An agenda for the soft despotism of same-sex marriage

During Australia’s debate over same-sex marriage during the 2017 postal plebiscite, politicians gave bland reassurances that nothing would change, that life would go on, that no one could ever be forced to get same-sex-married. What difference could striking out the words “man and woman” and substituting “two people” make?

Well, the debate has come and gone. Same-sex marriage is legal and the changes so far are passing largely unnoticed in the media.

But this doesn’t mean that the issue is over. Far from it. LGBT activists believe that same-sex marriage is just the beginning – and that they have the muscle to force changes. As Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, put it:

Our victory in the marriage equality campaign was the starting point for something even bigger. We discovered that together we are a force -- and a voice -- to be reckoned with; one that had the power to change laws, and change lives.

But the beginning of what? Thanks to Liam Elphick, a legal expert from the University of Western Australia, we now have a comprehensive list of urgently needed changes. He published them in an article in The Conversation earlier this week. It’s a very long list.

  • All relevant State and Federal laws should be amended to explicitly protect intersex status and non-binary gender identity from discrimination.
  • Schools should not be allowed to discriminate against LGBT students, teachers, staff and contract workers. “All LGBTI+ people should be protected from federal discrimination law in religious schools, without qualification.”
  • Competitive sports must not discriminate against LGBTI+ people “on the basis of their gender identity or intersex status”. This means that natal men cannot be excluded from playing on women’s teams. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who is a lesbian, recently had the right words for that: “It’s insane and it’s cheating.”
  • The sex characteristics of intersex children should not be altered without their informed consent. (Elphick claims that intersex people are 1.7 percent of the population based on a book published in 2000– a figure which is almost certainly wildy exaggerated. A critique found that the real figure was closer to 0.018 percent.)
  • Gay conversion therapy should be banned in all States and Territories. Elphick cites a proposal that there should be criminal penalties not only for people who practice conversion therapy, but also for evangelical pastors who refer people for it and “wilfully extol conversion ideology”.
  • No surgery or medical treatment should be required to change one’s sex on a birth certificate. “Many transgender and gender-diverse people choose not to have surgery, or cannot afford it. This should not stop them from obtaining identity documents that match their actual identity,” Elphick contends.
  • The Federal government should prohibit “vilification on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status”.
  • The Federal government should restore funding of Safe Schools programs to prevent “bullying and harassment of LGBTI+ children”.
  • Medicare and private health insurance should cover treatment, including surgery, that transgender and gender-diverse people need to transition to the opposite sex.
  • Because LGBTI people have terrible mental health, they should be able to access rebates for much more than ten sessions with a psychologist per year. The mental health of bisexuals is particularly bad due to, according to a bi advocate, “the double discrimination we face, both from straight people and gay/lesbian folk”.

And there’s more, much more, because “many of us face intersectional and compounding forms of discrimination ... through our age, gender, race, disability or other attributes.”

All these amendments to the law will force non- LGBTI+ folk and their children to change as well, especially people who believe that homosexual activity is morally wrong. In some cases, accommodating them means privileging the LGBTI+ lifestyle. For example, why should they be entitled to unlimited government-funded counselling sessions with a psychologist and not a traumatised migrant?

But most worrying is the impact upon the next generation. Elphick’s laundry list is not only a list of demands to protect the LGBT+ community; its sub-text is also an agenda for re-educating younger Australians so that none of them harbour negative or stigmatizing thoughts. And the most efficient way to do that is controlling what children are taught in schools, both public and private.

Critics of “gay marriage activists” called them totalitarian. The activists dismissed such fears as hateful. And it’s true that the jails are not overflowing with “homophobes” after the plebiscite – but jails for political opponents are anachronisms. As George Orwell foresaw in Nineteen Eighty-Four, totalitarianism and its methods evolve. “The command of the old despotisms was Thou Shalt Not. The command of the totalitarians was Thou Shalt. Our command is Thou Art,” the Party official tells his captive, Winston. “No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean.”

The despotism of “Thou Art” – how prophetic.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.


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