More equal

The fight against same-sex marriage ended at 9pm on Wednesday, May 27. We know this because at precisely that moment Andrew Bolt published a column telling us so: “The battle for same-sex marriage has been won. Now the winners must defend marriage as fiercely as we conservatives tried.”

On radio, Alan Jones made an impassioned case for same-sex marriage: “To deny people the recognition for a relationship which is based on love is to deny in my opinion one of humankind’s most basic, but as I said elusive, qualities.”

Miranda Devine remained silent at time of press, although a recent column on the subject did accuse “militant gay thought police” of hijacking the issue and using “aberrations” to answer critics.

“As usual, it is those at the bottom of the social pecking order who pay the highest price for the moral fecklessness of those at the top,” she wrote for News Corp.

“An institution designed to ensure men took responsibility for their children has been usurped by the welfare state.”

Bolt may have conceded too early. But in all likelihood legislation for amendments to the marriage act will pass the parliament this year. Labor is keen to bring on a bill. Tony Abbott seemingly accepts the need for a free vote, although would prefer to focus on budget measures before the question of basic equality troubles the house.

But Bolt’s column is instructive for another reason. As much as he sees the inevitability in the debate – “the public is already open to the change” – he also enumerates the last arguments to which conservatives and other opponents of same-sex marriage cling.

Bolt complains that, “same-sex marriage is sold as the last step to accepting gays and lesbians as equals”. That to him is not an argument for same-sex marriage, it is a reminder that “in truth, gays and lesbians can form legally binding relationships identical to marriage, without actually being counted as one”.

This is hugely unconvincing. It’s a kind of strawman equality that attempts to deny equality itself.

Conservatives have been using the argument as a distraction since 2009, when the Rudd government made commendable amendments to 85 Commonwealth laws that discriminated against same-sex couples, particularly with regards to tax and superannuation. Phrased differently, the defence says “Surely that’s enough”.

Bolt seemingly accepts this argument has collapsed. Instead, he issues a challenge: if gays want marriage, they must join him in his fight to defend it. “If this really is about love,” he writes, “let’s see it.”

What else it might be about is never explained. There isn’t time. Instead, he ploughs on into conspiracy theories about homosexual promiscuity, forgotten children, the ills of no-fault divorce, four-way relationships, and the “raucous celebration of random sex” at the centre of the gay lifestyle. For this, see also “Mardi Gras”.

Finally, he gets to his point: Muslim polygamists. A new enemy is at the gates, picked from a Rolodex of bigotry, and the gays and those other two-thirds of society who happily support their rights must be conscripted into defence against it.

“Saying yes to same-sex marriage does not mean ending an argument. It means opening new ones, with the survival of marriage at stake,” Bolt writes.

“Are the new inheritors of the marriage tradition up to the awesome responsibility of defending the institution they are about to change?”

That equality, true equality, will soon exist in same-sex relationships is a thing to be celebrated. That even those who have argued vociferously against this equality now see it as inevitable is a win of numbers and sweet irony.

But between now and a vote, those most opposed can be expected to fight with renewed speciousness. Fresh bogymen will be loosed on the debate. Attempts to divide will be many and cruel. And, of course, senseless. As Andrew Bolt said at 9pm on Wednesday, May 27: “The battle for same-sex marriage has been won.”

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 30, 2015 as "More equal".

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