Equal Love means more than just Marriage

The time for talking is over. It’s time to get Marriage Equality done. I’m not alone in thinking this: this morning the Australian front page leads with a story about big business demanding Turnbull passes marriage equality now.

“A split is emerging within corporate Australia as 20 chief executives from some of the nation’s biggest companies try to force Malcolm Turnbull to legislate for same-sex marriage “in the near term”.

The campaign from business leaders to bring in same-sex marriage laws threatens to open an ­explosive new political front for the Prime Minister, who faces a divisive debate next week within the Liberal Party over changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Conservative Liberal MPs are also angry about a boycott of Coopers beer by same-sex marriage advocates, which has politic­ally linked the issue of freedom of speech with racial discrimination and same-sex marriage.”

Many people have questioned why I, among others, arced up over that stiff and silly staged infomercial. It was a polite discussion, wasn’t it? Both sides got an equal airing? And the Bible Society (BS) have never said they oppose marriage equality, and didn’t here. So why such outrage?

Bible Says No

First, let’s dispose of the notion that the BS do not oppose equal marriage, or, as they prefer to say, take no position. They take no position because to do so would jeopardise their income.

They do oppose, but don’t say so out loud. The BS indulges in sly opposition to salve their Christian consciences, but more importantly, keep their tax-free charitable status. They are, in short, hypocrites.  On this (for probably the first and I hope last time I my life), I find myself in agreement with arch-homophobe Bill Muehlenberg. I’ll get to that in a bit.

You can scour the internet for hours (don’t bother, I did it for you) and you won’t find any BS statement opposing equal marriage. What you do find, if you care to wade through their online newspaper, Eternity News, or their other website, the Centre for Public Christianity, is opposition to marriage equality expressed indirectly, in a caring, sharing, fluffy-ducky ‘Christian’ way.

This approach is probably summed up best in this painful video from 2012, which is still online: the churches have been very nasty to us, and should apologise deeply and sincerely for having been such arseholes, but LGBTI relationships are already legally equal, so what’s the problem?

The problem, they say, is that LGTBTI don’t understand. It’s a ‘definitional’ issue.” Marriage between two people of the same sex is impossible because, well, LGBTI have to understand that’s not what the word means. Awfully sorry and all that, we’d love to help you, but Bible says No.

Bill Muehlenberg, the rabid, rancid, take-no-prisoners Christaliban homophobe (well, he’s always calling us “homofascists” bullies, so may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, as the saying goes), calls out the BS on their bs:

“What? A Bible Society that refuses to take a stance of the biblical view of marriage? Really?! One might as well say that the BSA should have no view on sin, or salvation, or Christ either. One expects a pagan brewer to deny principles and run on expediency and cowardice, but we expect a bit better from a Bible Society.

“Of interest, I had someone who works for the BSA actually ask me about all this, and where she could find a copy of the pulled video. I said that the BSA seemed to be as cowardly as Coopers. The gal said she was ashamed of the actions of the BSA. I said they were acting like spineless wonders.

“She replied, ‘We have to remain impartial.’ I replied: Impartial about what God says about marriage – um, which Bible is being read here!? She said that in her personal capacity she holds the same views as I do on homosexuality and same sex marriage, but she cannot stress that point from a Bible Society perspective.”

So yes folks, they may not say so publicly (because they might lose money), but the BS does indeed oppose marriage equality. That wasn’t the only reason the video was thoroughly objectionable.

Coopers Duped?

The BS took advantage of what appear to be the decent genuinely Christian folk at Coopers to cloak their own bigotry. Yes, I know Coopers donate heavily to the Liberals, but be realistic here. They’re business people. They’re brewers. Who else would they support?

But look at the list of beneficiaries of the Coopers Foundation. Domestic violence, childhood cancer, community support services, dialysis support, food banks, health care – yes, sure, it includes churches and other religious stuff, but these are people trying to do the right thing. As their response to the furore demonstrated.

OK, so the apology vid was creepy. And OK, they’re a business protecting their bottom line. I get that. They’re not media professionals, and if they don’t make money, they don’t eat. Or have any money to give away to good causes. I’m fine with all that. What I’m not fine with is the behaviour of the BS in all this, sneakily appropriating Coopers good name. Apparently without asking.

The BS Infomercial

Then we come to the video that kicked this all off. Here again, I am prepared to be somewhat understanding. I fully understand why an out gay Liberal MP would relish the opportunity for a beer and a chat with a good-looking, superbly fit, impeccably conservative chap with a love of uniforms. I get that. I really do. But please don’t dress it up as a meaningful ‘debate’.

Joking aside, both are new MPs from the same party with a name to make for themselves. That party refuses to allow its members a free vote on equal marriage. And although Wilson claims to support marriage equality, I’ve yet to see him or any of his fellow travellers in the party room leading a revolt, crossing the floor, threatening to vote against the government on other issues, even though our opponents in the party room have no compunction in using similar tactics to block equal marriage.

This was no ‘debate’. It was a stilted ‘conversation’ with all the conviction of a shopping channel infomercial for Ivanka Trump Cubic Zirconia Jewellery. It was trivial and patronising.

Equal dignity. Equal respect. Equal celebration. Equal Love.

One last point. In the BS video I referred to earlier, one of the protagonists expresses the half-formed thought that maybe this isn’t really about marriage. Since we already have equal treatment of our relationships at law (we don’t actually, but that’s for another day), what are we shouting about?

This fundamentally misunderstands the underlying LGBTI position. The key word is not marriage, but equality.

When we say “Equal Love”, we’re not just insisting that our love is fully the equal of anyone else’s. We mean we demand Equal Love be shown to us: equal to the love everyone unthinkingly bestows on their non-LGTI children, marriages, employees, customers, residents, patients, everyone.

The likes of ‘Tasty Hastie’ – just a prettier Bernard Gaynor, really – are never going to do that. It would be easier to have a respectful dialogue with an alien entity from a distant planet than one so marinated in the rigid mindset inculcated by the twin regimes of military service and extreme Christianity. Talking to them is a waste of time.

Marriage Equality is the most potent sign and symbol that we are no different, no better, and no worse, than anyone else.  It is well past time it was done and dusted so that the real work of achieving equal dignity and respect can receive its proper attention. The time for talking is over.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)