Culture

In Six Words Malcolm Turnbull Proved He Doesn’t Care About LGBTIQ People

We achieved marriage equality despite Malcolm Turnbull, not because of him.

Malcolm Turnbull

In a special edition of ABC’s Q&A program last night, recently punted former Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull was taken to task over the damaging and unnecessary postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage that he implemented and oversaw last year.

While listing some of the “achievements” he believes he achieved as Prime Minister, Turnbull almost immediately cited the passing of same-sex marriage legislation, saying to the studio audience, “You know, think of the big social reforms — legalising same-sex marriage! I mean, what a gigantic reform that was!”

“I was able to do that!”

Malcolm Turnbull Didn’t Do Anything

What a disgracefully insensitive way to summarise a horribly painful period of time for so many Australians.

It was a lengthy, torturous process that forced queer people to have their lives thrust into the open for scrutiny, and allowed vitriolic hate speech and bigotry to return to the mainstream. The process is still felt by those who suffered underneath the false equivalence of a two-sided “debate”. It was a process enabled and supported by Turnbull, who all the while wore a shit-eating grin and espoused the joys of democracy and free speech.

There were many, many alternative pathways to marriage equality, most of which didn’t include a harmful national discussion about whether we deserve the same rights as everyone else. That Turnbull refused to engage with any of them out of a fear of losing his job should be unforgivable on its own. Last night’s Q&A performance only solidified what the queer community has long known — Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t give a shit about us.

Nearly a year to the day from the Yes result, Turnbull, now unbound from the diplomatic mollifying of political office, had a prime opportunity last night to finally engage with the damaging effects of his chosen path to marriage equality. He should have apologised to the queer community for the untold pain caused over those long postal survey months, and the unnecessary delay in legislating it altogether.

Don’t Gloat. Apologise.

Turnbull should have apologised to people, like Peter de Waal, whose 50-year wait to marry his partner, Peter Bonsall-Boone, sadly ended too soon when Bon passed away six months before the legislation passed.

He should have apologised to the many children of same-sex parents who had to have their entire family structure thrust into the spotlight for criticism. He should have apologised to queer couples who will never get the chance to have their parents or grandparents watch them walk down the aisle because the law simply took too long to arrive.

The entire LGBTIQ community deserves an apology from Turnbull. Every single one of us that had to walk down the street and wonder if those we were passing had voted Yes or No, and whether they believed we warrant equal rights or not.

The fact that he wouldn’t and probably never will apologise (unless he has a memoir to sell in a few years), proves Malcolm never really gave a shit about us. Like everything else he proclaimed to believe in and support, we were merely tools to be wielded in his unrepentant climb to the top of Australian politics.

Let’s not forget Turnbull outright opposed the idea of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, publicly voicing his dissent up until the very point he needed it to maintain his leadership.

In a Prime Ministership characterised by a dogged determination to remain in power by discarding all of his beliefs, the throwing of the LGBTIQ community under the double decker bus of the plebiscite, purely to eke out his job for a littler bit longer, is possibly Malcolm’s most shameful.

I’m not the first to say this and I won’t be the last, but Australia’s queer community and our allies achieved marriage equality not because of Malcolm Turnbull but despite him. His refusal last night to even slightly reconcile with the negative outcomes of his government’s actions proves he only cares about maintaining the patently false construct of ‘Prime Minister Turnbull, The Progressive Champion Of The People.

As he seeks to define his legacy in office, it bares repeating: You’re not our friend and you’re not our ally, Malcolm, so stop claiming marriage equality as your achievement. It’s ours.

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