Return of the Zombie Plebiscite

After such a long break, I really had hoped to come back to this blog with something inspiring and insightful and maybe a bit philosophical.  A proper essay on a proper subject.  Actually, I’ve been working on an essay on Australian identity on and off all year, since we seem to have been riffing on this theme from Australia Day, to changes to citizenship requirements, to what it’s OK to say on ANZAC Day, to the ever-increasing parade of Senators who are apparently surprised by their own, varied citizenships.

But you’re not getting that one, because, we seem to be back at the Marriage Equality Plebiscite again, only this time it comes with all the bonuses conferred by Australia Post and the Australian Bureau of Statistics taking on a project for which, frankly, they were not designed.  (This is not a dig at their competency, it’s a simple statement of fact.)

Blame Turnbull.  Or blame Abbott, if you like.  (Blaming Abbott is very therapeutic, I find.  It’s the one political opinion that unites my entire family, including my in-laws.)

It’s hard to know where to start with this.

Actually, no, it’s easy.

This is a short-sighted, cowardly, impractical, expensive, hypocritical, insulting, stupid move by a government that really doesn’t care how many people it hurts provided it stays in power.  Also, it’s a great distraction from the terrible things we have been doing to refugees (and there will, I promise, be a post about that soon – just as soon as I think of a different way of saying the same things I’ve been saying for over a decade).

Anyway.  I have a lot of opinions about this plebiscite, and I fully intend to share them, but let’s start with the basic facts, because there are things you need to know about this plebiscite whether or not you agree with me about marriage equality.

  • The plebiscite will be non-binding.  This means that if Australia votes ‘yes’ to marriage equality, politicians can still vote ‘no’ in Parliament, and vice versa (though I don’t think anyone is expecting the latter to occur – a ‘no’ vote is likely to get the issue shelved for the duration of the current parliament).
  • The plebiscite will be non-compulsory.  This means that you don’t have to vote if you don’t want to.  I have some VERY strong opinions on this subject, but this is the Objective Facts segment of this post, so I shall sit on them for now.
  • The plebiscite will be run by the ABS and Australia Post.  This causes me some concern, since my postie is not very reliable about delivering mail.  Or rather, he does generally deliver some mail to us, but it often isn’t our mail.  But that’s another story.  And probably counts as opinion.
  • If the plebiscite goes ahead (there is a High Court Challenge being mounted against it right now), Australia Post will begin sending out ballots on September 12, and ballots will need to be received by November 5. Fans of the last election, with it’s exciting 8-week campaign, will be delighted by this opportunity for an even longer political campaign!  The rest of us will be hiding under the doona until it all stops.
  • Enrolment to vote in the plebiscite will close on August 24. I’m putting that one in red, because it’s super important.  Whether or not you plan to vote in the plebiscite, I urge you to check your enrolment now.  Why? Because you might change your mind.  If you were planning to vote and decide not to, enrolment won’t change that.  But if you weren’t planning to vote and change your mind about that, you’ll be out of luck if you aren’t on the electoral roll.  Also, if you are considering boycotting this vote, then I’m guessing that you will be very keen to help vote out the current government at the next election.  You’ll need to be enrolled to do that, and you might as well get enrolled early.
  • But I thought the Senate blocked the plebiscite?  Yeah, that confused me, too.  From what I understand, the government can’t run a compulsory plebiscite through the AEC without the Senate agreeing.  And the Senate did not agree.  But the government is absolutely empowered to ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics to *survey* the Australian population and ask their opinions about marriage equality.  So when the Senate blocked the plebiscite, the government went with Plan B instead.

The bottom line is that unless the High Court nixes this plebiscite, it will be held between September 12 and November 15, and if you want the option of voting in it, you need to enrol now.

(OK, have you checked your enrolment yet?  I’m very happy to wait.  I promise, my opinions will keep…)

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about marriage equality, or about the sheer nastiness of some of the anti-gay rhetoric that comes with this argument  Nor is this week the first time I’ve written letters to politicians on the subject (though it is the first time I was completely incoherent on the phone to one of them on this subject.  Note to self: always have written notes).  Actually, Facebook reminded me earlier this week that this time last year, I was writing pretty much the same things to politicians that I have been writing over the last few days.

It’s a bit depressing, frankly, and I’m married and mostly straight. I can’t imagine how soul-wearying this must be for my LGBTQI friends.  (I’m really sorry, guys.  I feel for you, and I truly wish that my co-religionists would stop picking on you.)

So, there are a lot of problems with this plebiscite, and you probably don’t need me to tell you what they are.  (But I’m going to do so anyway, just in case.) I’m concerned about the logistics of it, for one thing.  All joking aside, Australia Post isn’t the most reliable, or the most efficient, service, especially in remote areas, and even if they were, they aren’t really secure.  It’s a bit too easy to think of ways to interfere with the vote, and a bit too hard to think of ways to be sure that your vote has been received and counted.  And in an era when our government is increasingly requiring more stringent evidence of ID in order to let us vote, just putting stuff in letterboxes and assuming that the right person will open it and fill it in seems rather… insecure.

It’s almost as if the government doesn’t really care who votes.

Another problem, of course, is that it can take a while for mail to arrive, disenfranchising people who are travelling, or who live in remote areas, or who aren’t currently staying at their registered address.

I’m also deeply concerned with the non-compulsory aspect of the vote.  Setting aside that in non-compulsory voting systems, only those with the very strongest opinions tend to vote, a non-compulsory vote makes it a lot harder to spot disenfranchisement (deliberate or otherwise) of populations.  If everyone is supposed to vote, it’s going to become pretty clear that something fishy is going on if no votes are received from a particular town or community.  But if voting is optional, well, maybe nobody in that town cared about the issue.  And maybe they didn’t, but it would be good to be sure of this, rather than just shrugging and making the assumption.

Another issue with non-compulsory voting, especially on an issue like this, where the government is pretty clearly looking for an excuse to avoid any action, is that if the turnout is very small, the vote is seen as being less valid.  And, honestly, I think there is a good reason for that.  The government has not so far set a threshold for a minimum number of votes that would make this poll valid, and I really think they should.

The non-binding aspect of this plebiscite is, of course, frustrating in its own right (and really, if the Coalition wants to bill itself as the fiscally responsible party, spending $122M on a vote that actually has no binding outcome does not strike me as the best way to do so).  It’s so easy to shift the goalposts – how much of a majority needs to vote yes, do you think, for a change in the law to be considered ‘valid’?  And I think we all know that while a ‘yes’ vote means ‘maybe’ at best, a ‘no’ vote will mean ‘no’.

But the more concerning aspect to me is that we don’t even really know what we are voting for.  Senator Dean Smith put up a private members’ Bill recently, which I thought did a good job of balancing religious freedom with the right to marry (you can read a little about it here), but that’s not what we will necessarily get.  And previous bills have been far less balanced and reasonable.  And goodness only knows how they will phrase the question – I would like to believe that the government will act in good faith with this vote, but there hasn’t been much sign of that recently, and I think it’s entirely possible that we will get a question that is either insulting or ambiguous, and designed to discourage people from voting at all.

Worst of all, I think, is the length of the campaign, and the fact that this plebiscite won’t be run under AEC rules. This means that campaigners are not subject to rules against malicious or false advertising.  Apparently Senator Cormann thinks that this is OK, because we can trust the Australian people to be courteous and respectful.

(I can think of a lot of responses to this statement, but they aren’t courteous or respectful, and I’d really hate to shatter the Senator’s illusions so early in the campaign.)

And did I mention that this is going to be a really long campaign?  There are three months between now and the close of the polls, and there are a lot of really horrible things people can say and do in three months.

This plebiscite is going to hurt people.  It’s going to hurt adults, and it’s going to hurt children, and it’s going to hurt old people, and it’s going to do real, long-term damage.

And it’s not actually going to achieve anything that couldn’t be achieved in a parliamentary vote.

And you should still vote in it.

I won’t deny that it’s easy for me to say this.  I’m mostly straight, and there is zero chance that this plebiscite will turn into a referendum on whether I’m fully human.  And I’m open to changing my mind on this – if my LGBTQI friends all ask me to boycott, then I’ll boycott, because in the end, they are the ones who matter here.

But having said that, here’s what I think right now.

We on the left side of politics have a bit of a problem at the moment, and it’s a problem that arises directly from the things that I think make us worth voting for.  We are idealists!  We want to change the world for the better!  We want everyone to act with integrity and according to their ideals (preferably, our ideals)!  But when they don’t, or when they only get some things right, but not all, we aren’t always very good at forgiving them.  And we are kind of rubbish at compromising, and especially at voting for someone who doesn’t meet our standards, even if this is the only way to keep out someone who is actively terrible.

In Australia, we can normally get away with this.  We have preferential voting, which is wonderful, because it means that each of us can order every party on the ballot in accordance with our ideals, and still put the racists, the fascists, the religious nuts, or whoever else it is we like least, last.  And we can put the major parties somewhere in the middle, with the one we dislike slightly less above the other one, and consider our consciences clear – and indeed, our consciences should be clear, because we have voted both idealistically and pragmatically.

But it’s harder when you only have two options and neither of them are good.  Some of my French friends at work had a hard time deciding whether they should vote in their  recent election. They are a very left wing lot who were not at all convinced by the moderate-right Macron and found it hard to vote for him, even when the alternative was the extreme-right (not to say fascist and racist) LaPen.  I suspect that if my only choices were Turnbull and Hanson, I’d feel the same way.  But I hope that at that point, I’d hold my nose and vote for Turnbull.

The problem with this is that the conservative side of politics is much better at compromising and much more willing to work together to get what they want.  (It’s something you can see, incidentally, even when you are scrutineering.  The further left someone is with their first preference, the less likely they are to pay attention to How To Vote cards.  Greens voters love voting below the line, and they are all over the place.  Liberal voters hardly ever do.) The ACL, in particular, is super organised, and very good at mobilising their people and getting the vote out.

I’ve seen a lot of arguments against voting in this plebiscite.  (The most compelling from my perspective is that this government does not *deserve* to preside over something as good as marriage equality.)  And let’s face it, the plebiscite really is insulting, it really is pointless, it really is an expensive waste of time that will hurt real people, and its only purpose is to prevent Malcolm Turnbull from being rolled by Tony Abbott this month.

But the ACL are going to turn out and vote for it anyway, and if they do, and we don’t, then it’s going to be a resounding ‘no’, and that will be the end of Marriage Equality until we are able to kick the Coalition out of office (hopefully in 2018, but the Australian public has disappointed me before). And that’s going to be too late for some people.

So this time, I think our job is to fight this plebiscite for as long as we can – but if it goes ahead, we need to get out the vote. Make sure our friends and families are enrolled, make sure we know what to do if our ballots don’t arrive, make sure we don’t refuse to participate in principle.

Because if we don’t vote, then the only people who do vote will be those who are determined to block marriage equality, and that just lets the government off the hook and allows them to claim that see, nobody wanted it anyway. Which is rubbish.

And look – you don’t have to agree with me, and you certainly don’t have to make your decision now. But do make sure you are enrolled to vote at least. That way, if you do decide to vote in the plebiscite you can – and if you don’t, well, you’re on the electoral roll now and will be ready to vote these heartless nitwits out when the next election arrives. It’s a win-win, unlike the plebiscite.

~~~~~~

Things you can do
Politics

Charities

There are quite a few charities that specifically support LGBTQI people.  If you are struggling, please consider getting in contact with one of them.  And if you are looking for someone to donate to right now… I’m guessing these groups are going to be pretty busy over the next little while.  Where I could find a donation link, I’ve added one.

Self-Care and Social Glue

Just keep an eye out for your friends, and make sure they are doing OK, alright?  And look after yourselves at the same time.  Remember that you don’t have to be perfect, and sometimes all you can do for the people around you is little stuff, and that’s OK too.  Here’s a list I’ve shared before of some little things you can do for yourselves and for each other.

  • Donate to a charity on behalf of someone else.  Oxfam Unwrapped will send a friend a card on your behalf, telling them what you donated in their name.  The bag of pig’s manure seems like an appropriate choice right now.  So does the Women’s Rights gift, that trains women in Bangladesh for leadership roles.
  • Bake something delicious and give it to someone.  I feed my colleagues a lot, but dropping something in to a local homeless shelter, or for the doctors and nurses at your local hospital is a nice touch.  Or you could do this.
  • Write a letter to a politician thanking them for their work on something you appreciate.  Or write a letter or a card to a teacher or friend who has helped you, telling them how much you value them.
  • If hand crafts are your thing, make a quilt or a cape or knit a teddy bear for a sick or traumatised child, or check out one of these campaigns.
  • If you are in a choir or orchestra or other musical group, get a group together and see if there is a local retirement home, or hospital, or detention centre, that might like a short concert.
  • Recommend a book to someone.  Buy it for them, if you can afford it.  Make it something fun and clever and escapist and quietly feminist.  (My recommendations this week are John Scalzi’s book Redshirts, which is about all those poor characters in science fiction shows who are killed off in each episode, and is funny and clever and unexpectedly touching; The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman, a fantasy adventure with secret agents, alternate worlds, and stolen books; and anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, but especially Paladin of Souls.)
  • Ring someone who you know is having a rough time right now for a chat.
  • Volunteer for a tree planting day, or at a wildlife shelter.
  • Download Mapswipe, and help Medecins Sans Frontières find people in disaster zones (note that you will need good eyes for this activity)
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17 thoughts on “Return of the Zombie Plebiscite

  1. Hi Cate, thank you so much again for spelling some stuff out for some of us that can’t stomach too much of the news. I’m a gay man who while being so enraged about the Plebiscite can’t sift through the bullshit, but you’ve really cleared up for me some other facts about how pointless this is. What’s more I’ve just looked up “Plebiscite” in the dictionary and find that this doesn’t even seem to be a Plebiscite, it’s just an opinion poll. So why are they calling it that I wonder? According to Google (and Oxford) a plebiscite seems to be “the direct vote of ALL the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.” And Merriam-Webster says “a vote by which the people of an ENTIRE country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal especially on a choice of government or ruler.” So generally speaking a plebiscite seems to be a legally binding decision voted on by ALL of the public who are enrolled to vote, this isn’t even a Plebiscite, why are they even using that word? Eeeek.

    • Hi Ben,

      You’re super welcome. I’m finding the news upsetting and enraging and I’m not even directly affected, so I can only imagine how nasty it is to have all of this rubbish directed at you (and really, just to score political points as far as I can tell).

      Honestly, I think they are calling it a plebiscite because they promised a plebiscite and this way they can pretend that they are keeping their promise!

      But it really is all just cowardice and bad faith, I think. If they really were sincerely against marriage equality, they could just ignore the issue, and obviously if they were sincerely in favour of it, a free vote is not hard to arrange. This is trying to score points and pretending to be fair while weaselling out of actually doing anything…

      Wishing you the very best.

      Catherine

  2. You are so against this ‘plebiscite’ and give fair reasons for this and yet you fought against the governments bill for a true plebiscite. Whilst your reasons for this are fair too I just don’t understand how you can be so angry/disappointed that they have come up with a plan B to help them keep their election promise.

    Actually you did kind of address this in your paragraph about being idealists not being willing to compromise. You say if they were sincerely against marriage equality they could just ignore the issue – really, really?? With all the media around this topic they could ignore it? It cannot be ignored, it keeps coming up – and again, fair enough, the people who are fighting for this deserve to keep fighting and keep pushing for it to be achieved and that’s why I support this plebiscite, for everyone to get the chance to have their say and then hopefully for the issue to be laid to rest whether with a change to our marriage act (bill?) (I know it’s non-binding but surely a resounding yes vote for marriage equality can’t be ignored) or to remain as is.

    I find it very insulting to suggest the ‘only purpose [of the plebsicite] is to prevent Malcolm Turnbull from being rolled by Tony Abbott this month’. To be honest it makes me think back to the American election and everyone’s dismay that Trump could be a pre-selected and then actually elected as US president, I havn’t re-watched this recently but I’m pretty confident it expresses my concern about your self professed non-willingness to compromise – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLG9g7BcjKs

    • Hi Gee Jen,

      Thanks for your comment, and for the video. As far as the video goes, I agree with about half of it. We do need to engage with people who don’t agree with us. But – and I know I’m going to make a hash of expressing this! – while debating ideas is important, not all debate is useful or constructive. And I don’t know where to put boundaries on this, but one thing I’ve seen played out repeatedly is the conversation where everyone is expected to be polite and objective and intellectual, but where one side is directly, personally affected by the thing, and the other is not. And it’s uneven and can feel incredibly battering to the person directly affected, especially if they keep having to have this argument again and again.

      I don’t know how you balance free speech with not further hurting people who are already traumatised. Maybe there isn’t a good answer to this. I do think that people should come before principles, but I acknowledge that this is probably not as simple as it sounds.

      To take your last paragraph next, I’d probably feel less cynical about Turnbull’s motivations on this score if I hadn’t been so disappointed with him on a variety of other scores over the last couple of years. He really reminds me of one of those stories where someone makes a deal with the devil and gets precisely what they asked for, but in a way that is absolutely the opposite of what they wanted. In some ways, he strikes me as a tragic figure – he must, surely, have become Prime Minister in the hope of achieving particular things (marriage equality may have been on this list, but not necessarily), but the only way he can stay in power is by placating the right wing of his party, and the only way he can do that is to not do the things he wanted to do. And I honestly do think that’s what he is doing once again with this postal plebiscite. (I’m not saying that this is the only possible reason one could come up with such a plebiscite. But I think that’s what’s happening this time. I’m sorry that you find this insulting, but I’ve given your comment a lot of thought, and I’m afraid that is still what I believe.)

      As for the plebiscite, yes, I was against it from the start. And yes, it would have been marginally better than this (though still non-binding, which I really do think makes it pointless regardless of other considerations). I really do think that, given the government’s stance, they should have gone, right, well, we can’t pass the plebiscite because the Senate are being obstructive as usual, I guess Marriage Equality is off the table for the duration of this government. This would have been frustrating, but would have at least showed some integrity. And I don’t think it would have been politically worse for them than this.

      But the reasons I have been against it haven’t changed, and I guess they go back to my first paragraph here, which is that for the gay and lesbian people I know, this debate quickly stops being about state versus religious rights, and rapidly degenerates into their loving relationships being equated to bestiality or pedophilia, or debates about whether they have some sort of psychological illness, and it’s deeply harmful, especially to younger people who are less resilient. (One of the more awful things right after Trump’s elections was reading accounts from friends of young LGBTIQ people they knew who had killed themselves because they were so afraid for the future.)

      I think it is possible to have a debate about marriage equality that doesn’t degenerate in that way, but I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen in our current political climate. I mean, it already has degenerated, thanks to Cory Bernardi and Bronwyn Bishop and their ilk, so I can’t see Year 9 students behaving en masse better than our politicians. (Well, actually, considering some of our politicians, I may be doing a disservice to Year 9 students…)

      For me, what it comes down to is this: I’m not directly affected by this debate. But I have lots of friends who are and will be, and so I’ve really been following their lead when it comes to opposing the various forms of the plebiscites. They are the ones who are going to be hurt by this, not me, so their feelings are what matter.

      (I’m sorry this went so long. I felt that you deserved a considered response. And it turns out that conciseness is not one of my gifts.)

      Catherine

  3. Thank you Cate for your considered, respectful response – it truly is appreciated.

    I really take on board your comments on how this debate is particularly personal for one side and as such uneven. From a personal perspective I truly wish I could change my mind and accept same sex marriage. I wish I did not have to be part of the battering of any person. It is not my nature and whilst I can see how saying so likely only adds to the hurt experienced and smacks of ‘white privilege’ or ‘heterosexual privilege’ it hurts me too ( I would never try to say the hurt is equal please don’t misunderstand me on that.)

    I believe we live in a sinful world and whilst idealistically people before principles sounds good, I don’t believe us people can be trusted. So my decision-making processes are based on the understanding of the Bible I uphold to, and this includes calling out people on sin even when it hurts them and me too. And yep it sure as hell feels hypocritical because I am the biggest sinner out there, but my beliefs tell me that to not speak out the truth as I understand it, would in the long run cause even greater hurt, in the world to come.

    Sadly I don’t think all people who object to same sex marriage do it from the same place as love (feel free to suggest that I am one of those too but maybe also acknowledge I am trying?) and that a lot of what is said is unacceptable. I’ve just been reminded of a parable from the Bible where the weeds are left to grow with the crop which I’m going to relate to your comment on engaging with people who don’t agree with us. Yep some people who disagree with us are going to be true weeds, people who truly are wicked, but some are I think good and it is oh so dangerous to paint them all with the same brush and to burn them all as I feel many of the pro-marriage activists do.

    In relation to your comments on Mr. Turnball’s motivations I think we can put that in the agree to disagree basket – I do think you have well expressed your disappointments.

    I’m not sure who it is who keeps bringing marriage equality on the table, I would have said it wasn’t the current government but I may well be wrong. I pray that the coming weeks do not degenerate in the way you and many others fear.

    With sincere thanks
    GJ

    • Hi GJ,

      I do hear where you are coming from, and have a few friends who believe similarly to you. It’s hard when people are arguing kindly and in good faith and they are still wrong! (You may take that as your view of me or mine of you…!)

      As you know, I’m a Christian, but my theology is a fair way to the left of yours. But for what it’s worth, my perspective on this as a Christian is that marriage is an expression of human love that reflects (and perhaps should help us better understand) God’s love. And nothing I have seen in the relationships of my LGBTQI friends leads me to think that their love is less than mine for my husband, or less a reflection of God’s.

      I tend to go with the ‘by their fruits you will know them’ philosophy on this one, and I see people who are stronger and kinder and more patient and more loving as the result of their relationships.

      (And some, not so much, but I’ve seen plenty of marriages which don’t improve the participants either, so I don’t think this is dependent on gender!)

      For me, this clear love and care outweighs the relatively small number of scriptures that appear to stand against such relationships (and I’m sure you’ve heard both sides of that theology, so we don’t need to have that conversation here!).

      (And now I have Ubi Caritas as an ear worm – but I think actually, it’s spot on and germane to the issue. Where there is love and charity, there is God.)

      Anyway. Perhaps this perspective isn’t new to you either, but I figured it was worth sharing. Here’s another perspective I like: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-i-changed-my-mind-on-marriage-equality-20170808-gxrshz.html

      Sorry to go preachy at you, and apologies for any typos – I’m out and about today, but thought you deserved a reply.

      Catherine

  4. Hi Catherine,

    Lol, I like your first paragraph 😊. Thank you for continuing to discuss with me, especially as a sister in Christ and particularly when out and about. There’s no way I could write and edit on a phone so I’m very impressed with that skill of yours! Hence also a delay in my response.

    Whilst I agree with you that love in LGBTQI is no less than love in my marriage I do disagree in that it is a reflection of God’s love – I don’t think any human is capable of that. We also seem to have a very different definition of marriage, as I think many people do. Marriage to me is not an expression of love but rather an expression of commitment.

    I’m not familiar with the ‘by their fruits you will know them’ philosophy although recognise it as a verse from the Bible – I think I would require further explanation. Looking at the article you shared (thank you), I think a big area of difference in our philosophies is around interpreting the Bible.

    The author wrote ‘when I read those patriarchal passages of scripture… I easily explained them away as a remnant of an ancient culture, echoes of a foreign ideology which could be ignored while still being faithful to the overall message.’ I believe the Bible is God’s sacred word just as relevant to us today as it was in Jesus’ or the old testament time. I believe it in it’s entirety, although I will grant that passages cannot be delivered without context which includes historic culture.

    My faith does also expect ‘that I treat others with compassion, justice, and love,’ but not to the exclusion of law and discipline. No need to apologise for getting preachy, although I should perhaps also put my own disclaimer in!

    God bless
    GJ

    • Hi again, GJ!

      First, yes, I had sort of gathered that might be your view of scripture, and it sounds like something else we will have to agree to disagree on! I do agree about marriage being an expression of commitment – but it’s a commitment to love and care for and build a family with another person, so I kind of elided those two ideas. (And perhaps we can’t love one another as God loves us, but we are supposed to try, or at least, that’s how I always understood Corinthians!)

      All I meant with regard to ‘by their fruits’ was that my friends’ relationships enrich both my friends and the people around them, and that this to me appears to be good fruit, and the sign that the relationship itself is a good thing. (I realise that the original quote is about prophets, but it seems like a reasonable generalisation to make.)

      As for the nature of marriage… you know, I really do think that this entire argument (not just ours, but the societal one) is clouded by the fact that we are trying to do two things with one word. There’s the secular aspect of marriage – the fact that this piece of paper marks you as someone’s next of kin, able to visit them in hospital, be the automatic inheritor of superannuation or property, and so forth, in a way that is internationally recognised, by and large, and in a way that registered partnerships don’t really cover very adequately or fully. And then, for some, there is the spiritual/sacramental one.

      I do, actually, think that it is entirely reasonable for churches to decide who they should marry in their rites. They already do, after all – my mother couldn’t marry my father in a Catholic church because she wasn’t Catholic, and I don’t imagine a Rabbi would marry a pair of Christians, and nor should they have to. And I really can’t imagine why anyone would want to get married somewhere that they were unwelcome! (Personally, I think there is a good case for allowing sacramental marriage to people of the same sex. And, evidently, you do not. And that’s OK.)

      But I don’t think a government of a secular nation – and we do have separation of church and state in this country, after all – should be able to deny the legal standing and protections that come with marriage to one group of people on the basis of their gender. That, to me, seems inequitable and unjust. Perhaps this is an argument for a system such as they have in Germany, where everyone has to get married at the Town Hall, and can then have a church wedding afterward, if they so desire.

      …I have a feeling I’ve just accidentally shifted the grounds of the argument under you, which I promise was not my intention! I’ll stop here for now.

  5. Yep definitely believe we should be trying to love as God loves but I don’t think that is the purpose of marriage. We should do that with a all people, everywhere – marriage by definition for me is a commitment between a man and woman. I completely agree that we are trying to do two things with one word. Indeed love the idea of the German system!

    I think I perhaps agree with you too about the purpose of the government hence I’ve come to accept that same sex marriage is likely to happen and why I’m trying to pull back from actively engaging in the debate (hard for me as you can see by my commenting on blogs!). But my understanding of the Bible does call me to speak out against sin so that sinners may be convicted to seek grace and that is something I don’t feel I can stand down from.

  6. Catherine and Gee Jen,
    THank you both for your thoughtful and respectful discussion .

    Oh that Australias politicians would conduct themselves so .

    Catherine may I quote your paragraph : “I don’t think a government of a secular nation – and we do have separation of church and state in this country, after all – should be able to deny the legal standing and protections that come with marriage to one group of people on the basis of their gender. “? It says what I believe and I’ve never been able to put the words together just right.

    I did not know about the German system, it certainly seems to be a good process allowing marriage for State purposes followed by a religious ceremony if wanted. This system should certainly be on our agenda here in Australia.

    • Hi Sandy,

      You are most welcome to quote me (but if it’s on a blog, come back and show me where you did, because I’d love to read the rest of your thoughts!).

      I think it helps that neither GJ or I are directly affected, and that we do agree on other things, which makes it a lot easier to strive for understanding and common ground.

      Catherine

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