Be sure to vote on the issue

September 16, 2017

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

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 same-sex 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 same-sex 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 re-elect 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 about Safe Schools.

It is not about political 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.

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