The Conservative's Dilemma
“Society should work harder to protect and encourage strong, stable marriages and be unapologetic in treating marriage between a man and a woman as a normative institution – the ideal environment for rearing children.” That was conservative columnist Janet Albrechtsen, back in 2004. You might know that Albrechtsen “evolved” on marriage equality late last year, confessing on Q&A that she’d come around to the pro-equality side.
Good for her, you might think. Maybe after a decade of progress, Albrechtsen finally raised a licked fingertip to the winds of change and realised she couldn’t walk against them any longer.
But while her evolution is welcome, it’s also problematic. If it occurred because she felt the need to catch up to the rest of the world, that only proves how off the mark she was in 2004.
History – especially in the context of queer human rights – so often proves social conservatives wrong. Homosexuality has been decriminalised; then, queer folk were afforded legal protections against discrimination and vilification; then, same-sex couples were formally recognised in law and lawfully permitted to create and raise families. Marriage equality is but a logical next chain in that sequence.
Conservatives have fought tooth and nail against all these reforms, including Tony Abbott himself 30 years ago when he opposed decriminalisation. So perhaps 30 years hence, when same-sex marriage is legal in Australia, Abbott might well do an Albrechtsen and finally evolve too. The problem is, that won’t make him any less wrong now than he is every time he opens his mouth to oppose marriage equality.
It’s a common trick of anti-queer individuals and organisations to pretend they were never really fighting on the battlelines after they’ve lost the war. Consider the Australian Christian Lobby, for example, and their ongoing claim that they’re not homophobic or gay-hating because they supported the Rudd government’s landmark 2008 reforms that equalised same-sex couples in all areas of federal law bar, of course, marriage.
Sadly for the ACL, however, they’re taking – as they often do – great liberties with the truth. In their submission to the Senate inquiry into the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Bill 2008, the ACL actually said: “This bill…[redefines] parenthood and children. Without … amendments, ACL believes the bill should not proceed.”
The ACL then proposed a series of fairly vague amendments in its submission, none of which were adopted in the bill that ultimately passed Parliament. In other words, the ACL did not support the laws that were eventually enacted.
Perhaps a better response to someone like Janet Albrechtsen, once she finally deigns to stop fighting the inevitable and accept reality, shouldn’t be “good for you” but, rather, “what took you so long?”
PS – Happy 2013, everyone.