Australia kicking American ass on the gay rights debate

Aside from being British ex-pats, Andrew Sullivan and I do not have much in common – he is gay, middle-aged Catholic, living in the US and extremely successful as a writer-cum-blogger; I am straight, mid-20s, Jewish, living in Australia and pretty much unsuccessful as a writer-cum-blogger. That said, it is remarkable how much we seem to see eye-to-eye on issues that aren’t Israel.

Of course, most of what Sullivan does these days is link to other people’s writing – which is how I find a lot of interesting things to read, but means that there isn’t quite as much of this kind of thing as I’d like:

They Cannot Even Speak Our Name – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

This is a church now intent on erasing from visibility a small minority of human beings, while waging a campaign to keep them as second class citizens in their own countries and as subhuman “objectively disordered” beings in their own church. They cannot even speak our name. Because were they to see us as the human beings we are, if they had to confront the actual experienced reality of our lives, if they actually had a conversation with us, and engaged the problem rather than dismissing it as “madness”, their pretense would be exposed.

The leaders of the current Catholic hierarchy are the Pharisees of our time. They are the people Jesus came to liberate us from. And he does. And he will.

I have not seen a more damning indictment of the way the Catholic Church is pretending that there are no gay people in its ranks (ironically, this is the same stance taken by the Iranian President).

What is amazing is how different the debate seems to be in Australia – where Catholics compose the biggest single religious group – versus both the UK and the US. Take Rush Limbaugh for instance – while yesterday I reported that he is losing sponsors and may be going out of business for sexism, many others have noted that he doesn’t have a great record on gay rights either. In stark contrast, Alan Jones, the closest thing Australia has to Limbaugh, is known to be gay himself (if not particularly publicly).

Similarly, Australia’s top sensationalist rightwing columnist, Andrew Bolt, just came out with a vehement condemnation of homophobic advertising by “Australia Party” founder Bob Katter in the Queensland elections:

Katter disgraces himself | Herald Sun Andrew Bolt Blog.

It’s fair enough to raise the issue of gay marriage in the context of a state election, despite it being essentially a federal matter. There’s no law against irrelevance, after all, and Newman’s inconsistency goes to his character.

But this ad crosses way, way over the line.

First, why freight the same sex marriage debate with pictures of gay men being physically intimate? The intention is plain and foul: to appeal to the yuck factor with homophobes. Would we illustrate a defence of traditional marriage with a couple of porn stars engaging in foreplay?

Second, why show a gay couple as a beautiful young man and an older and plainer one? Again, the intention seems plain: to link gay marriage or gay relationships generally to pedophilia – or at least to gay predators. Would we illustrate an argument on the sanctity of marriage by showing a 40-year-old groom with a teen bride?

Third, what’s with the creepy pixellation on the picture of the gays? The area being covered is a man’s chest, for goodness sake. Again, the intention is plain and foul: to make even the sight of a gay man’s chest seem sinister. To hint at the illicit and disgusting.

Fourth, what’s with the footage of Newman folding a skirt, after asking in this context: “How well do you really know Campbell Newman”? This time the intention is slightly less clear, even if the malice isn’t. Is this meant to snear at gays as sissies? Or at Campbell as a closet gay – or even crossdresser?

Disgraceful stuff.

I have always had a feeling that most of what Bolt writes is more his cultivating a character than actually speaking from the heart (although unlike Anne Summers, I have no doubt that he is genuinely very Conservative), but occasionally he uses his pedestal to do something that he believes in. Yes, this can be tearing down climate change advocates, but it can also be this kind of thing.

Either way, Bill O’Reilly would not be caught dead condemning someone for being Conservative enough to run homophobic ads like that one. Note: I use the term “Conservative” with a bolded and capitalised “c” because there is nothing remotely conservative about homophobia. This is obviously something that is recognised by Australia’s conservatives, but Britain, America and the Catholic clergy seem to be off the mark somewhat.

For the record, my views on gay marriage were mostly laid-out in this post. I’ll end by citing another of Sullivan’s finer moments on this issue, where he explains exactly why the way the Santorum-style Conservatives are, in fact, more radicals than most who claim to be “progressives” (although I have a lot of issues with that label as well). He really says it better than I could:

Santorum Exposes The Real Republican Party – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

What’s fascinating to me about Santorum’s outburst yesterday was not its content, but its candor. In fact, one of Santorum’s advantages in this race, especially against Romney, is that we can see exactly where he stands. There can be no absolute separation of church and state, let alone a desire to keep it so; and in their necessary interactions, the church must always prevail, or it is a violation of the First Amendment, and an attack on religious freedom. The church’s teachings are also, according to theoconservatism, integral to the founding of the United States. Since constitutional rights are endowed from the Creator, and the Creator is the Judeo-Christian one, the notion of a neutral public square, embraced by liberals and those once called conservatives, is an attack on America. America is a special nation because of this unique founding on the Judeo-Christian God. It must therefore always be guided by God’s will, and that will is self-evident to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, atheist or Mormon, Jew or Muslim, from natural law.

Hence the notion that America could countenance abortion or same-sex marriage is anathema to Santorum and to theoconservatism. It can only be explained as the work of Satan, so alien is it to the principles of Judeo-Christian America. Hence the resort to constitutional amendments to ban both: total resolutions of these issues for ever must reflect what theocons believe was in the Founders’ hearts and minds.

This has long been the theocon argument; it was the crux of what I identified as the core Republican problem in “The Conservative Soul”. It is not social conservatism, as lazy pundits call it. It is a radical theocratically-based attack on modern liberal democracy; and on modernity as a whole. It would conserve nothing. It would require massive social upheaval, for example, to criminalize all abortion or keep all gay couples from having any publicly acknowledged rights or status. Then think of trying to get women back out of the workplace or contraception banned – natural, logical steps from this way of thinking. This massive change is radical, not conservative. It regards the evolution of American society these past few decades as literally the work of the Father of Lies, not the aggregate reflection of a changing society. It is at its essence a neo-Francoite version of America, an America that was not the pinnacle of Enlightenment thought, but an America designed to destroy what the theocons regard as the catastrophe of the Enlightenment.


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  1. Reader responds re. gay rights debate « Major Karnage

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