An Open Letter to Alex Somlyay MP – Fairfax, Queensland

Dear Mr Somlyay

I am one of your Fairfax constituents. Your recent vote against same-sex marriage was no surprise. You were, after all, a member of the Lyons Forum – a group known for its mission to impose the religious prejudices of its members upon the Australian population. I am, however, delighted to see that your narrow minded bigotry has been recorded for posterity on the website “The 98 Against“.

As a Federal representative with a less than stellar career, you have, until now, done little to cement your place in Australian political history. Now, at least, you have written the Somlyay name indelibly into our nation’s chronicles. Now, future generations will be able to look back on the “98 Against” list, see your name, and wonder how politicians like you could have been so blind, so bigoted, and so misinformed that they could stand in the way of an important vote for social progress and full equality for all Australians.

One day, Mr Somlyay, your grandchildren and great grandchildren will find this information and be shocked and ashamed.

Imagine researching your family history only to find that an ancestor voted against women’s suffrage, racial integration, or citizenship for Aborigines. Imagine finding a great-grandfather who voted against the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, or who actively participated in the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany or Hungary. You have joined this proud political tradition, Mr Somlyay.

When I think of politicians like you, I think of a young, gay, Christian man called Bobby Griffith. Griffith, 20, left a note in his diary before he threw himself off an overpass into the path of a tractor-trailer:

“I can’t ever let anyone find out that I’m not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I’ve overheard them….They’ve said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad people to hell. It really scares me when they talk that way because now they are talking about me.”

As he fell 25 feet to his death, had his clothes torn from his body and died instantly from the terrible impact, do you really think homosexuality was Bobby’s ‘lifestyle choice’, Mr Somlyay?

Somewhere in Fairfax, Mr Somlyay, there is another ‘Bobby Griffith’ who has noted your disdain for his right to equality. Your vote against his right to marry the person he loves and raise a family – a right accorded to all other Australians, regardless of their character – has inflicted yet another cut in his ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’. You have made him feel sick to the stomach as he realises that the person who is meant to represent him in parliament has sold him out. And, as one small indignity is piled upon another, one day the Bobby Griffith who lives in Fairfax will not be able to stand it any more and he will commit suicide. And you, Mr Somlyay, will be complicit. You, the person elected to represent him, will have blood on your hands.

Suicide accounted for approximately 23 per cent of all deaths for young people aged 15 to 24 years in Australia in 2010. I do not want to engage in hyperbole, Mr Somlyay – it is true that statistics on the suicide rates of gay teens in Australia are sketchy. In practice, it is impossible to assess accurately; young people who feel they will be persecuted for their sexuality may not even come out before taking their lives. But, it is now widely acknowledged in the academic and medical literature that a link between an increased risk of suicide and discrimination or bullying due to homosexuality is emerging.

Your vote against same-sex marriage, Mr Somlyay, has put a political imprimatur on that bullying. You and your party, in particular, have said plainly to the Australian people: “These people are not normal. These people are not acceptable. These people are not worthy of equal treatment in our society.” That is the message which rationalises and ‘normalises’ the continued discrimination, bullying and persecution of gay people in Australian society. Your message, Mr Somlyay.

As Gregory Storer, one of my many gay friends who are in stable, loving, same-sex relationships, wrote:

“It’s been one hell of a week … The impact on my well-being is quite astounding. I can certainly see how it could have a huge negative impact on a young gay person who may not have built up a life-time of resilience.”

Mr Somlyay, I doubt whether you will have the decency to consider a video response to your vote from my friend, Troy Simpson but I challenge you to watch it.

Like Gregory, Troy is not a vulnerable gay teenager. He is a mature, well-educated, accomplished, successful gay man in a stable same-sex relationship. He is a survivor of the toxic environment you and your Lyons forum cronies have worked and prayed so hard to create. Consider this, Mr Somlyay, as you listen to the pain in Troy’s voice – the raw emotion – as he talks about the unfairness and false reasoning that led to your vote against same-sex marriage last week. If this is the affect on someone like Troy, Mr Somlyay, my eyes sting with tears at the thought of what your actions have done to younger, less stable, less resilient gay men and women – not only in Fairfax, but throughout Australia.

I am ashamed to have you as my political representative Mr Somlyay. I understand that you will retire at the next Federal election. I have no doubt you will be replaced with another homophobic bigot from the Liberal party. But, times will move on, and, despite your failure to shine on the political stage, you have ensured your name will go down in history. It is such a shame, don’t you think, that it’s a record that will bring disgrace on your family, your descendants, your party and you for as long as the records survive.

Chrys Stevenson

The 98 Against

Troy Simpson: A Response to Denying Same-Sex Marriage

About the author

Chrys Stevenson is a freelance writer, speaker, blogger, historian and secular and skeptical activist, better known online as Gladly, The Cross-Eyed Bear She has a BA and first class honours degree in Australian history, literature and cultural studies.