Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The "gay marriage" issue

issue went to a special meeting of the government party room yesterday. 
"Party" seems an odd word to use in that context. There was no party. The coalition partners were brought in. There were presumably earnest, and undoubtedly heated, consultations. People spoke up for and against.
My own local federal MP is opposed to the idea. He trained as a doctor before he entered politics. He is not the only doctor I know opposed to same sex marriage and their right or otherwise to have children.
In the end the vote to change the party's stance on same sex marriage failed. The official line is that they are still opposed to it.
I personally know two more members of parliament who are opposed to it. They both come from the current opposition and are angry that the issue is still being debated. One of them complained bitterly to me that the issue was taking up far too much time and attention and they were being pushed by the media and small but powerful lobby groups to go against "the natural order of things". 
The Prime Minister is, in his opposition, said to be out of tune with contemporary values. His stance is being used to portray him as being out of touch with modern life, modern values, what people really want and so on. The media is having a field day.
His sister is in a same sex relationship. His daughters support the idea. The media is making much of these things. Some have predicted it will be the issue which brings him down. Others say it won't. 
A wonderful man I know in a same sex relationship told me not so long ago, "A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper. Some people want it because it is something they think they can't have. We've already got what matters. It's the relationship which matters."
Is he right? I don't know. I am not in a relationship of any sort but I know it matters to some people. One of our Senators who is in a same sex relationship got quite emotional about it the other day.
We could go the same way as Ireland and vote in a referendum on the issue. If asked simply whether same sex couples should be allowed to marry it would, I believe, win. It may not happen if people were given a second option - to give same sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as other couples in the context of a legal civil ceremony. I doubt the latter option would satisfy some but it may be welcomed by others.
But there is something I think that does matter. The Prime Minister is being criticised for his stance. It may well be that he should be criticised for it but it is an issue on which his stance has not changed. He knows it is electorally damaging for him because it is a weapon the media is using against him.
He is a devout Christian who once considered the priesthood. He believes in the sanctity of marriage as taught by his religion. He believes in the traditional family unit. He believes in loyalty to his partner and I don't doubt he loves his lesbian sister. 
Questions are being raised about his leadership but the fact that he has, to date, retained it suggest that his colleagues respect him. That he almost certainly won't retain the leadership and will be blamed for the loss of government at the next election is, for the moment, beside the point.
While acknowledging his stance may not be in keeping with community views isn't it time we at least acknowledged that he has not given in to the politics of convenience? He has had the courage to stand by his beliefs, beliefs that most people once shared. Shouldn't we respect him for that even if we disagree?

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