marriage; nor could Morrison. But he did bang on about that claim that – despite the number of children born out of wedlock, or the number of marriages that are deliberately childless, or the number of gay people raising children – “marriage… is about children”:

“For me this is fundamentally about a child’s natural right to a mother and a father. I believe that this right should be protected in all Commonwealth laws, especially the Marriage Act.

Surprisingly inconsistently with those two sentences, Morrison did not then propose the abolition of divorce and forcing single mothers to remarry their child’s father. Perhaps that’s coming.

He listed a whole lot of damage that comes from family breakdown in a country where gays can’t get married, which somehow is an argument that they shouldn’t. “This is a genuine national tragedy,” he said. “Not an argument for same-sex marriage.” But apparently Scott thinks it’s an argument against it.

Apparently Morrison wants taxpayers to establish a dictionary police:

Marriage, as I have said, is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life. Legal recognition of a same-sex union should be termed something else.

Taxpayers, we should draft complicated laws to create a separate system for gay people because… if they call their marriages marriages then… something terrible.

Oh yes, adoption:

I have no objection to some other form of legal
recognition of such relationships in the form of a type of civil union provided such unions do not provide any automatic access to adoption.

Does anyone have “automatic access to adoption”? (To reassure Scott: no. Even people he doesn’t like, like Greens voters, don’t have an “automatic access to adoption”. Even the straight ones.)

Josh Frydenberg (Liberal), from Kooyong, was a mess of contradictions:

My view is that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and a woman.


Relationships between same-sex couples are equally special but nevertheless, by definition, different.

In what way, precisely?

It is much more than a simple debate about preferred terminology.


The term ‘marriage’ should not apply. Civil unions, however, should be an alternative.

It’s not about terminology, but the problem you have is the name?


Deborah O’Neill (ALP) from Robertson, doesn’t like intolerant, bigoted, homophobic views being given those names. I suppose it’s nasty calling members of the ALP “members of the ALP”, too.

Here are her “reasons” for opposing equality:

Firstly, regardless of culture, time or place, the organic nature of the family unit that is the natural consequence of the union of a man and a woman is the key social unit on which a stable society is built.

And if gays can get married too, then this will affect that how?

Marriage is almost universally viewed as a legal and social event that is life-generating and understood to be, much more often than not, linked to children. This is a commonly held position in the broad community.

That’s why when post-menopausal women and older men, we are freaked out and demand that they not call it a “marriage”.

That’s not a marriage, you old freaks!

It is the position expressed by our Prime Minister and the position held by many people of faith. Many, but not all Catholic people—like me—Islamic people, Jewish people, secular humanists and Indigenous families think of marriage in this way. We prize it.

And frankly we’d rather not share it with you non-religious people. How dare you get married outside a church or mosque or synagogue.

We understand it very certainly as a union between a man and a woman. There is no intention, in holding that view, to slight the view of others. But the depth of belief in the notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is not a matter that can be overturned by legislation. No matter how this matter advances or falls, legislation will not change what 70 per cent of the people in Robertson who have contacted me on this bill actually believe.

Yes, the parliament must stop gay people marrying because some religious people wouldn’t vote for their marriages.

I wonder how Deborah would have reacted if her marriage had to be put up to a popular vote before the government would recognise it.

Yet I hold for myself, and for 70 per cent of the people in
Robertson, the right to hold firmly to the view that marriage is that union between a man and a woman.

I don’t think anyone really cares what views Deborah holds about marriage privately. The point is when she uses them to justify legislation that discriminates against gay people. You know, the people who are actually affected by whether the government discriminates against gay people or not.

* * * * *

There were also those MPs who just described their constituents’ views and declined to expressly give their own – Andrew Wilkie (Independent) in Denison, Dr Andrew Leigh (ALP) in Fraser (although he made it fairly obvious that his electorate was in favour of equality, and that he was too), Catherine King (ALP) from Ballarat said she was undecided, although “fundamentally challenged” by conversations she’d had with same-sex couples. Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal) from Wentworth and Anthony Albanese (Labor) in Grayndler indicated support for equality, but did not declare that they would vote for it if the matter was before parliament today. Jill Hall (Labor) from Shortland did the same.

And there were those who stood for equality.

Adam Bandt (Greens) from Melbourne:

I am confident that it will not be long before marriage equality is achieved, because love builds bridges where there are none. Love thaws hearts and warms minds. Love is a powerful force for good and a force for change, and I believe that it is love that has brought us to this place in the debate and it is love that will carry us over the threshold of discrimination and fear to marriage equality. This push for equal love is not just important for those who want to get married. It sends a powerful message to the boy in a country town struggling with his sexuality or the student who wants to take her girlfriend to the high school formal that this country believes their love is equal…

It seems to me that if you come from a party that believes in equality, that must be equality for everyone, and if you come from a party that believes in an individual’s right to do as they wish with their own life, so long as it does not harm someone else, then that should extend to the most fundamental of rights, the right to be able to marry the person that you love. I believe it is not sustainable for the government or the opposition to hold back the floodgates of public opinion that wants Australia to come into the 21st century. I have great confidence that we will achieve full equality in the life of this parliament and, after all, if it is something that Catholic Spain can do then Australia as a 21st century advanced democracy should be able to do it as well.

The Greens have a bill before the parliament ready and waiting to overturn the marriage ban.

Graham Perrett (ALP) from Moreton in Queensland:

It has been put to me that bringing in marriage equality will somehow cheapen my relationship because it is supposed to be only between a man and a woman. I am sorry, but I will not be thinking about same-sex couples, my neighbours or anybody else when I wake up in the arms of the most beautiful woman in the world. I will not be thinking about my neighbours—hi to Grant, Norman, Jenny and John—or anybody else. I will be thinking only about my wife. It is time for everybody, every adult in Australia, to be given the same opportunity, to wake up with their own loved one—obviously not with my wife. It is time for everyone in Australia to be given that opportunity.

Sharon Grierson (ALP) from Newcastle has been standing for equality since 2006 and declared:

It is a mainstream issue. It is about the dignity of life, the dignity of love and that ongoing quest that mankind has for some partnering, support or a wonderful relationship that many people have the blessing to share.
I do say it is an issue that goes to the core of the human experience—the need to be loved, to love and the need to have a bond for some people formally recognised in a union called marriage.

My support also runs to the core of my beliefs that made me become a member of parliament and a member of the Labor Party, and that simply is that legislated discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation whether in marriage law, superannuation law, social security law or any other law is unconscionable and should be removed.

to be continued…

9 responses to “MPs’ miserable efforts on marriage equality debate

  1. Yes, I was ticked off about this as well. I signed onto the GetUp campaign the week before the report back to parliament. A form letter sure, but probably no different than the form letters from the fundie lobby groups. And then the next week it was all “little support in the community” from the MP’s.

    According to the GetUp campaign page,, over 70000 people signed that petition. That’s 460+ people on average for each MP in parliament.

    Hundreds against marriage equality, and very few for? Yeah right – only if you count all of the pro-equality e-mails from GetUp members as a single vote, while not applying the same logic to anti-equality e-mails. I smell a very big rat.

  2. What I find fascinating in this so called debate is the very poor reasons for maintaining the status quo – what is that about? What is so difficult about changing the Marriage Act? It appears to me that our MPs fear that they and by extension their electorates will suddenly ‘catch’ gay and lesbian characteristics and society will quickly degenerate into say a Sodom and Gomorrah cesspit!

    Madness making of the ridiculous!

  3. “What is so difficult about changing the Marriage Act?”

    Nothing. It took John Howard a matter of hours (well, maybe a day or two) to do it 1994, thanks to a Reps and Senate majority. If both houses of parliament WANTED to do it, they could, very easily. Any time anybody brings this up is a special pleading fallacy — it’s apparently difficult to repeal an amendment to the marriage act, even though it was trivially easy to enact it in the first place.

  4. What’s astonishing is not that these politicians are against marriage equality, but that they are all unable or unwilling to explain why.

  5. Awesome image J; it is important to remind people of those inconvenient truths every time the ‘tradition’ line gets wheeled out.

    You know, I can actually understand people not really giving a toss about this topic. With reasons ranging from “I care but there are other issues I think are more important” through to “it doesn’t impact me”.

    What I don’t get, is why people would so passionately fight against it. Why they would be so anti-equality? Why they would search for reasons and excuses where none exist just because something is, to them, ‘icky’ at worst and totally not impacting them in any way. You know, I get why men were anti-equality vs women, it would actually cost them something. I get whites being anti-equality against blacks – again, it would cost them something. But this costs those against gay marriage nothing. It truly boggles the mind.

    Unfortunately, this issue will not get resolved for quite some time mainly because being for gay marriage will not win you a seat. That is because, as I said above, many are either indifferent or vote based on other issues like economics (don’t get me started on the economic benefits of equality – nevertheless these are lost on COAG when it comes to gender/sex issues). Nevertheless, those against, are so vitriolically against, that one could lose a seat based on supporting gay marriage. Which brings me back to what I don’t get – so out of all the things going on in this country, there are a substantial amount of people that would vote purely based on trying to stop equality for a bunch of good folk that have no negative impact on them whatsoever.

    Go figure.

  6. ^ Or that they think that they vote on their beliefs.

    You didn’t ask my local member (Maria Vamvakinou – Labor) so I’ll email her and reply here her response.

  7. Well I received a one-line response: “My position is that marriage is between one man and one woman”. Disappointing but not surprising since she’s from the same faction as Gillard.

  8. I didn’t even get a form letter response from Deborah O’Neill’s office. No idea whether I was one of this alleged 30% or not!

  9. narcoticmusing

    My position is that marriage is between one man and one woman

    So much for the position of the electorate huh.

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