Be sure to vote on the is­sue

Shepparton News - - OPINION - BAR­CLAY WHITE bar­clay.white@ shep­p­

When is a de­bate about same-sex mar­riage not about same-sex mar­riage? When Aus­tralia puts the is­sue to a vote.

As the coun­try goes through the need­lessly ex­pen­sive and re­dun­dant postal sur­vey on mar­riage equal­ity, I get a lit­tle bit con­fused at how tra­di­tional mar­riage pro­po­nents want to talk about any­thing other than same-sex mar­riage.

Ac­cord­ing to for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott same­sex mar­riage was ac­tu­ally all about ‘‘po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness’’.

On TV, a com­mer­cial help­fully told me same-sex mar­riage was all about ed­u­ca­tion in schools.

If same-sex mar­riage passes, boys will be al­lowed to wear skirts at school and, ac­cord­ing to se­na­tor Pauline Han­son, chil­dren will be banned from call­ing their par­ents ‘‘mum and dad’’.

Not to be out­done, Tas­ma­nian se­na­tor Eric Abetz warned same-sex mar­riage was a slip­pery slope which would lead to peo­ple mar­ry­ing the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge.

When I read that head­line I had to dou­ble take and make sure I was read­ing a rep­utable news source and not some­thing from the Be­toota Ad­vo­cate.

What’s next? Hu­man sac­ri­fice, dogs and cats liv­ing to­gether, mass hys­te­ria?

The ap­par­ent re­luc­tance of the anti-same-sex-mar­riage cam­paign­ers to talk about same-sex mar­riage is not a mis­take.

Lyle Shel­ton from the Aus­tralian Chris­tian Lobby let the cat out of the bag last month when he said the is­sue of same-sex mar­riage was ‘‘of course not about mar­riage’’.

Ap­par­ently it’s re­ally a ‘‘proxy for the soul of our na­tion’’ which I as­sume he sees as some sort of gen­der­less dystopia where boys can play with Bar­bie dolls and girls are not ex­pected to just cook and clean.

It is clear why he is choos­ing this method. Mr Shel­ton’s back­ground is in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and he knows, ac­cord­ing to years of polling data, the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians are sup­port­ive of same­sex mar­riage.

So rather than at­tempt to change peo­ple’s minds, it’s eas­ier to change the ar­gu­ment.

Peo­ple might be fine with same-sex mar­riage, but they might be less com­fort­able with peo­ple mar­ry­ing cats, or bridges or ban­ning chil­dren from say­ing mum and dad, or what­ever non­sense peo­ple are talk­ing about this week. This is hardly a new tac­tic. In 1999, we looked like we would ditch the Queen and be­come a repub­lic. Then the monar­chists united and said a vote for a repub­lic was ac­tu­ally ‘‘elit­ist’’ and the move­ment was de­feated.

And in 2004, John Howard was seek­ing another term against a resur­gent La­bor op­po­si­tion.

But then he let ev­ery­one know the elec­tion was ac­tu­ally about hous­ing in­ter­est rates.

De­spite no cred­i­ble econ­o­mist back­ing the ar­gu­ment, Mr Howard told the na­tion that the only way to keep in­ter­est rates low was to reelect his gov­ern­ment.

La­bor is guilty of it as much as the con­ser­va­tive side and dur­ing last year’s elec­tion it let loose the lie a re-elected Coali­tion would ac­tu­ally pri­va­tise Medi­care.

There was no proof for the claim, but it gave the ALP a boost in the fi­nal days be­fore polling day.

The slip­pery slope ar­gu­ment is a fal­lacy.

If you be­lieve same-sex mar­riage is a tro­jan horse which will re­de­fine so­ci­ety, then it’s also con­ceiv­able op­po­nents of same-sex mar­riage ac­tu­ally want to ban di­vorce, in­ter-racial mar­riage and le­galise child mar­riage.

Be­cause all that was clas­si­fied as ‘‘tra­di­tional mar­riage’’ once upon a time.

I’m not go­ing to bother to tell you how I will vote on the postal sur­vey.

Odds are you can guess which way I will go on the is­sue and I doubt another opin­ion­ated rant from a jour­nal­ist is go­ing to change any­one’s mind one way or the other.

But I will say this, when it comes time to have your say, if you haven’t al­ready — vote on the is­sue.

It is not about cats mar­ry­ing bridges.

It is not Schools.

It is not about cor­rect­ness.

It is not about who has the right to wear a skirt at school.

It is only about if we should al­low peo­ple to marry who­ever they love. ● Bar­clay White is a jour­nal­ist at The News. about Safe po­lit­i­cal

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