Sunday, June 10, 2012

I want to vote

I think I should be able to vote on whether heterosexuals should be allowed to marry, not just because they so often make a mess of it, but because I’m not personally affected either way by that vote, so if they lose any of their rights, well, what does it matter as long as I get to decide?

Look, I’m totally fair about this: Obviously all other gay and lesbian people can vote, too, and probably asexuals. As long as they won’t be affected by the outcome, they should be able to decide on the fate of people whose lives will be affected.

If heterosexuals say that it’s only fair that they should be able to vote on whether same-sex couples can marry, then obviously that same fairness dictates that GLBT people get to sit in judgement over opposite-sex marriages, too. It wouldn’t really be fair otherwise, would it?

This tired old referendum nonsense reared its head in New Zealand when the “leader” of a rightwing, basically “Christian” “party”, Colin Craig, said on today’s Q+A programme on TVNZ that he “absolutely” would support a referendum on marriage equality. He said:
"If all New Zealanders decide ‘hey yeah we're ready for a change’, fair enough, but I don't think that's where New Zealanders are at.”
Last Wednesday, TVNZ released a ONE News Colmar Brunton poll that showed 63% of eligible NZ voters—nearly two-thirds—think same-sex couples should be able to marry. So, clearly Colin is wrong. But his wording was significant: "If all New Zealanders decide…” [emphasis added]

To the rightwing, there’s no such thing as legitimate support for marriage equality: If a court imposes it, it’s “judicial tyranny”, if their elected representatives enact it, they’re usurping the people’s rights. Or something. The rightwing backs referendums on marriage equality only because they normally win, not because they really believe in democracy. In New Zealand, they’ve already lost on this issue, so I suspect their interest is more for political organising and raising money.

For Colin, it’s about a word:
"What we're talking about here is who has the right to use and define the word marriage. And I believe there's status quo. We’ve got generation after generation marriage has been between a man and a woman… This word [marriage] important and it has great meaning and significance to many New Zealanders, and I think the issue here is not about rights it's about respect it is about respecting what that word already means."
Let’s put Colin’s argument in different contexts: “I believe the word ‘citizen’ has great meaning and significance,” said the racist. “So, only white people should be allowed to use the word because for generation after generation citizenship meant white people only.” Or, how about the misogynist’s argument: “I believe the word ‘voter’ has great meaning and significance, so only men people should be allowed to vote because for generation after generation voting was allowed for men only.” Obviously Colin wasn’t saying any of that, but his arguments don’t look too good when they’re used to justify positions we’d all find abhorrent (including Colin, I’m sure).

The “tradition” argument is the one argument the rightwing uses that’s only quasi-religious (even though it’s based entirely on their religious views). As I’ve just shown, however, tradition is no reason to defend injustice or perpetuate the violation of human rights.

Colin Craig’s most bizarre statement was this:
“Let’s remember that this is not where all homosexuals are at. There are a number of homosexuals who take a different view, they talk to me, and they’re saying, ‘no, look, we are happy with where we’ve got to in this country. We do not want to challenge what marriage means.”
I call bullshit. The gay opponents I’ve heard have been far leftists who think marriage is a sexist and classist institution. The only gay conservatives I’ve heard say anything against marriage equality have argued the “there are more important things to focus on” line, and not about the word marriage. And, come on, what conservative gay person would bring such “concerns” to a rightwing “Christian” politician when there’s a normal conservative political party that’s actually in Parliament—and government?

Colin also opposes change to the adoption law because he apparently doesn’t think that gay people make good parents. He forgets that the whole point of adoption law equality isn’t what’s often called “stranger adoption” (when a couple adopts a child to whom neither parent is related). Instead, most adoptions now deal with blended families—when a couple is raising children they already have. What Colin is actually opposing is parents having any legal parental rights for a child they’re already parenting.

I have no idea why the news media pays so much attention to Colin Craig. He’s a one-man party, and no more significant than that. They obviously pick him because he sounds far more reasonable than most of New Zealand’s rightwing “Christians”, but they ignore that he’s trying to sound far more reasonable than he really is. He’s also desperately trying to hide or obscure his “party’s” fidelity to traditional far right “Christian” positions on issues.

Still, if that’s as good as our adversaries have—and he clearly is—it goes to show how weak their position against civil marriage equality is. Only the state gets to determine who marries and how: It’s none of churches’ business. Churches act only in accordance with marriage laws enacted by the state and with authority granted by the state.

And that’s what this debate is really about: Should the state ensure that all citizens have the same rights and privileges, or will it allow their sub-contractors—churches—to call the shots? New Zealanders have already decided the answer to that question long ago, and none of us needs to vote on that.

This episode of the Q+A programme is available “On Demand” (not available in all countries, apparently). This segment begins some 40 minutes in.


d said...

You know I'm totally in your corner, and I certainly believe that rights should not be voted on. There's no "but" to my statement - just wanted to share a video I tripped across over the weekend. It's a video of (I presume) a Southern Baptist pastor speaking about gay marriage, and it's awesome:


I like that he states that Obama is there to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible!

Arthur Schenck said...

That's a great video!

The preacher’s statement reminded me of Brad Peacock, who testified before the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in support of marriage equality, saying: “I would like to remind those legislators who took their oath of office with their hand on the Bible, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; you did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”