I went to university with this gay bloke I hated.
Hate's perhaps a strong word. As a kid, my mother used to tell me there was no such thing as "hate". "You can't actually 'hate' anyone," Mum said. "You just dislike them." Sounds fair enough, I thought. So I didn't hate this bloke. But I did come to dislike him intensely.
I got really worried that I was homophobic, because I didn't like him. I did a lot of thinking about it. I thought about other gay people I knew, some through uni, some through the theatre scene that I'd been getting into. I liked them well enough, they were good people.
I thought about this bloke, and how he was different. It irked me that he repeatedly used his sexuality to avoid being expelled from uni for poor grades. I used to take notes for people with a disability at uni - after each lecture I'd photocopy my copious notes and leave them in a folder for the anonymous recipient. One day I mentioned I did this, and the bloke laughed and thanked me for doing it, because he was signed up for it, and meant he didn't have to take his own notes. When I looked shocked, he said he had ADD anyway, so it was OK.
I realised that I didn't like the bloke - not because he was gay - because he was an asshat.
Having the realisation that gay people were people too, hence some could and would be asshats, was incredibly freeing. I didn't have to over-compensate and say "I LOVE gay people!", as if I were competing in some sort of non-existent gay-friendly competition. I could just go about my business, encountering others as I went, and simply interact with them as human beings. I could apply general principles regarding the human race to all minorities within that race. Some people are always going to be asshats. But by and large, most human beings are good people. QED.
I've often thought perhaps it's embarrassing that I had to go through that period of application of logic and reason.
But given the events unfolding around the issue of civil unions in Queensland, I’m wondering if it’s not happening enough. If we apply some logic, maybe things might make a bit more sense.
Late last year, the Queensland parliament, dominated by Labor, passed a civil partnerships bill. It would allow any couple, regardless of gender, to enter a civil partnership (commonly referred to as civil unions), receive legal protection as next-of-kin, and to have a state-sanctioned ceremony if they chose.
I covered the parliamentary debate the night the private member’s bill went before the House. The Liberal National Party, then in opposition, put forward a block opposition, describing the legislation as a stunt.
Now there were certainly questions to be asked about the legislation. Why did it have to be a private member’s bill, not a government policy? Why was it left to the closing months of the government’s term, as they faced a likely defeat at the next state election?
But regardless, the then-government’s majority saw the bill passed, and what you might call the “heart” of the legislation won the day. Gay people could have their relationship legally recognized and celebrated. It wasn’t marriage, but it was something.
Jump to last week. After a landslide victory in the March state election, the LNP announced its plans to change the civil unions legislation.
Some thought they would completely repeal the laws; but instead, Premier Campbell Newman announced the unions would remain, but the provision for ceremonies would be removed. That was the part that had most upset Christian groups (predominantly the very public Australian Christian Lobby), because the ceremonies were seen to “mimic” marriage, which to them was only between a woman and a man.
At the start of this parliamentary week, the LNP indicated the civil union changes would not be introduced for debate. But then, late on Wednesday afternoon, the media gallery was informed they would be brought in that evening, and would then be prioritized for debate and voting a day later.
There were also more changes – the name “civil partnerships” would be dumped in favour of “registered relationships”, and any split would no longer have to go through the courts, as that “mimicked divorce”. Instead, couples could “de-register” through the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Debate began after dinner on Thursday evening. After five hours, around 12:30 this morning, the bill was passed.
But something else happened during the debate. Around 10:20pm, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told the house the state government would in the near future introduce changes to current altruistic surrogacy laws, to remove access to it for gay couples, singles, and de facto partners of less than two years.
This was out of the blue. The LNP hadn’t liked the 2010 Surrogacy Act, but Campbell Newman had indicated before the election that no changes were planned. One could speculate that more conservative LNP members have put the pressure on to act.
It’s very easy to jump on this and decry bigotry, homophobia and other manifestations of the simple truth of fear. I’m sure commentators better than me could do that more eloquently. But as my rather long-winded introduction hopefully illustrated, I once applied logic and reason to a situation, and it helped. So I’d like to try it again.
Let’s give LNP members, religious people and any other opponents the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume they want to retain a male/female marriage as a societal ideal, best placed for the rearing of children, simply because they truly think it’s the most advantageous.
If this were the case, logic would dictate that society would naturally funnel its way towards that “ideal”.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve looked at your Facebook page recently, but mine is dominated by straight couples getting married/having children. Occasionally some split up, because these things happen. Now and then there’s a gay friend, carrying out life generally as a regular human being, just dating/partnering with someone of the same sex.
That’s anecdotal, of course, but 2011 census data released yesterday shows that the majority of Australians aged 15 and over are married.
Family composition figures have remained steady as well, with 45 per cent of Australians describing themselves as a couple with kids. One could draw from this conclusion that marriage to beget children is still going strong.
Anti-gay marriage, anti-civil unions, anti-gay surrogacy proponents can take heart - you’re fighting a war you’ve already won.
Gay people are people too. People who want to get married – like you.
Congratulations! I’m a straight woman with fine examples of heterosexual marriage all around me, and my partner of 12 years and I have not made that step. How are we more in tune with the social ideal than a gay couple who want to make that pledge?
If marriage is too huge a step, at least initially, what is wrong with a ceremony that “mimics” marriage? Don’t they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
And surrogacy. I could not find any statistical information about the number of Queenslanders who’ve used altruistic surrogacy since it was legalized in 2010. But I would wager it’s a relatively small number. Even if all of them were gay, I don’t think the state is facing massed armies of surrogate mothers waiting to birth a new homosexual agenda.
Gay people are people too. People who want to have children – like you.
I’ve yet to make the choice to have a child – and I apparently could, reasonably easily, barring unforeseen fertility issues. Many heterosexual couples/singles get surprisingly knocked up every day. Unplanned, perhaps unwanted, pregnancies. How are we more valuable than a gay couple and a female friend who go to all that trouble for a kid? Do we value biology more than wisdom?
I had the “cherished” family unit of a mother and a father. In my case, it was functional and supportive. But is that because my parents were one man and one woman? Or because they were good people, who committed to doing the best they could for their (often ungrateful) children – and weren’t asshats?
If the logic allowed a refocusing from sexuality and gender to “good person versus asshat”, the perhaps some of these opponents would see is that what gay people really want – is to be like them.
And it's true. Some gay relationships are not going to make it. Some gay people are going to be lousy parents. But again, that's like you too.
As a journalist, I’m supposed to simply report facts. What I’ve tried to do here is remove excessive emotion. I refuse to get angry and attack the state and its leaders as backwards or bigoted. It’s ultimately futile.
I believe Queensland is a good state, where the good people outnumber the asshats. And I think if more people sat back, realized what they didn’t like was asshats, not gay people, but that asshats remain thankfully a minority, then we might all start to get along.