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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Conservatives are rallying against same-sex marriage in a desperate attempt to defend a backward system of inequality that is crumbling around them, says John Passant. 

I DON'T KNOW WHY people dismiss Malcolm Turnbull’s achievements.

Unlike Donald Trump, Malcolm Turnbull has built a wall. It stretches all the way around Parliament House to stop people walking on top of "our" politicians.

Symbolism is important. Romaldo Giurgola, the architect, wanted to convey a powerful message by putting the Parliament underneath the people. Politicians are there to serve us. They are not above us.

It was, of course, always a hope, never a reality. What Malcolm Turnbull has done, using the excuse of terrorism, is confirm in everyone’s minds what we already knew — politicians think they are above everyone else.

The symbolism of the same-sex marriage survey is also important. It was couched in democratic terms by those troglodytes who pushed it but, just like Turnbull’s wall, it puts a barrier between us and politicians. It is a deliberate strategy that is unleashing hate against the LGBTI+ community.

The more sophisticated sophists for the "No" case are not going to indulge in verbal "poofter bashing". They can leave that and actual physical attacks to those they inspire, as the bashing of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s godson shows. 

The denial of marriage equality is discrimination — discrimination which, in the words of Australian Medical Association President Michael Gannon:

"... has a severe, damaging impact on mental and physiological health outcomes."

The campaign against equal love is motivated by hate. Its argument is premised on the denial of the right of LGBTI+ people to exist. Since the plebiscite over marriage equality was announced there has been a big increase in LGBTI+ people seeking help.

None of the arguments against marriage equality have substance. The religious right cannot win support for their case by selectively quoting parts of Leviticus. Instead, some of the Catholic hierarchy defend "traditional marriage".

This is ahistorical. Even under Christianity, the meaning of "marriage" has changed markedly over the centuries. Indeed, it was only in 2004 that the Senate passed the Howard Government's amendment to the Marriage Act to confine the meaning of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Not all the Catholic hierarchy share the views of their more conservative colleagues. If you read between the lines, it is clear Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, at least, is not opposed to a "Yes" vote.

In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Nguyen makes the sensible point that the postal survey: 

‘ ... is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.’

He goes on to say:

‘The postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples.’

It looks as if a big majority of the Catholic laity support him and marriage equality.

The best bet for the "No" side is to run a scare campaign they think might have some resonance with the undecideds and the not so strongly committed. So now they are making up nonsense about threats to religious freedom.

As if the Christian churches with their wealth and power are going to be stopped from preaching that marriage is between a man and a woman. Their monopoly over the children of their believers will also remain untouched, including the indoctrination into them of the various churches’ religious views.

The right has also mounted a scare campaign against Safe Schools, a program designed to make schools safer for LGBTI+ students — it has nothing to do with marriage equality. This sort of nonsense has sprouted even more ridiculous ideas.

Former tennis champion and current Christian pastor Margaret Court is quoted in the West Australian as saying:

"It’s not about marriage. It will affect Christian schools, it will affect freedom of speech. There will be no Mother’s Day, there will be no Father’s Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas."

I merely note that the good Christian, Oliver Cromwell, banned Christmas

Margaret Court is not alone. Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby believes it is parents who should decide if gay children undergo conversion therapy. This is dangerous. Being gay is not a disease. Shelton’s attitude and that of the others who reject equal love helps explain why the LGBTI+ community have higher suicide rates.

Then there are the "respectable" reactionaries, people like John Howard and Tony Abbott, out there campaigning for a "No" vote on the lie of defending religious freedom. The "lying rodent", as George Brandis called John Howard, is good at his job, but he is still a lying rodent.

The position of the Abbotts and Howards of the world is more sophisticated and devious than Margaret Court’s, but just as ridiculous and dangerous. Tony Abbott, for example, now wants to protect religious freedoms by abolishing the Human Rights Commission. A current Turnbull minister and one ex-minister argue that opposition to same-sex marriage will become a "thought crime" if the "yes" side wins. You just cannot make this stuff up. Well, evidently, they can.

The "debate" is letting loose every religious fundamentalist and right wing nut job. It shows us how backward some sections of our society really are. But it also shows us that a healthy majority, up to 70 per cent, support marriage equality compared to the 30 percent or so who do not. This support is in part because activists have been making the case for years.

It was only in 1975 that South Australia became the first State to decriminalise homosexual acts. It took until 1997 before the Commonwealth effectively overruled Tasmania’s criminal prohibitions that all criminal proscriptions on homosexual acts in Australia were removed. 

The societal changes that have produced this turnaround include the rise of the women’s liberation movement that challenged the role of the family in society and saw women enter the workforce in large numbers. It opened up a space for gay liberation and LGBTI+ activism.

But because the family is at the centre of social reproduction of capitalist relations and is a site for the raising of the next generation of workers at little cost to capital but at great cost, overwhelmingly, to women, it means that non-heterosexual family models have historically been second-class arrangements in the eyes of the system.

Anything that challenges the nuclear family is, to the conservatives, a threat to capitalism. While the reactionary Right sees marriage equality as undermining the family, the more sensible sections of the one per cent understand that the old certitudes are crumbling. Incorporating same-sex marriage into the nuclear family is their solution.

The reactionary Right is using marriage equality as a rallying point, not because they think they can win this argument, but to consolidate and unite their disparate forces for the battles of the future.

A big win for marriage equality in the same sex postal survey will be a major setback for the Right. Let’s get out the survey and tick the "Yes" box. Let freedom and equality reign throughout the land. 

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

Original cartoon by Mark David is published with permission. You can see more cartoons from Mark on his website Mark David Cartoons or follow him on Twitter @mdavidcartoons.

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