Abbott at it again

By August 16, 2017Australian Politics

Tony Abbott has written an opinion piece in the Australian which, like most of his utterances is replete with lies, half-lies and obfuscation. I address most of his points below. Quotes from his piece are in italics.

Same-sex marriage is a tough issue. It divides families; it splits political parties; often enough, it tears at individuals, too.

So does politics, so did interracial marriage, and so did the fact of homosexuality, so that argument is immaterial. How your bigotry affects others is not their problem, it is yours.

We needed to find a way forward that would not just decide the issue but would reconcile the public with the result.

This is another one of Abbott’s lies. It has been clear for several years that the proportion of the population who favour legalising same-sex marriage is between 60% and 70%. The plebiscite ‘idea’ was simply a delaying tactic at best and a way of sabotaging the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

It was least likely to produce ongoing acrimony, for who could back their individual judgment against a vote of the whole people?

Many of Abbott’s colleagues have indicated that they will not support same-sex marriage even if the plebiscite gives a yes vote. I also expect Abbott to find an excuse not to vote in favour of legalisation if the plebiscite returns a yes vote.

After all, it’s marriage that creates families, families that make up communities, and communities that build our nation.

It is not marriage that creates families, it is people. I have acquaintances who have been together for many years, have a couple of children, but are not married. Abbott’s assertion suggests that they are not families, whereas they will tell you different.

On such an issue … it was right and proper to refer it to the people rather than just leave it to the parliament because everyone would have some ownership of the final result.

This is perhaps the most patently disingenuous statement in the article. Does he not remember that in 2004, the Howard government amended the Marriage Act to prevent same-sex marriage and to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriages from overseas?2. It is strange how that didn’t require a plebiscite. Abbott would probably say that most people agreed with Howard’s changes, and that may well have been so in 2004, but it is not now.

It’s a pity that the advocates of change haven’t finalised what they think are fair protections for freedom of religion and freedom of speech in an era of same-sex marriage because it’s hard to be sure about something without knowing exactly what it may entail

As I have stated before, the freedom of religion argument is simply code for the ability to discriminate against homosexuals, with the cake shop seemingly the most common example given. If you are a cake shop owner and do not want to provide a cake for a same-sex marriage, then you should perhaps get out of the baking business. Would you be allowed to refuse to bake a cake for an interracial marriage if you disagreed with that? Would you be allowed to refuse a cake for a marriage that wasn’t according to the rites of your particular sect, if you disagreed with that? Would you be allowed to refuse a cake for a marriage between two atheists if you were convinced they were going to hell, perhaps with your cake in tow? The answer is ‘no’ to all of these, because they are simply religious bigotry, and in this century, that is unacceptable2.

There are also no freedom-of-speech ramifications with same-sex marriage beyond the bigotry against homosexuals expressed by some of the more extreme Christians and other religionists. The religious bleat about freedom of speech a lot, but cannot provide any apparent examples, beyond these.

Instead, the activists have insisted that the general public can’t be trusted to have a sensible debate and make a considered decision.

This is just the same old Abbott lie. Why wasn’t a plebiscite necessary in 2004? We trusted politicians to make a decision then. That tends to be why they are elected; to make decisions. They make them about tax, education, health, infrastructure and whether or not to go to war. All these have a far greater effect on more people’s lives than same-sex marriage ever will. Abbott seems to be unaware that the decline in respect for politicians is precisely because of the plethora of such transparently disingenuous and dishonest statements at which he excels.

For me, voting no will not be a criticism of gay friends and family members; it won’t be an assertion that there’s only one right way to live your life or to express your love.

It is not a direct criticism of homosexuals, it is simply an assertion that they do not deserve to have the ability to marry, that they are somehow inferior and should not have the same rights as heterosexuals. They used to be regarded as criminals, now they are only discriminated against. Discriminating against people based on their sexuality is unacceptable.

Ask yourself what’s more likely to maintain respect for marriage and to reinforce the notions of constancy and selflessness that sustain all lasting relationships: an ongoing recognition that marriage is a union of one man with one woman, preferably for life and usually dedicated to children; or changing marriage so that it can mean any two people who love each other?

This is perhaps one of the most unpleasant statement in the article. He indicates that it is only heterosexual marriages that are constant and selfless, and that simply making marriage so it is just for people who love each other in some way demeans it. This is not only outrageous, but also simply stupid, and perhaps says much about Abbott’s marriage.

By all means, let’s find means to solemnise same-sex commitments and impose on them the demanding mutual obligations that spouses undertake; but I doubt that’s what most activists have in mind. To them, I suspect, it’s about status rather than responsibilities.

We can do whatever we like to solemnise same-sex commitments, we just cannot call it marriage, and in his assertion about status rather than responsibility, simply demonstrates his bigotry; homosexuals are somehow lesser; they cannot cope with responsibilities; they do not have the same feelings as ‘us’.

In New Zealand, though, where civil unions have been allowed for more than a decade and same-sex marriage since 2013, the marriage rate has been in the same slow, steady decline as elsewhere in the West, so it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that broadening marriage weakens it.

This is yet another Abbott lie and irrational conflation. The marriage rate in western democracies has been in decline since the 1960s3, a lot longer than same-sex marriage has been an issue (and this includes New Zealand). Indeed, 87% of the world’s population lives in countries with marriage rates have fallen since the 1980s4. The marriage rate in Australia has been in decline since 1970, when the crude rate was 9.3 per thousand5 people, in 2015 it was 4.8 per thousand6. It has been in decline since long before any thought of same-sex marriage even entered into the consciousness of homosexuals, let alone the religious right. Indeed, in the United States, the rate of marriage hovered, if wildly, about the 10 per thousand people since about 1900. It was only since about 1980 that it has started its slow, relatively regular, long-term decline, where it now sits at about 7 per thousand7. Coincidentally, that is about the same time that Ronald Reagan introduced his failed trickle-down economics, which has made the rich richer and the poor poorer, and gutted the middle class. The other, if more dramatic dive in the marriage rate in the US down to a level approaching the current level, was during the Great Depression of the 1930s. So, I’d suggest to Tony Abbott, that if he wishes to slow the decline of marriage, he’d be better off looking at the neoliberal economic policies he supports, not the people he thinks are not good enough to get married.

Sources

  1. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/tony-abbott-why-i-will-say-no-to-samesex-marriage/news-story/ff4e3556eb529d7816ffcefc1123f1cd
  2. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/abbotts-true-bigotry/
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-big-question-why-does-the-marriage-rate-continue-to-decline-and-does-the-trend-matter-1608177.html
  4. https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/06/how-to-live-in-a-world-where-marriage-is-in-decline/276476/
  5. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/WP_WMD_2008/Data.html
  6. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0
  7. https://theconversation.com/why-are-fewer-people-getting-married-60301

 

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