The great distraction

A meme crossed my twitter feed that claims to represent the views of Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Anthony Fisher OP. It lists five areas in which it claims ‘overseas experience’ has shown the potential for a loss of freedom should equal marriage legislation pass.

Fisher on SSM.jpg

  1. Freedom of religion
    People of faith and churches are already entitled to protections against discrimination and exemptions from laws preventing discrimination. For example, a religious school would be perfectly within its rights under current law to sack a teacher who married a partner of the same gender. Similarly, nothing in the current anti-discrimination law or the proposal for marriage equality would prevent religious schools from teaching children that gay people are depraved, etc, as they have done for centuries. Of course, there are still gay students in those schools, and gay communities will continue to have to mobilise to provide counselling and access to mental health care to mop up the damage in adulthood.
  2. Freedom of speech
    See answer to #1.
  3. Freedom of education
    See answer to #1 regarding faith-based schools. This item claims legislation on marriage for consenting adults regardless of gender would prevent parents removing their children from ‘radical gender programmes’ in state schools. Any parent can visit the Safe Schools website and view all the materials used in the programme — and you can make up your own mind whether these are ‘radical’. After all, this is about parents’ rights to make their own decisions, right? Unfortunately, the same can not be said for all the different Christian groups that offer ‘religious instruction’ classes in state schools.
  4. Freedom of association
    See answer to #1.
  5. Freedom of employment
    See answer to #1.

Notice a theme here? All of these claims depend on ordinary Australians not knowing that freedom of religion is guaranteed in s116 of the Australian Constitution, and in anti-discrimination lawand religious institutions are explicitly exempted from anti-discrimination law regarding sex, gender and sexuality.

What the meme doesn’t make explicit is that what all of these list items are talking about is the freedom to discriminate against gay people without legal or social consequences.

What this meme really objects to is not marriage equality, but changes in Australian society that treat same sex attracted and sex and gender diverse people as human beings deserving the same rights — and the same protections, including from discrimination.

But we are a long way from that. The proposal for marriage equality has important practical consequences for the many queer parents raising kids without the full protection of the rights currently afforded to heterosexual married couples. And it would remove a powerful insult to the human dignity of queer people in Australia.

Human dignity is something that churches were once concerned to promote — but right now, many church leaders are visibly more concerned to protect their right to discriminate. My hope is that Australian voters will see this for the mean-spirited bullshit that it is, and vote YES regardless.


Here’s some ‘overseas experience’ for you:

new zealand SSM.jpg