Ironies, Twists and Turns in the Australian SSM Campaign

The current push for same-sex “marriage” in Australia is threaded with ironies in the social, political and religious spheres. When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared a postal vote—which is now in progress (results will be released on November 15), the “pro same-sex marriage” crowd lambasted the democratic vote as hateful; they prefer an imposed parliamentary decision since that will deliver what they want—a “yes” vote.

Some union members urged Australia Post not to deliver “no” campaign material because its mere presence in their mailbag would traumatise posties. ABC TV was kinder and delivered “Trauma Toolkits” to its journalists to stave off overwhelming traumatic reactions because of the postal vote. Strange that voting is seen as nasty, yet forcing gay marriage on us all is, well, nice? Stranger still is the behavior of the pro-gay “marriage” Labor Party, which not long ago said the opposite of what it says now. Five years ago, Julia Gillard, then leader of the Labor Party, stood with her Catholic pro- life conservative arch-enemy Tony Abbott, to vote against gay marriage. Tanya Plibersek, current Labor deputy leader has said in the past, “We don’t support same-sex marriage”—but now vociferously defends it, as if she always did. Penny Wong, gay South Australian senator said not long ago, “On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect. The party’s position is very clear that this is an institution that is between a man and a woman.” But now she gets emotional and misty-eyed in parliament, if people suggest that gays cannot be married.

As recently as 2012, the Australian parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject same-sex “marriage.” Shouldn’t the previous opposers call themselves homophobes, for having previously held anti-SSM views? No way, a wave of convenient amnesia has descended around them. At least the moderate leader of the supposedly conservative Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, has been consistent in always supporting it, if many in his party have not. In fact he posed happily for the media, showing himself and his wife Lucy posting their “yes” vote. At least Turnbull, who claims to be Catholic, has never wavered in his pro “yes” stance.

If it is confusing to see this chameleon politics, what are Catholics to do when they hear clergy saying different things? Archbishop Fisher, stated clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman and gave many reasons for the “no” vote, as have Bishop Porteous and other Catholic bishops, with two possible exceptions. Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan, on the other hand, who runs Catholic Social Services Australia and is a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, has stated and continues to state that same-sex “marriage” should be legalized for the common good so he is voting “yes.” He is confident legal safeguards will protect those who may lose their jobs for religious reasons. But what about those who cannot afford lawyers, speak English well, are vulnerable. In fact others are not so confident, like Miranda Devine who points out many legal safeguards can disappear after a “yes” vote. She writes, “In Ireland, after gay marriage was passed by referendum in 2015, parliament wasted no time repealing laws providing exemptions … when it came into conflict with gay rights.” Further confirmation comes from David Sergeant, in the Australian Spectator, who writes about how Christians and others are losing their rights with the legalization of gay “marriage” in Britain.

In contrast to Fr. Brennan, Protestant minister and NSW senator Fred Nile will vote no—giving as his principal reason that marriage is sacred and that “Marriage wasn’t planned by John Howard or by the government, marriage was ordained and planned by God the creator.” And while some Catholics are under the impression that you can vote “yes” or “no” and still remain a Catholic, there are figures who have spoken out publicly against this mentality—like Fr. Morgan Batt who was spat on in Brisbane for his assumed “no” views. Or like Catholic pro-life Senator Cory Bernardi who split with the Liberals to form the Australian Conservatives and is drawing increasing numbers of “no” voters to his party. Then there are the three mothers—Cella White, Pansy Lai and Heidi McIvor—who dared to speak out in a short television ad on why retaining marriage as it is, will safeguard children and the wider society. The ad can be seen here. While the “no” ads have been banned from most channels, the prevailing secular, post-modern, deconstructionist Diktatura was extremely irate that this one happened to slip through. As Australian pro-marriage warrior Bill Muehlenberg explained in the aftermath of this “no” ad with the three mothers, “a ferocious backlash was instantaneous and overwhelming. The homosexual lobby mobilized right away to … go on a search and destroy mission against the three.” Despite threats and condemnation, the valiant three mothers have prevailed and fight on. A young girl Madeleine was not so lucky. She worked for a party hire company and dared to write, “It’s ok to vote no” on her private Facebook posting and was promptly sacked by her boss, Madlin Sims of Capital Kids Parties. Sims said she fired Madeline because to vote no is hate-speech. While Madeleine and her family have been subjected to vilification, there has also been much support from family and friends.

Such is the pressure to expound the politically correct mantras, that the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), along with soccer, cricket, and rugby league leaders, have publicly expressed their support for same-sex “marriage.” One rugby player alone stood publicly against the tide of public rainbow frenzy—Israel Folau—formerly a Mormon, but now a member of the Assemblies of God—saying while he respected gay people, he would vote “no” to same-sex “marriage.” The twittersphere and social media exploded in horror, when confronted with this one person’s deeply held view.

Aussie Rules football player Sam Newman, while not holding any religious stance, was not backward about being forward in his view that politics and sport should not mix. He erupted in anger saying the AFL were “obsequious, fawning, sycophantic political whores” for having imposed their political same-sex messages on sport. And condemn him all you like, he is not backing down—in fact his Footy Show audience cheered wildly, an unexpected and disturbing twist of events for the “yes” side. Also disturbing, certain Christians in the Chinese community have mobilized to voice their unequivocal opposition to SSM and have not been vague about urging a “no” vote. Islamic leaders were torn for a while as the left, who support SSM are their allies on issues involving terrorism and immigration. However Islamic Council of Queensland president Yusuf Peer said, “Islam also explicitly and unambiguously states that marital relationship is only permissible between a man and woman; any other marital relationships are Islamicly impermissible.” Several Vietnamese have told me their communities are voting no—both Buddhists and Catholics—but they don’t dare speak out.

The increasing opposition of various religious groups to the “yes” side makes one wonder if there is a sleeping giant out there, people simply too afraid to state their views publicly, who do not have complicated legal arguments, who can see same-sex unions are not marriage, and who are going to vote “no.” That is what gives the “yes” side the jitters, that ever-present, amorphous, underlying dread that people may think differently from them and that, annoyingly—still have the right to vote.

Wanda Skowronska

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Wanda Skowronska is a Catholic psychologist and author living and working mainly in Sydney. She is a regular contributor to the Australian Catholic journal Annals Australasia. Her most recent book is Catholic Converts from Down Under ... And All Over (2016). She earned her PhD at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne in 2011 where she does some sessional lecturing.

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