Shooting The Messenger

I Hate Cory Bernardi Too, But…

Cory Bernardi, the fascist ideologue of the Liberal Party got into a world of grief last year when he spoke against Gay Marriage. The gist of his statement was that if we allowed gay people to call their unions marriage, where would this stop? What about threesomes? What about people in to bestiality who wanted to marry their animal ‘partners’? The storm of criticism was such that he had to quit his job as Tony Abbott’s adviser. (They replaced him with a marmoset who had a higher IQ than Cory. Oops, no, that’s just a joke. A JOKE!)

Anyway… you sort of had to wonder if people who were dissenting to  the notion of gay marriage were actually steamrolled by hysteria rather than being beaten in logical argument. The issue may actually be a non-issue in the not-too-distant future because apparently 70% of Gen-Y is fine not only fine with it, they don’t see why it’s even a hot-button issue. That sort of leaves it to the Baby Boomers and Gen X to do a bit of explaining and the explaining of it is in fact a bit harder.

Certainly when I went through High School, the average garden variety homophobia was the norm. I think back on it and it was totally accepted that homosexuality was wrong, “perverted” and best avoided. The AIDS epidemic bursting on the scene didn’t exactly help with the general climate of homophobia. So I don’t really know how it is that Gen X may have traveled the distance from such homophobia to the point that there is significant support in Gen X – not as high as Gen Y – for gay marriage. Speaking for myself, it’s sort of an issue that’s popped up and in most part I’ve decided, “well why the hell not?” I’d imagine this is true of most Gen-X support for gay marriage. And those who are holding out, are holding out because they’re still the sort of schoolyard bullying homophobes.

Which is exactly how I imagine Cory Bernardi –born 1969. Baby Boomers, have had a tougher time of traveling that distance. Here’s Hillary Clinton getting ridiculed for her late, late, late conversion to the cause. But in what was a less enlightened time, – and I cant stress this wasn’t that long ago as Gen-Xers and Boomers know and can attest – homosexuality was viewed pretty much as I described above. It’s hardly anything to be proud of, but it just so happened it was like that. However, I do want to remind everybody of this fact because without it, you can’t begin to discuss Bernardi’s outbursts.

Today, we find this article that Cory Bernardi is insisting he was right.

Senator Bernardi’s latest comments come as a Greens bill to recognise internationally sanctioned same-sex marriages is set to be debated in the Senate on Thursday.

The same sex-marriage bill was also debated last night in the Federation Chamber, with Labor MPs Greg Combet, Stephen Smith and Bernie Ripoll all saying they supported legalising gay marriage. As Kevin Rudd did recently, Mr Ripoll said he had changed his mind and would now support the bill.

Amid these developments, Senator Bernardi told Fairfax Media that some sections of society were now moving in the “abhorrent and disgusting” direction he had predicted.

“There is actually now a petition been put together for the House of Representatives by Green activists to legally recognise multi-member unions,” Senator Bernardi said.

He was referring to a recent petition by the Polyamory Action Lobby in which the group said: “We demand nothing less than the full recognition of polyamorous families”.

“Now I said that would happen,” Senator Bernardi said. “It’s happening.”

“I think there should be alarm . . . If you’re going to re-define a word to satisfy demands of a minority then you’re going to face continuing demands in that space.”

Senator Bernardi also stood by his controversial comments last year that the “next step” after recognising same-sex marriage was to support “creepy people” who chose to have sex with animals.

“Bestiality, of course it was an extreme example, but once again it’s linked to the radical agenda of the Greens Party,” he said.

Now, reading that reminded me of the Economist’s article here:

A second argument that has always been a bit weak has been the attempt to minimise the extent to which allowing same-sex marriages will change the definition of marriage for straight married couples. When conservatives have argued that gay marriage would “devalue traditional marriage”, the response has often been to ridicule the idea that straight people’s marriages will change at all. (“OMG! Marriage is now worthless!”) This isn’t a serious response. Obviously the legalisation of same-sex marriage represents a major change in the institution and in the meaning of the word, much as the meaning of phrases like “all men are created equal” changed significantly when they began to be understood to include, say, women. For people who have a strongly gendered understanding of their own marriage, this is a paradigm shift. The government is now saying it understands marriage as a long-term legal commitment between two people who are assumed to have a sexually attached relationship to each other. Gender is irrelevant; marriage is simply a paired relationship. It’s a big deal when social institutions change this way, and if conservative heterosexuals feel their marriages are affected, they’re right, even when the way they phrase their complaints is wrong.

Which brings us to moderately off-the-mark argument number three. One of the assumptions that gay marriage calls into question, for many conservatives, is: why pairs, then? If not man-woman, then why not man-woman-woman, and so forth? Again, the response of gay-marriage proponents is generally ridicule. I don’t think this is a ridiculous question. “Why can’t you marry your dog, then?” is a ridiculous question; marriage, in our society, is between consenting adult persons. (Though states where girls can marry below the age of legal adulthood violate this premise, and show the traces of a premodern understanding of marriage as a reproductive contract between extended families that few Americans would say they support today.) But “why only two?” isn’t a ridiculous question. It’s easy enough to show that gay marriage does not empirically lead to pressure to legalise polygamy; that hasn’t happened anywhere that gay marriage is legal. But this is different from explaining why opening up the boundaries of the 20th-century understanding of marriage shouldn’t raise the possibility of legalising polygamy. Why shouldn’t it be legal for more than two consenting adults to marry each other?

And I remind you that’s the Economist discussing the exact same point; not the halfwit hate-monger that is Cory Bernardi. It’s a sensible person asking a question. And you begin to see that those who shouted down Bernardi last year never really presented an answer. As is the way in politics, the other halfwit Sarah Hanson-Young took the tack that somehow Cory Bernardi had likened gay people to bestial people. Yet, if you’re going to take Bernardi to task, you pretty much have to draw the line somewhere. Once you draw the line somewhere, you have to then defend why you won’t move the line beyond where you draw it. It’s not good enough an argument to ridicule people who have for a lifetime drawn a line elsewhere.

You’ll note Hanson-Young didn’t draw a line, she just accused Bernardi of something he didn’t say. Ain’t politics grand? “Gay people are different to bestial people! They’re not perverts!”  It would’ve been very unconvincing for the likes of Bernardi who can well remember when gay people were the perverts.

While bestiality is hardly something people are likely to accommodate in droves, there are plenty of polygamous societies on the planet. You could argue that the portion of Homo Sapiens cultures that allows for polygamy is higher than the proportion of gay people. So it is actually a legitimate question to ask, why gay marriage, but not polygamy? Mormons and Muslims would want to know. A conservative in Australia – I would hazard to guess – would probably argue that this is a country founded on traditional Christian beliefs, and this is why they refuse to countenance gay marriage, polygamy and bestiality alike. As progressive agendas go, we’re now saying as a society (in most part) that gay marriage is okay, but polygamy and bestiality are not. The line goes between gay marriage and polygamy.

I really don’t get this. I’m okay with legalising gay marriage and when I think it through, I don’t really a see a problem with legalising polygamy either. I do draw the line at bestiality, not because it’s disgusting, but because you can’t get consent from an animal. In the same vein, paedophilia is forever out because consent from minors can’t count. But you can see the onus to explain that placement of the line between gay marriage and polygamy fairly rests with the people who want to redraw the lines.

While Cory Bernardi is a hateful halfwit, it’s not like he’s not on to something. Polygamy is correctly up next. There’s some explaining to be done by those who are pushing to legalise gay marriage, why polygamists can’t get equal treatment under the law.

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