Aaaaah… Tasmania—the ever-progressive island state that bobs about in the ocean, 500-odd kilometres off the south-eastern corner of mainland Australia. Synonymous with wine and snow-capped peaks, sandstone and history and retirees. Home of the country’s worst mass-shooting of our time. A state that has problems with its electricity supply because the cable that runs under the ocean from Victoria has a hole in it. A place that’s so backward, you’d almost think the convicts who built all those sandstone ruins had only just arrived.
So apparently Tasmania is set to “change anti-discrimination laws to protect freedom of religion ahead of the same-sex marriage plebiscite”.
Appears someone down there thinks it’s important to have laws in place to protect religiously inclined folk from being called names, in the event that they object to so-called “marriage equality” on the grounds of their religious beliefs.
Of course, there’s a precedent for such a move, but that was in Redneck Central, USA so it’s clear how sane and sensible the idea was to start with. Why a tiny island state in another country on the other side of the world would think adopting the same approach was a good idea is anyone’s guess.
Concerns have already been flagged by the Tasmanian Gay & Lesbian Rights Group, to the effect that changing existing anti-discrimination laws in this way could result in so-called “hate speech” in the lead-up to (not to mention in the wake of and, presumably, at any other time) the upcoming federal plebiscite on so-called “marriage equality”.
So let me get this straight (no pun intended): religious folk want to change anti-discrimination laws, so that nobody’s allowed to call them names because of a belief system that they choose to follow, because of opinions and viewpoints that they choose to hold and/or because of comments and thoughts that they choose to air on the basis of those opinions and viewpoints, and they want this change to be effective before, during and after a public opinion poll, where it will be compulsory for all Australians to cast a vote, based on their opinion, in response to the question of whether or not they believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Australians—people who haven’t chosen to be who and what they are, they just are—should be ‘allowed’ to have the same right to legally recognised marriage as everyone else… yep, I think that just about sums it up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for freedom of speech. I’m all for every Australian having the right to hold any opinion they please on any topic they choose to hold an opinion on. Equally, I’m all for any laws that expressly forbid that freedom and those opinions from being rendered in the form of hurtful or hateful words and acts.
But exactly who is looking after the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Australians in all of this?
Where is our right not to have the entire country—many of whom probably couldn’t care less one way or the other—dragged into an absurd opinion poll about what they think we should be allowed to do? Where is our right to call in to question the outcome—whatever it may be—of that plebiscite and not be called every name under the sun?
Where is our right not to be told that religious freedom—remember this references a lifestyle choice that these folk make—is more important and has greater validity than our access to the same kind of marriage arrangement as any opposing-gendered couple?
Most importantly, how is any of this not simply extending the reach of all the legalised discrimination that already exists around this topic?
Should we now expect the Tasmanian Government to call for the introduction of similar legislative changes to protect political freedom? There’s certainly some dreadful name-calling when you put Labor and Liberal supporters together in a room. And don’t even get me started on the Greens or One Nation!
Or what about protection of extremist freedom? That is, the freedom to express extreme views and take part in extremist activity without being called names by the general public, or labelled and slandered by the press, or imprisoned or even killed by law enforcement. After all, it would be terrifically unfair if Australia started vilifying people just because it was felt they supported something like, say, the Islāmic State.
While we’re at it, why don’t we crank up a federal plebiscite with the aim of excluding left-handed folk from traditional marriage arrangements? Everyone knows left-handed people are a bit odd, what with how they hold their pens, the weird angle of their handwriting… and have you ever seen one cutting a pumpkin? OMG! Worse still, they could actually influence our right-handed children to become … <GASP> …ambidextrous!
We should probably also plebiscite redheads out of the marriage game too. Gingers, Rangas, call them what you will. Like their left-handed compatriots, they too are most definitely a minority group and everyone knows minority groups—or, indeed, anyone who’s different in any way—can’t be trusted. And Lord knows we certainly don’t need any more pale-skinned, freckly, orange-haired people with sunburn issues clogging up our public health system!
Of course, all of that is quite absurd. Just as absurd as the idea of dressing up discrimination as so-called “religious freedom” which, in turn, would simply condone ongoing discriminatory behaviours, as and when it suits them to do so, from those who would otherwise espouse the virtues of loving their neighbour, treating others as you want to be treated yourself and forgiving anyone anything, just as <deity of choice> would.
“Religious freedom, don’t you know?”, they’d claim. “It’s just what I believe. Please don’t call me names because of it”. Oh, OK then. My bad. I’ll also just forget that you implied I’m somehow less of a human being than you, shall I?
Surely, protecting chosen ideological freedoms must be somewhere in the queue behind the need to protect my right to just be myself and to be treated exactly the same as everyone else? Surely?
Or maybe just not in Tasmania.