Croome With A View: A Real Conservative
UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has come out as a supporter of marriage equality.
Speaking last week to the British Conservative Party Conference, Cameron said: “Yes, it's about equality, but it's also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative.”
It’s deeply embarrassing to Australians that a British Conservative Prime Minister is more progressive on this issue than our own unmarried, “left-wing”, atheist Labor Prime Minister.
Just as embarrassing is how Cameron’s stance highlights the mediocrity of Australian conservatives.
Not one of them has made the obvious case that allowing same-sex couples to marry is actually good for marriage, good for families and good for conservative values like commitment and responsibility and continuity.
It’s true that economic conservatives like Tim Wilson and Chris Berg at the Institute for Public Affairs have been strong supporters of equality.
But their case is about how married partners take financial responsibility for each other instead of that responsibility falling on society.
It is also qualified by a pie-in-the-sky libertarian desire to scuttle marriage as a public institution by making it an entirely private arrangement.
This is the opposite of Cameron’s wish to see marriage’s public role as a stabiliser of society enhanced.
Those Australian conservatives who believe the benefits of marriage should be extended to same-sex couples are very few in number.
And they are intimidated into silence by extremist religious lobbyists who threaten them with inflated estimates of how many votes they will lose if they speak out (as if fundamentalist voters would ever support Labor).
Instead, conservatives who should be on the side of marriage equality fall back on “civil unions”, even though this should be anathema to them because it waters down the institution they say underpins society.
When Australia’s social conservatives begin to advocate for marriage equality it will be a sign that Australian conservatism is applying its values to society as it is, rather than hankering after some fantasised society that never was and never will be.