Politics

5 Months After Marriage Equality, The Homophobes Are Back At It Again

Conversion therapy on the agenda and “disgusting” non-binary kids. A standard week for the Coalition.

Just in case anyone thought we could relax after last year’s marriage equality victory, this week gave us the proof we needed that a large section of the Coalition would wind back queer rights the second they got a chance.

It all started with some members of the party’s Victorian branch putting forward a number of anti-queer motions to be debated at the upcoming state council. Along with banning Safe Schools and broadening “religious freedom” (which is simply a code for entrenching discrimination), was a motion debating the merits of gay “conversion therapy”.

Put forward by a branch linked to federal MP Kevin Andrews — who thinks same-sex couples are the same as his cycling buddies — called for the law to allow law to be changed to ensure doctors “can offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning”, according to Fairfax.

The motion was so repulsive that Victorian Liberal Party President Michael Kroger, whose sole job is to help the party win as many seats as possible, pulled it from the council.

Then It Got Worse

But that didn’t stop Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt from attempting to use the motion to boost his conservative credentials. In a bizarre interview with the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas, Hunt attempted to turn the issue into a referendum on free speech.

“People are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with,” Hunt said. “[But] what I do worry about is this constant view that nobody is anywhere allowed to have a different view”.

Conversion therapy is not a “view”, it’s torture. Which is why it’s strongly opposed by the Australian and World Medical Associations:

“The WMA condemns so-called ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ methods,” says the body’s position statement. “These constitute violations of human rights and are unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to sanctions and penalties. It is unethical for physicians to participate during any step of such procedures.”

But that didn’t stop Hunt — again, he’s the federal Health Minister — from sitting on the fence on the issue. And of course, he wasn’t alone.

Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, who once wrote an entire newspaper column about how disgusting gay people are, said he had “no view” on conversion therapy. There’s really only one acceptable view on conversion therapy — that it should be banned.

It’s bad enough when these views come from senior politicians, but McCormack is currently the Acting Prime Minister. And it may be true that McCormack simply didn’t know much about the issue, but for a man who fashions himself as a champion for better mental health in the bush — where it can be especially difficult to live as a young queer person — it shouldn’t be too much to ask that he unequivocally condemns a practice that can do so much harm.

It would be easy to dismiss all this as just a bit of talk, but it’s not that long since the leader of the No campaign, Lyle Shelton, said parents should have the right to send their kids to conversion therapy.

There’s a review into religious freedom in Australia taking place right now. It’s the review Malcolm Turnbull promised to conservatives after they were so utterly humiliated in the postal survey, and there’s no doubt they see it as a chance to entrench discrimination and gain back some of the ground they lost in 2017.

Fortunately, the review’s leader, Philip Ruddock, says conversion therapy hasn’t been on the agenda so far.

But Wait, There’s More

In case you’ve missed the extremely stupid Israel Folau saga, here’s a quick catch up: In a recent Instagram post, the rugby superstar said gays will go to hell if they don’t repent their sins. This caused a bit of a storm with some sponsors, including Qantas, which threatened to pull its support for the code.

Folau then suggested he was being persecuted for his views, and wrote a column sledging the boss of the ARU. All pretty standard homophobia, which makes you wonder why Treasurer Scott Morrison had to get involved.

But there he was this week, standing up for Folau and calling him a good bloke.

“He’s a good man,” said ScoMo. “Good for him for standing up for his faith. I think he wouldn’t have wanted to intend to have offended or hurt anyone, because that’s very much against the faith that he feels so passionately about, but he’s shown I think a lot of strength of character in just standing up for what he believes in, and I think that’s what this country’s all about.”

As long as he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, I guess.

Meanwhile in Queensland, the LNP Opposition is all hot and bothered at the thought that gender might be a bit more complicated than “man/woman”. On the LNP’s official Facebook page this week, a resource that teaches kids about gender was labelled “disgusting” and a plan to allow to allow parents to choose “non-binary” on a child’s birth certificate was called “twisted”.

LNP

The Opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, also called the resource “disgusting”.

On their own, these incidents may seem pretty minor. Just a couple of fringe dwellers with antiquated views who don’t realise how out of step they are with the community. But these all happened in the space of a few days — in 2018.

There’s a deep vein of homophobia that runs through large (but not all) sections of the Liberal and National Parties, and the loudest voices calling for the continued exclusion of queer Australians come from within the Coalition.

We shouldn’t forget about them following our marriage equality victory, because they haven’t forgotten about us.