The right were absolutely appalled at the insinuation that Australia couldn’t have a respectful debate about marriage equality - incensed at the very notion that they couldn’t be polite and thoughtful while arguing that homosexuals are irresponsible deviants who are incapable of raising children and don’t deserve the same rights as straight people. In a surprising (read: unsurprising) turn of events, it turns out that respectful debate was a little bit too much to ask, and 2016 was littered with exactly the sort of insane reactionary bullshit they said they wouldn’t do.
The issue of “respectful debate” was particularly contentious thanks to one of the primary arguments against the same-sex marriage plebiscite: that the negative impact of a public debate over marriage equality would be deleterious to the mental health of LGBT youth. While this proved to be an extraordinarily difficult concept for conservatives to wrap their minds around, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, for an already at-risk group, being forced to experience an endless stream of ads and billboards and TV debates and conversations about whether or not you were a first- or second-class citizen would only further make you doubt not just the legitimacy of your place in society, but also your worth.
But this was not a concern for the opponents of same-sex marriage, either they denied the validity of the frightening statistics about the suicide rate in young LGBT people, they didn’t see how the debate could exacerbate it, or, worryingly, they did not care. Why would you let something as trivial as teenagers killing themselves get in the way of your ideological crusade to stop anyone whose relationship is identical to yours from enjoying marriage?
The Australian, that bastion of traditional journalism whose editorial position on everything seems to be determined by whatever allows them to punch down the most, fell on the classic wholesome “Well, gays aren’t really people, are they?” side of the fence. Through rouge-loving, BDSM aficionado Bill Leak and a series of preternaturally perturbed columnists, they staunchly argued that what people failed to understood about the gay marriage debate is that gay sex is gross and that they actually hated Will and Grace.
Not content to the let the year end with only the dozens and dozens of shitty takes and cartoons they published on paper that could have been better used for literally anything else, they decided to shunt one more atrocious article through the content hole, this time from an Australian rabbi named Shimon Cowen, who argues that homosexuality is a sickness that runs contrary to every person’s soul and conscience. Respectful debate, friends.
In his article, rather cockily titled “The real problem with same-sex marriage”, Cowen says that the problem with the same-sex marriage debate is that we’ve created a society that falsely posits that a person is granted personhood when we indulge their “impulses” - the impulse here, of course, being that of homosexuality. According to Cowen, by default man (or, indeed, woman) intrinsically desires heterosexual marriage, but certain influences can draw us away from this one true path: “bodily temperament and disposition, psychological trauma and from ideological cultures which advocate for it.”
I’m not 100% certain I read that correctly, but I believe he’s saying that being gay comes from PDST, TV shows, and irritable bowel syndrome. Cowen also argues that, statistically, homosexual marriages are more “unstable”, which seems like a whole heap of bullshit, given that a major large-scale study of same-sex marriage in the US found that the divorce rate for gay couples is actually around half that of straight couples, but, hey, why let statistics stop you when you’re having fun.
In a power move right out of the 1950s, Cowen also puts forward the idea that banning gay conversion therapy (a process that not only has been found to have little to no efficacy whatsoever, but has also been demonstrably linked to an increased risk of depression and suicide) is an affront to personal autonomy, and that we should, of course, be allowing people who’ve been shamed by bigots into believing that they are aberrant seek a treatment that will not help them and also make them feel worse.
Oddly, towards the end of the article, he also seems to agree with the surprisingly pro-LGBT idea that sexuality is naturally somewhat fluid: “The re-education needed to support the ideology of same-sex marriage is seen in the “Safe Schools” program, which models “sexual diversity” to susceptible children, of which 25 per cent have as-yet fluid sexual identity, and would otherwise overwhelmingly settle into heterosexuality.”
Not sure where he’s getting that statistic from, but I’m glad we agree on something: most people only end up heterosexual because society forces them to.
Respectfully debate my ass.