Culture

Hey Malcolm, Here’s Your “Respectful Debate” On Marriage Equality

It's only been two weeks, and the survey hasn't even started yet.

Content warning: this post is a compilation of blatant homophobia. Read with caution if you’re LGBTQI+ and want to have a good day.

It’s been just over two weeks since Malcolm Turnbull stood up to say he thought the Australian people could have a “respectful debate” on marriage equality, despite LGBTQI+ people’s concerns.

“There are arguments against having a plebiscite, I understand that,” he said at the time. “There are arguments against it but the weakest argument of all, which I think has no basis, is that the Australian people are not capable of having a respectful discussion on this issue.”

Two weeks later, and he’s pleading with campaigners to stop using “disrespectful, abusive language”, while still maintaining that “the vast majority of people who do not agree with same-sex marriage, who have what you would regard perhaps as very conservative views, they are not homophobic. They do not denigrate people”.

Whether or not that’s true, the people denigrating LGBTQI+ people are doing it pretty loudly, and it’s taking a toll. Here’s your respectful debate so far, Malcolm. Maybe take heed next time.

In The Beginning, There Was Bestiality and Polygamy

The ~respectful debate~ began literally on the day of Turnbull’s press conference. Before the nervous sweat had even cooled on the PM’s brow, former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was on Sky News talking about how same-sex marriage could lead to bestiality and polygamy.

The next saw more politicians with large platforms pile on to give their “respectful” two cents. There’s a good roundup everything that happened on this day here, but particularly notable was former PM Tony Abbott trying to claw his way back to a semblance of relevance by fear-mongering about threats to religious freedom.

On The Second Day Of Campaigning, The No Vote Gave To Me… “Stolen Generations” And A Rude Postcard

Thursday August 10 began with the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton refusing to withdraw a previous ACL statement comparing the children of same-sex parents to the Stolen Generations, insulting many in the LGBTQI and Indigenous Australian communities.

Then ABC News Breakfast presenter Michael Rowland received a postcard describing homosexuality as a “filthy practice”, among other things. Meanwhile, ABC staff were told not to share their takes on marriage equality — or to even use the phrase “marriage equality”.

And On The Third Day, An Apology For Historic Homophobia

Michael McCormack is the government minister responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and therefore the postal vote on marriage. On Friday August 11, he was forced to apologise for an anti-gay editorial he wrote in 1993, which started making the rounds again on social media.

In the 1993 piece, McCormack described gay people as engaging in “sordid behaviour”, and blamed them for the AIDS crisis.

And Then A Doctor Got Punched

The weekend arrived at last on August 12, but it pretty quickly became apparent that “respectful debate” isn’t confined to business hours.

On Saturday afternoon, while installing an rainbow-themed piece of street art on one of Melbourne’s anti-terror bollards (long story), a doctor was allegedly punched by a stranger who took issue with the art and claimed gay and lesbian people were taking over the world. Police are investigating the case.

You Can’t Marry… *Spins Wheel* Your Cycling Buddies! Or The Harbour Bridge!

Week two of plebiscite debate opened with Liberal MP Kevin Andrews saying that gay people shouldn’t be able to get married because he doesn’t want to marry his cycling buddies. A week later this still doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the No campaign for ya.

Not to be outdone, however, was fellow Liberal MP Eric Abetz, who said in an interview with Buzzfeed that legalising same-sex marriage could lead to people marrying inanimate objects such as…the Harbour Bridge.

Also in bizarre takes, a few days later Bob Katter got angry that gay people “took the work ‘gay'” away from fans of poetry.

Abusive Posters…Collect The Set

And then there are all the posters that have been going up on a near-daily basis, some of which have been traced back to neo-Nazi groups. Which posters, you ask?

Oh just this one claiming that “92% of children raised by gay parents are abused” and other totally debunked, incredibly harmful claims. Although it’s not quite clear where the posters came from.

And this one, which crudely depicts different relationships as seatbelts to make a point about same-sex relationships being inadequate.

And then there’s this one, which has been popping up in people’s mailboxes and was literally delivered to the Junkee office as I was writing this piece. In Chinese and English, it alleges that same-sex marriage will lead to increased rape due to there being “no separate public toilets” after same-sex marriage is legal. It also offers other “stunning facts”. They’re stunning mostly in their blatant factual inaccuracy and the harm they’re doing to LGBTQI+ people who read them.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this post is that even though this list already long, we’ve almost certainly missed something. It’s hard to know how much vitriol LGBTQI+ people are experiencing in the course of their daily lives — the stuff that doesn’t make headlines or punchy tweets.

Oh, and the survey hasn’t actually started yet, and won’t be done until November 7. That’s another few months of respectful debate young LGBTQI+ kids — hell, all LGBTQI+ people — are going to have to see and be affected by. If this is what just over two weeks produced, we can’t fucking wait.