Keilor scar­ring

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

They didn’t dump the call, didn’t con­demn the sen­ti­ment. The fur­thest Jon Faine went was to say, “We’re go­ing to have to agree to dis­agree on that.”

Don from Keilor didn’t mean to be of­fen­sive.

“No qualm with you, Jon. Not at all,” he said. “Just that com­mis­sioner woman.”

Don was re­fer­ring to the Vic­to­rian Equal Op­por­tu­nity and Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sioner, Kris­ten Hil­ton, who was a guest on Faine’s ABC Ra­dio show in Mel­bourne.

A mo­ment ear­lier, Don had cel­e­brated the sys­tem­atic killing of ho­mo­sex­u­als in Nazi Ger­many. This is the tenor of “re­spect­ful de­bate” in this coun­try.

“Hitler had con­cen­tra­tion camps for these gay peo­ple – one of the two good things he did,” the caller said. “The other one was build the au­to­bahn.”

There is no real point to the postal sur­vey on mar­riage equal­ity ex­cept this: it li­cences hate speech and gives plat­form to views that are oth­er­wise so de­spi­ca­ble as to be ab­sent from public de­bate.

The state-sanc­tioned mur­der of same-sex at­tracted peo­ple is not some­thing on which we have to agree to dis­agree. It is a view so ab­hor­rent that in any other set­ting it would be de­nounced. In­stead, it is put to air by the na­tional broad­caster.

The head of the Aus­tralian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shel­ton, does not be­lieve ho­mo­pho­bia “ex­ists much in our coun­try”. He lives in a house with­out mir­rors. Shel­ton is the public face of a cam­paign based on ho­mo­pho­bia.

This en­tire de­bate is an ex­cuse for ho­mo­pho­bia. It be­gan as a stalling tac­tic and grew into an op­por­tunis­tic as­sault on all queer peo­ple. It is not sim­ply an as­sault on same-sex cou­ples; it is an as­sault on queer chil­dren, on trans and non-bi­nary peo­ple, on any­one liv­ing in a way that makes a twisted knot of so­cial con­ser­va­tives feel un­com­fort­able.

This month, the writer Ben­jamin Law re­leased his Quar­terly Es­say on Safe Schools. The pro­gram has be­come a proxy for the de­bate on same-sex mar­riage be­cause it al­lows bad and back­ward peo­ple to de­monise gen­der queer chil­dren. Their safety and their hap­pi­ness is not so much col­lat­eral dam­age as it is am­mu­ni­tion. The cru­elty of this is gen­uinely sick­en­ing.

Law is an im­per­fect ad­vo­cate for mar­riage equal­ity in the same way Shel­ton is a per­fect ad­vo­cate against it, which is to say they are both flawed. The Aus­tralian has be­gun a cam­paign against Law, a trade­mark now in the cul­ture war that plays out in News Corp’s pot­ting shed.

There is no de­fend­ing a joke of Law’s, in which he won­dered if he might “hate-fuck” politi­cians who re­jected mar­riage equal­ity. But the govern­ment has spent more time con­demn­ing this than it has spent con­demn­ing ho­mo­pho­bia. It says a lot about pro­por­tion­al­ity and about val­ues.

There is an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion here: Ben­jamin Law’s joke was crass, but it was a joke. He had no wish to “hate-fuck” any­one. When the “No” case likens same-sex mar­riage to bes­tial­ity or links Safe Schools to pae­dophilia, how­ever, they do so with dead-eyed se­ri­ous­ness. This is what they be­lieve and they want oth­ers to be­lieve.

New leg­is­la­tion seeks to curb spe­cific vil­i­fi­ca­tion in this de­bate. Its very pres­ence goes some way to un­der­scor­ing what is now ob­vi­ous about this point­less sur­vey: that it ex­ists as a com­pro­mise of both pol­i­tics and morals, one more chance for queer lives to be put on trial, for talk­back ra­dio to muse openly on the mur­der of gay peo­ple, for so­cial de­cency to be put on hold so that the past and those who live there might take one more shot and spit in the face of the fu­ture.

Some­times our pol­i­tics can ap­pear hap­less. In this in­stance, though, the tragedy is that it is so very

• de­lib­er­ate.

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