The same-sex marriage (SSM) campaign was never about same-sex marriage – it was about acceptance. Whether you wanted to accept it or not, you were expected to yield.
This would never have occurred, of course, had the result been reversed. Common sense tells us that, but also history.
The republic was defeated at referendum in 1999. Since then, the Australian Republic Movement has continued its fight for a republic.
They lost the battle but are continuing the war.
This is what campaigners for change do – they continue to fight until they get what came for. They don’t give up.
One year ago, the same-sex marriage (SSM) campaigners won the battle. but they’re continuing the war because they haven’t yet got what they wanted. The question is, what is it they wanted? That question will be answered, but first …
The problem with victory
When SSM was approved at the postal ballot, there was a unrealistic expectation among proponents of SSM that it would change minds; that if you voted against SSM, you would suddenly buy a rainbow sash and listen to Cher. No exceptions.
That’s the mindset of a totalitarian. We saw it inaction soon after the ballot and it continues one year later.
MPs like Tony Abbott, who campaigned against SSM, were expected to vote Yes to the legislation, yet Labor MPs representing seats which voted No (see below) were not expected to follow their electorate’s wishes but instead follow thier conscience (and what the party told them to do). Peculiar, yes?
Think of the counterfactual: had SSM been rejected, would Penny Wong have changed her mind and accepted defeat? Would she have reconsidered everything she thought on the issue?
Of course not, yet that is what is expected of anyone who voted No, as Gay Alcorn wrote on the eve of the survey:
Australia’s tortuous [not really] same-sex marriage debate has come down to squabbling about bakers and florists but at heart it’s about this: the tension between the rights of LGBTI Australians to have their marriages treated the same as anyone else’s once same-sex marriage is legal, and the rights of the religious not only to hold a traditional view of marriage, but to discriminate against gay and lesbian people owing to their faith or conscience.
Even a year ago, if you opposed SSM you were labelled a bigot. How this discrimination would manifest isn’t made clear, but this isn’t about facts, it’s about feels.
Now, it’s about adherence to the new orthodoxy.
SSM got lucky
What’s remarkable about the result is that the Christian lobby and other opponents have accepted defeat with such grace, and have then botched every single gay or SSM-related issue since then.
If anything, Christians have fought to be left alone to practise their faith as they see fit and live their lives according to their beliefs without interference. This should be the right of everyone in a free society – including homosexuals, and should have been their right much earlier than it became so.
Everyone deserves the right to be left alone.
(Curiously, the same desire to change religious belief has not occurred with Muslims. A discussion for a later date, perhaps?)
Yes campaigners have not been so gracious in victory.
The Yes campaign has been buoyed by victory and now wants to make it complete. You see, SSM was not the end game. It is part of a wider campaign to tear down the traditional (ie, conservative) pillars of society, of which religion is the prime enemy.
Totalitarians take charge
Since the vote there have been a number of high-profile events signalling overreach by SSM campaigners.
The most obvious was the invidious campaign against the Ruddock review which was deliberately misreported by Fairfax, as outlined at the time by The Daily Breakdown. Initially it looked like religious schools were wanting laws to be able to sack gay teachers. It actually turned out that the law already existed … and was enacted by Labor … which now says the law is homophobic. Presumably they had a conversion on the road to Damascus.
In the month since the wrong reporting of the leaked report, the concept of religious freedom has taken an almighty battering.
It is almost certain that religious institutions will lose existing legal rights to ‘discriminate’ although no example of discrimination has been aired. Churches will also be forced to eat a very unsavoury sandwich in the process.
Again, the churches have been their own worst enemy. Astonishingly so.
Seriously, for the love of all that is holy, who thought this was a good idea?
Archbishop of Melbourne suggests gay teachers more acceptable if they live far away from school
One of Australia’s most senior Catholics has suggested gay teachers would be more acceptable at religious schools if they lived far away from the school and their relationships were less visible.
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli gave evidence to an urgent Senate inquiry on Monday ahead of federal government plans to strip schools of the right to expel LGBTI pupils.
It’s good that religious schools can’t discriminate, right?
Not really. It’s the nature of religious schools that they do discriminate. That’s the point. If you go to a Catholic school it’s not a good idea to wear a yamulke. They prefer Catholics to Jews. Jewish schools prefers Jews to Hindus. You get the idea. Except for the Uniting Church – they don’t care about anything religious. Especially Christianity.
Faith-based schools – like the faith on which they are built – are like a club: if you don’t like the club, don’t join.
It really is as simple as that. Let’s put it another way: if you don’t like coal mining, don’t work for Glencore.
If you don’t like unions, don’t vote for Labor.
See how this works? There’s a pattern.
But the campaign against private, religious schools has escalated since the SSM survey, partly due to cack-handed media work by the churches around the teacher-sacking issue, and some by a media which hates private schools (even when they send their own children, there, right Mr FitzSimons?)
Even Ross Gittins linked the funding of religious schools to the SSM outcome. The sentence was buried deep, but you see where he is heading:
Malcolm Turnbull’s reworking of Gonski seemed to be more principled, but the Catholic hierarchy kept the pressure up – we want to share the money our way, not your way – and the government buckled. The Catholics got their special deal and the (mainly Protestant) independent schools got something similar to stop them kicking up.
What a country we live in. We can happily agree to same-sex marriage, but when Catholics put the frighteners on, politicians on both sides get weak-kneed.
What he’s saying is, if we voted against the Catholic position in the survey, we can do what we want when funding their schools. Catholic schools should bend to the will of the majority.
A nice day for a white wedding
And when the majority isn’t on your side, just use tribunals. Or raise almighty hell.
The most egregious examples were reported over the weekend in The Australian [paywalled]:
Christian wedding photographer Jason Tey was taken to the West Australian Equal Opportunity Commission after he agreed to photograph the children of a same-sex couple but disclosed a conflict of belief, in case they felt more comfortable hiring someone else [a pretty remarkable and generous concession to make].
At the conciliation hearing, it was demanded that Mr Tey provide an admission of discrimination as well as a written apology to be published publicly on the homepage of his website and all social media pages associated with his photography business for at least two months.
Mr Tey, 36, said: “I don’t believe that I have discriminated in any way, neither offered unfavourable treatment. I merely stated that I have a contrary view due to my Christian faith.”
The matter was not resolved at conciliation and was referred to the State Administrative Tribunal for mediation.
This is reminiscent of the egregious abuse of power by the Human Rights Commission against the students at the University of Queensland.
What sort of government tribunal demands an “admission of discrimination”. It’s a bit, well, Dark Ages.
Whether you agree with Tey or SSM or not, this is no way to run a country.
We need to start leaving each other alone. To let other people live their lives as they see fit. Not everyone you meet will like you or agree with your opinion on every topic – sometimes not even your spouse.
Forcing someone to recant their opinions at a tribunal to like you isn’t going to make them like you … and they’re not the type of people you’d want at your wedding or snapping your children.
Which brings us to the latest fight against religious schools.
The existential threat
As Gittins belled above, there is an existential threat to religious schools in the current funding environment. This was given voice yesterday in The Australian [paywalled]:
Faith-based schools say they face an existential threat if their legal protections are removed and are demanding Scott Morrison immediately release a long-awaited review into religious freedoms.
Avril Howard, principal of the Lighthouse Christian College in Melbourne, said the removal of key exemptions from the Sex Discrimination Act would put at risk the ability of schools to provide a faith-based education.
Erik Hofsink, principal of Emmaus Christian School in Canberra, said the consequences of removing the exemptions could leave educators to their “own devices to defend ourselves against activists that may have sinister agendas with schools like ours”.
He said the exemptions were problematic because they were framed in a “negative way” that allowed schools the ability to discriminate in some circumstances instead of upholding the ability of faith-based educators to employ staff who “fit our school’s beliefs and religious convictions best”.
“With the loss of religious freedom in this context, there will not be a reason for Christian schools to exist any further … In fact, we have to change our faith for the sake of culture. That’s going to be a hard one to swallow.”
That’s the end game.
Time to get smart
When the going gets tough, the tough get strategic.
The past two years have shown how flat-footed religious institutions are in Australia. There is almost nothing they have done right to protect their institutions from the predation of progressive activists seeking the end of organised religion. That is the endgame.
Do you think they’re going to stop? Why would they? Look at them: they’re loving this. Why would they stop?
With each loss, and with each own-goal (such as abuse not being reported and dealt with), the clamour will grow louder for government to remove first the subsidies to students and the support for faith-based nursing homes and hospitals, and there will be little cause then to retain the tax-free status of churches.
This is the long game between the powers of the churches and the state. The churches are playing appallingly. Pray for them.