Instead of a plebiscite, Leader of the ALP Bill Shorten and his colleague Senator Penny Wong argue that the Australian people cannot be trusted and that there must be a parliamentary vote on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Shorten and Wong also argue that the LGBTI community fully supports the campaign to change the marriage act to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
Wrong on both counts. The reality is that a significant number of LGBTI people are not committed to a long-term, monogamous relationship symbolised by the institution of marriage.
Based on two recent national surveys, “Private lives: A report on the health and wellbeing of GLBTI Australians” and “Monopoly: A study of gay men’s relationships”, it is clear that a large number of LGBTI people prefer a more fluid and transient lifestyle.
The first survey concludes: “Only a small percentage of men and women (between 5-10 per cent) reported formalising the relationship with a marriage or commitment ceremony, while most others had no wish to do so.”
When discussing relationship status, the report also notes: “It is of interest that the majority of male respondents (52 per cent) and 39 per cent of women indicated no intention or wish to formalise their current relationship.”
The second survey reaches a similar conclusion: “Only a minority of men indicated they would like to marry their primary regular partner.” In relation to men with multiple partners, as might be expected, the percentage answering “yes” to the question, “Would you marry [your] partner?” sits at 11 per cent.
In addition, by rejecting the concept of popular sovereignty, one of the cornerstones of our Westminster parliamentary system, it is clear that Shorten and Wong consider themselves above the people, supposedly, as it is only the Canberra political elite that can decide such weighty issues.
Ignored, as so succinctly put by Abraham Lincoln, is that a truly democratic government must be of the people, by the people and for the people. The quickest road to breed apathy is to deny individuals the right to express their point of view.
While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull favours a plebiscite, a policy endorsed by the Australian people in a survey earlier this year, Senator Wong fears that any public debate will lead to gays and lesbians being vilified and attacked.
Wong argues: “I oppose a plebiscite because I don’t want my relationship – my family – to be a subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others.”
After appearing to take a neutral stance before the 2013 election, more recently, Shorten also argues a plebiscite will encourage homophobia and hate speech.
Both ALP luminaries are wrong to argue that those supporting heterosexual marriage are bigoted and guilty of overblown rhetoric. Judged by the action of those supporting same-sex marriage, the opposite is the case.
Katherine Hudson on the newmatilda.com website argues that those opposed to the LGBTI Safe Schools program and equal rights for LGBTI people share the views of “many dictators, despots and despicable leaders, including Putin, Kim Jong-un, Mugabe and ISIS terrorists”.
Bill Shorten provides another example in his description of Senator Cory Bernardi as a “homophobe”. After Tony Abbott spoke at an American anti-same-sex marriage conference, Greens Senator Robert Simms condemned him as a bigot wanting to spread “the flames of division in our country”.
Instead of weighing the arguments, the cultural left’s default position is to engage in ad hominem attacks where supporters of heterosexual marriage are condemned as “homophobic”, “heteronormative”, “bigoted” and, worst of all, “Christian”.
It is also the case that advocates of same-sex marriage, like Tasmania’s transgender activist Martine Delaney, think the best way to enable debate is to threaten critics like the Catholic Bishops into silence by lodging a complaint with Tasmania’s anti-discrimination tribunal.
Not only is Delaney’s action a threat to free speech but it also portends the type of unfair discrimination critics of same-sex marriage will face, especially those with a religious view, as they attempt to argue their point of view in the public space.
It is ironic that while Shorten and Wong argue in favour of same-sex marriage many in the LGBTI community show no real interest in the issue. It is also ironic that, after being elected as servants of the people, they both wish to deny one of the basic tenets of democracy – the right of citizens to vote on issues that go to the core of what constitutes Australian society.
The ALP’s arrogance and refusal to support a plebiscite is best epitomised by German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s comment about the refusal of the communist East German government to listen to the people. Brecht wrote: “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people?”
Ninety-seven per cent of Australians identify as heterosexual and they have every right to express their opinion on whether the institution of marriage, one of the bedrocks of a stable, peaceful society, should be so radically redefined.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University. An abridged version of the above was published in The Daily Telegraph on August 24, 2016.