Why Outrage Culture Is Stifling Marriage Equality Debate

MarriageEqualityHello. My name’s Matt and I’m a ranty old man. I’m also gay. Not making a big statement there, but it’s worth reiterating given the issue we’re about to look at.

I’ve probably always had a bit of a rebellious streak about me. I don’t care for the zombie-like drudgery of 9-to-5 culture. I don’t care for things being done for the sake of doing them. I’ve never much cared for pointless or self-appointed authority and I’ve never liked being told what to do, not by anyone.

If there’s one thing I hate even more than being told what to do, it’s being told what I can’t do. I get particularly riled by instructions that serve no clear purpose, or which effectively constitute legalised discrimination.

I don’t much care for relationships either. The idea of being legally and emotionally entangled with one person for the rest of eternity fills me with abject horror. Once marriage equality finally comes to pass, you’re more likely to find me hitching up my skirts and heading for the hills at the merest suggestion of nuptials.

But choosing not to enter into the solemn bonds of the sanctity of marriage is an entirely different proposition to not having the choice to enter into them at all.

Tell me it can’t happen because it’s physically or scientifically impossible and I’ll walk away from the whole thing as something that would be illogical to expend energy and emotion on. Tell me it can’t happen because it doesn’t fit with some fundamentally misunderstood and selectively remembered “traditional definition” and you’ll have a fight on your hands.

Bottom line: the only people who will ever be directly and materially impacted by the passing or defeating of a marriage equality bill are gay couples who want to marry. Stuff their family and friends! Sure they know the couple and they want to see them happy, yada yada yada… that’s all well and good, but none of it makes the situation theirs. The couples themselves are the only ones missing out. The way the outraged generation have inserted themselves into every orifice of this debate – as with so many others – has only muddied the waters of something that should be criminally simple.

So no more debate, please! It’s way past the point of having become counter-productive.

As if the endless debate hasn’t been damaging enough, the outraged generation  – in tandem with the media’s predisposition to all things ‘equality’ – is now unashamedly shutting down proponents of traditional marriage. That’s definitely no good thing. While it may appear that marriage equality is the topic of the moment for supporters, for those who never had a strong opinion either way, or for anyone open-minded enough to have revised their position, that doesn’t mean it really is, nor that everyone feels the same way.

Just as it would be unacceptable to cajole everyone into having the same beliefs on any other issue, it’s equally unacceptable to turn supporters of traditional marriage into social pariahs. Imagine the uproar if the shoe were on the other collective foot and it was the marriage equality lobbyists being summarily silenced – oh, the online outrage that would ensue! Even now, I can see all the melodramatic hashtags representing all the things that most hashtag users would never actually say in real life.

Let’s call a spade a spade: anyone with any significant concern about homosexuality is thinking far more about intimate acts between consenting adults than they’re willing to admit. But I’ll never ask them anything about what happens in their bedrooms, so I don’t expect them to be concerned about what happens in mine. I don’t define anyone by the where, when, who and how often of their sex life, just as I don’t expect anyone else to define me by the same narrow criteria.

At any rate, this debate isn’t about sex, so the viewpoints of anyone whose position** is rooted** in sex are entirely irrelevant. And that’s not me contradicting what I just said, either, it’s simply my position on theirs. They’ve as much right to their points of view as I have to dismiss them. I don’t attempt to silence them and I don’t vehemently argue against them. I simply dismiss them, in my own way, as respectfully as I can.

Because, as a gay man, realistically I can’t give a damn what supporters of traditional marriage think about marriage equality. That they support traditional marriage tells me all I need to know and that’s an end to it. Any finer points and qualifying comments are moot at best. Equally, we don’t need the topic debated to within an inch of its life by those who espouse the virtues of equality by quoting report after report, case study after case study and an endless list of ‘real world examples’ that support why marriage equality must be embraced as a good thing.

I don’t necessarily want the whole world to think marriage equality is a good thing. I don’t necessarily want the opposite either but, more importantly, I don’t want to live in a world where everyone thinks the same thing as everyone else. And I don’t want to live in a world where public opinion is not just influenced but determined by journalists and social media. I want to live in a world where it’s still OK that some people prefer dogs to cats, some prefer Samsung to Apple, some prefer Vegemite to Peanut Butter and some prefer Holden to Ford. I want to live in a world where it’s OK for some boys to prefer marrying boys than girls and some girls to prefer marrying girls than boys. Choice is a good thing. Acceptance is even better.

But let’s keep one critical point in mind with all of this: just because a marriage equality bill passes doesn’t mean automatic acceptance. It doesn’t mean that discrimination will end. Legalising something isn’t synonymous with everything becoming all rainbows, flowers and sunshine.

Today, worldwide, minority groups of all descriptions are discriminated against; many Australians are still, by and large, racist – or at least xenophobic; our indigenous population is still widely discriminated against; some Australians are ageist; some don’t like people of a different colour or religion; granting Australian women and indigenous people the legal right to vote had to go to a referendum; gays and lesbians broke the law every time they had sex until as recently as the mid-1980s; otherly-abled Australians are often discriminated against in a variety of ways; Australian women still apparently struggle for equal pay; indigenous Australians are still in debate with the federal government about how – or even if – they should be represented in the Constitution. Discriminating against anyone on any of these bases is already illegal, but the illegality of the act does nothing to quell the emotion behind it. Prejudice is driven by emotion, not logic, and discrimination and prejudice are everywhere.

Ultimately, some people just don’t like homosexuals, for whatever reason, nor the idea of homosexuals polluting the ‘traditional definition’ of marriage. A marriage equality bill isn’t going to change that. You can’t make people think, feel or believe something they don’t. Passing something into law isn’t a magic potion.

But like anything else that suffers from overexposure, people will eventually switch off – and overexposed is absolutely what the marriage equality issue has become. It needs to be resolved far sooner than the Abbott Government is currently saying it will be. It needs support from as many people as are willing to raise their hand in its support. But the one thing it absolutely doesn’t need is any more debate.



** double entendre not initially intended, but warmly embraced and enthusiastically acknowledged!