Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Only 61.6% Equal

At the moment, my grandmother is in hospital. She is staying with us after she fell down due to chronic bradycardia - her heart wasn't beating hard enough or fast enough and she collapsed when there wasn't enough blood in her brain. She was given a pacemaker as a result, but because of the risk of her heart misbehaving again, she had to go into care.
My mother was willing to become her carer, so she now lives here. However, a few weeks ago, partially due to the fall and partially due to knee surgery in the past, she had exacerbated a kneecap fracture which started to cause her pain and swelled up like a balloon, so she's in hospital with a splint on her leg.

She is okay, in no pain, but she's very very bored. Hospitals are not fun, so we spend time with her when we can to give her something to get her mind off the fact that she's unable to stand up on her own.
Now, I love my grandmother, and I think she's fun to talk to, but I don't like visiting her in hospital because I'm bored too. The only things we can talk about are either how she's healing (which she doesn't like talking about, because it's boring and she doesn't like dwelling in her own fragility), or all the stuff she can't do since she's in hospital (i.e. pretty much everything else). So, we just end up talking about stuff she's seen on TV, current events, or stuff I'm doing.
Last time I went to spend time with her, it was the 10th of November, just three days after the marriage equality postal survey results had been tallied. So, I talked to her about that.

I thought it was interesting, because she said she voted 'Yes', because she think people should just keep to themselves, and also "Now your brother can get married, I guess". I thought that was pretty sweet. She doesn't really "get it", but she did it for her grandkids, that's cool. But, after we spoke about it, she said.
  "But, it is kind of weird, isn't it?"And, I felt kind of sorry for her. No not in the "pity the close-minded fool" way, but more . . . I really couldn't relate. She wanted to understand, and she was being kind by doing the best for the future, her family and her grandkids even though she herself didn't understand how it helped. But, she still didn't "get it", and didn't know how.
To me, homosexuality just is, it's about as weird as blond hair or vegemite sandwiches - but she's in her eighties now, for the vast majority of her life "gay", "faggot", "sissy" and "nancy boy" were abnormalities to be avoided, or insults to be slung at the weak and the pitiful. I wanted to make her understand, but as much as I can sympathize with her confusion, I can't empathize. I never lived that life. So, I just said to her:
  "I can see how it could be weird to you . . . but, to me, it's not that weird. I've grown up with it just being a part of life. I guess that's all it is, another part of life."
I don't know if that was a satisfying answer for her, in fact I'm pretty sure it wasn't, but it's the best I could do.

So, I get that people may have "issues". Maybe it's weird to some people; perhaps some people don't like the idea of their kids being gay & perhaps some people just don't think the definition of marriage is something that ought to be determined by law instead of retroactively non-polygamous religious terms.
These people are all wrong, but at least I can sort of understand where they are coming from. If I squint, I can see what the issue is. But their issue is not my issue. Their issue can be solved by checking out a dictionary. And since that's something I do quite often on this blog, allow me to indulge you. The Word of the Day is: 'MARRIAGE'

Marriage /'marij/ n. 1. Any of the diverse forms of interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously, or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities. 2. a. Also called opposite-sex marriage. the form of this institution under which a man and a woman have established their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. b. This institution expanded to include two partners of the same gender, as in same-sex marriage; gay marriage3. The state, condition, or relationship of being married; wedlock: They have a happy marriage. 4. The legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of two people to live as a married couple, including the accompanying social festivities: To officiate at a marriage. 5. A relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a marriage, without legal sanction: Trial marriage. 6. Any close or intimate association or union: The marriage of words and music in a hit song. 7. A formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc., for mutual benefit; merger.

But, my issue with the recent vote isn't the definition or the political/legal/religious ramifications. See, my issue with this vote was that it was entirely pointless. At the end of the day, do you know what this vote is essentially changing? Time for a minor history/politics lesson . . .
Once upon a time, in 2004, the Marriage Act in Australia was amended specifically to exclude same-sex marriage from the definition of marriage in Australia. Marriage didn't have a legally binding definition before then, so the Amendment redefined marriage as:
  "The union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."
And, just to be a dick, even added the caveat of disrecognizing foreign same-sex marriages:
  "A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia."

At time of writing, there is a 2017 Marriage Act Amendment Bill going through parliament, supposedly as a direct result of this postal survey. However, ALL that this bill is going to do is change five words to just two:
  "marriage means the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others . . ."
That's kind of it. Apparently, they will also be getting rid of the "same-sex marriages in foreign jurisdictions" line - not that they need to, since it's meaningless by all intents and purposes - and makes allowances for religious celebrants to marry as they see fit.
So, someone added an amendment to the Marriage Act, and we are adding another amendment to remove the effects of that amendment. Cool, but why did we have to spend so much money on this Postal Survey?

Well, it's so that we could finally have the numbers in, right? Isn't that what the survey was for? To determine that we really wanted it? . . . Uh, no.
To begin with, we have known that the majority of Australians have been supportive of gay marriage since 2007. this new result isn't new to me:

The last time we recorded a majority "opposed to marriage equality" vote was the 38% Support, 44% Oppose results found by Newspoll in June, 2004. But, we have known for a damn, long time that most Australians support marriage equality.
Yeah, these numbers fluctuate since they're sample-sizes between 1,000 and 200,000, and they were several years apart in some cases. But, 61.6% . . . this isn't news to me. The numbers fit right into the expected outcomes of every other poll we've had over the last decade.

Okay, sure, maybe we just needed the exact numbers. This is an official, government-sanctioned survey which will affect political outcomes after all, so we need it to be perfect, right?
Yeah, no, that's not true either . . . this was a non-binding postal survey. Do you remember that bill I mentioned, to amend the Marriage Act? The reason it's coinciding with the election results is because of political maneuvering, the actual survey didn't affect it whatsoever. Like I said, it exists to change five words. If the result had been 'No', the bill would have been proposed anyway, because people have been proposing amendments to the Marriage Act ever since they brought in that same-sex exclusive definition, with two separate bills being struck down by the Gillard government in 2011.

So, at the end of all this, after spending over 100 million dollars, what have we gained?

As far as I'm concerned, because I am an incredibly bitter and curmudgeonly sod, all I think we've really gained from this is hardline proof that 38.4% of Australians are Opposed to Equality. Yes, 61.6 is greater than half, more than 50, and that's technically majority; but, 38.4 is greater than a third, more than 33.3. So, over a third of people, when asked if they support same-sex marriage, said No.
Over one-third of the people that live in the same country as me do not believe that people deserve equality. This post is written for those people, because that's the thing that has been bothering me for the last two weeks.
See, even though we've "won" the vote, as it were, these people still exist, and as much as gay marriage proponents would like to think that these people don't matter, and that their discrimination is just impotent rage at this point, they're wrong.

See, do you remember how I mentioned that the law makes allowances for celebrants to marry as they see fit? There is more to that little nugget than I've divulged, and this is part of the Bill which (at time of writing) is currently pending before the Senate.
The Bill proposes to has change the definition of "discrimination" to allow for "ministers of religion, religious marriage celebrants and bodies established for religious purposes" to refuse to provide goods, services or facilities for a marriage ceremony.

Not exactly "marriage equality" when you need to change the definition of discrimination to allow religious people to treat same-sex couples differently, is it?

Nobody should have the right to deny anyone their lawful marriage, that's disgusting - and the law even agreed with me, until the government decided to amend those particular laws.

But, you may think that churches and religious organizations should have the right to practice their religion as they see fit. After all, these are sincerely held beliefs, and nobody should have the right to tell a private institution how it should operate.
Now, you might have a point there . . . however, churches are not private institutions. Religious organizations are not private businesses, they are public businesses, because the government decides who and what is a "religion" by granting recognized religious institutions with tax exemptions. Just as the government provides tax exemption to endorsed charities, not-for-profit businesses & culture, health, science and education organizations - churches are granted tax exemption because they are seen as providing a benevolent, public service. The Australian Tax Office even calls such organizations: "Public Benevolent Institutions"
So, if a church is a "public", "benevolent" institution, it should follow the letter of the law in regards to any government-subvented institution, including those which state one cannot discriminate against anyone, due to their gender, race, age or sexual orientation. To do otherwise is nothing less than institutional discrimination.
If we stop granting churches tax-exemption, then maybe I would change my mind, and treat them like private organizations. I wouldn't like it, but they would have a right to discriminate silently, non-violently, privately and passively - just as I would have the right to publicly boycott them for such discrimination.

I don't see how any church can call itself "benevolent", yet continue to inhibit the safe and healthy relationship of two people in love, all based on Bronze Age bigotry, but much more than that, I don't see how our government could condone, and even support it, financially.

But enough about how we should separate Church and State . . .

What I do want to talk about are the people, those private citizens who I do feel have the right to discriminate. I don't agree with thoughtcrime, and I think that it's good to be able to let people voice their opinion no matter what. I even have some controversial opinions regarding people shouting fire in a crowded theatre, I think that it should be protected, free speech.
You have Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Thought.
So, I want to say to you . . . to everyone Australian whom, when they received their Marriage Equality Postal Vote, ticked the box marked 'No'. Or, to those who wished they could have voted 'no', but where from another country or too young. Or, those who are upset at the majority 'Yes' vote. Or, even just to those who marked 'yes' for some reason other than the belief that same-sex couples out to have equality.
To all of you, I say, I disagree with you. But, not because I think you're stupid or simple or evil or cruel. I disagree with you because you're wrong.
That's not just my opinion, it's based on the fact that homosexuality is completely harmless in every sense of the word, and the fact that every argument I have heard in opposition to that claim of harmlessness, or against homosexuality in general, or just the freedom of such to marry, has been scientifically, logically, factually or sociologically wrong.
If you claim that homosexuals are paedophiles, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuality is a sin, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuals all have anal intercourse, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuality is what gives you HIV/AIDS, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuals have a naturally shorter lifespan, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuality is unnatural, you're wrong.
If you claim that homosexuals can be cured, you're wrong.
And, if you think I am unwilling to listen to your views, you're very wrong.

I am willing to explain my point of view, and I am willing to listen to yours, because I understand that a lot of this comes from fear and loathing, or by being convinced my those who seek to confuse you for their own political or religious ends, or a lack of understanding of the relevant facts.
There do exist people, like my grandmother, who want to understand, but can't find an appropriate format by which to voice their concerns. Either they're worried that they'll be singled out for being "homophobic" or "bigoted"; or, they just don't know the appropriate forum to express their opinions - well, try me. I have a comments section, and other various chatting programs such as Hangouts, Kik & Messenger. You may even try to send me a message through Tumblr.
I only ask that you come with an open mind - and if you want to learn how to do that, my last blog post explained the very simple process of doing that.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and this might seem kind of bitter and negative, but it's just how I feel after this whole Marriage Equality Postal Survey result. I'm sorry if this seems unnecessary to some of you, but the fact of the matter is, when it comes to equality, I don't think that 61.6% is good enough . . .