Monday, August 29, 2016

Australia's Marriage Equality Plebiscite: A Conscience Plea (and what Labor should do)

The emotionally loaded divisions over Australia's upcoming marriage equality plebiscite, likely to be held February 2017, have continued. Just as people like myself have described those willing to wait another 3-9 years rather than having a plebiscite as selfish, the other camp has interestingly used the same description on us, apparently. I still strongly believe my view is the right one, and the just one, by the way. I still strongly believe that the plebiscite is second best, but worth it if it's plebiscite vs further delays.

But bickering aside, this really has become an issue of conscience. (In fact, I have come to believe that Labor should therefore grant a conscience vote on this matter, as they do for the issue of marriage equality more generally.) I hold my own position dearly, as do, I believe, those who have recently become our opponents. Both sides have heartfelt arguments that speak ultimately to their own experience and their own values. For me, I cannot live with not having done everything to prevent another major delay to marriage equality, and my first priority is to ensure that marriage equality gets achieved during this term, conscience vote first choice, plebiscite second choice. (And it looks like I might have to settle for second choice at the moment.)

A lot of people share my views too, something our opponents have liked to dismiss for far too long. Every time I read an article about the plebiscite and some activists' calls for it to be blocked, or how they could live with waiting three more years or so, there would be plenty of people commenting saying that they are frustrated that the activists only want equality via their preferred means, on their preferred terms, and how this was not letting the rest of us move forward with this issue and move on from this fight ultimately. I wholeheartedly agree here. Trust me, as someone who is in her 14th year fighting for marriage equality, we have waited for too long, and I totally feel the frustration many people out there have about those activists and their lightly brushing off of further delays. The truth is, while you may be able to live with a further delay, the rest of us don't necessarily feel this way, to put it mildly. Ignoring that we exist doesn't do your argument any favours.

Many anti-plebiscite activists point to a recent poll by PFLAG, stating that the majority of LGBT people would rather wait than accept the plebiscite. But that is problematic in multiple ways. Firstly, PFLAG has recently commissioned a series of polls, showing a picture of a drop in support for the plebiscite, justifying their anti-plebiscite position. A Fairfax-Ipsos poll conducted at a similar time found that support for the plebiscite had remained very strong (around 70%). If you know anything about polls, a non-commissioned poll is usually much more believable, and this discrepancy has called into question any further PFLAG commissioned polls in my opinion. Add in the fact that none of my LGBT friends have heard about this PFLAG poll, I can't in my good consicence say that I believe it's reliable. But let's take the poll at its face value. It showed that about a third would rather not wait. So at least a third of the LGBT community doesn't matter then? They should be forced by other LGBTs to wait for their rights? Remember, those who don't want to wait are probably more keen on marriage than those who can wait. So in effect, LGBTs who want rights and want them now are being told by those who care less about this issue to wait. I can't, in my moral conscience, see something like this and not speak up. It makes me very angry indeed.

Also relevant to this debate are pro-marriage-equality allies. In fact, wouldn't a mother of an engaged gay man have more of a stake in this than a queer person who doesn't care for marriage anyway? It would be immoral to tell that mother to wait to see her son's wedding, just because someone else doesn't want to see the plebiscite happen. And then, there's also those who aren't personally affected, but believe that enacting this change quickly would bring Australia and its future closer to their ideals, be it progressive, liberal, libertarian or even inclusive-conservative. It's their country too, and they shouldn't have to be unable to move on from this issue for another few years just because someone else really hates the plebiscite. These voices matter, and sadly, our opponents often pretend they don't. The bottom line is: marriage equality doesn't just affect LGBTs, but on the other hand, marriage equality doesn't concern all LGBTs either. So an LGBT-only discussion of the issue would be very flawed indeed.

Many leftist activists also feel like they have a special right to speak on this issue, indeed decide in which way it should proceed, just because they have been supporting it longer than some other people. Tell me, where were these people in 2003, when I first became a passionate supporter of same-sex marriage? They were probably focussed on other issues instead, i.e. they hadn't even come on board yet. Many so-called 'veteran' marriage equality activists in Australia didn't start until August 2004, which means only the actions of the Howard goverment jolted them into action, and many more even only came on board during the Rudd-Gillard years. They really don't have a special right of 'ownership' over this issue, therefore. They certainly don't have a special moral right to tell the Labor party as a whole, the LGBT community as a whole, and also pro-equality allies, to support their preferred course of action. (Also, this might be controversial, but the fact that they come on board only after Howard took a stance against equality showed that, perhaps, they aren't as interested as people like myself about the marriage issue itself.)

In conclusion, the plebiscite remains controversial, and my view is that it's second best, but still better than any further delay. My view also happens to be shared by many, perhaps even the 'silent majority'. Polls have showed that the majority of Australians want marriage equality, and can accept a plebiscite if it comes to that. In a democracy, where there are multiple passionate voices on an issue and multiple stakeholders with differing views, the majority should rule. Therefore, if Labor has tried but failed to secure a conscience vote come September, I will wholeheartedly support the plebiscite.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

J.K. Rowling Enters the Anti-Homophobia Conversation Again

J.K. Rowling's outspokeness about homophobia continues. Recently, when the organisation Christian Voice attempted to link British olympic diver Tom Daley's performance to his sexual orientation in a twitter post, she defended him, predictably causing waves on social media.

Homophobia is sad, but unfortunately it is still a fact of life. While I believe society should embrace freedom of speech, it is also imperative that people with certain moral stances use their freedom of speech to promote their values. We should all follow Rowling's example here, and use our voice to improve society whenever we can. It's a responsibility we all have.

Download the full song here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

So Better Midler is a Bigot Now? When PC Goes Too Far, Again.

Bette Midler, of all people, would be the last to be accused of bigotry, you would think. But apparently, in the age of the social justice warriors, she, too has become the latest victim of the witch hunt.

It all started when Bette posted on twitter comments about Caitlyn Jenner, suggesting now that I Am Cait is over, perhaps Caitlyn may become Bruce again. Surely insensitive, but I'm sure it was meant to be tongue in cheek. Predictably, accusations of transphobia poured in, and Midler soon apologised. But even that was not enough. Because Bette wrote that she had misread the 'temper of the times' in her apology, the SJWs thought that she needed another lesson, regarding the 'fact' that she thought it would be okay to be transphobic in other times. Of course transphobia is never okay. But this SJW-type response is certainly a feature of the 'temper of the times'!

Not that the SJW crowd like Caitlyn Jenner either, remember. Her Republican party affiliation is an eyesore to most of them, since they apparently believe that all minorities should be leftist. As if being a minority should take away your political choice.

Not only totally ridiculous, but also totally sad. Social justice surely doesn't get achieved this way.

Let me suggest a better way. How about, just educate? Maybe we should have told Bette Midler that what she said was insensitive to trans people. And she would have gotten it, I believe. Much easier, much less divisive, and much more effective indeed.

Download the full song here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Kristen Stewart and Cara Delevingne: Dating women but no 'labels'. A new era of equality?

Kristen Stewart and Cara Delevingne have become two of the latest celebrities to be openly dating women, but opting not to put a label on their relationships status or their sexual orientation.

In the past, people would have expected those dating the same sex to 'come out as gay'. But times appear to be changing. And it may just be another step towards equality. I mean, those dating the opposite sex don't have to 'come out as heterosexual' or describe their relationship as a 'heterosexual relationship'. It may be described as such by other people, but the couple themselves don't have to actively own the term, or identify with it. So why should there even be an expectation that people 'come out as gay' if they want to date someone of the same sex?

Download the full song here.