Spotlight on Political Bigotry

The best way I know to combat bigotry is to shine a spotlight on it. I was at the debate on Civil Partnerships at Queensland Parliament House this week (30/11/2011).  Several of the comments had me holding my hand to my mouth in horror.  Many had me laughing they were so outrageous.

Politicians’ bigotry should not be hidden away in Hansard where few people will read it.  It should be out in the open and freely circulating so that voters can find it easily when searching for information on their local candidates.

Perhaps the worst speech of the night came from Chris Foley, member for Maryborough.  There were others and you can read them on Hansard.

Margaret Keech, member for Albert, gave a particularly cloying defence of bigotry in which she managed to insult just about everyone by drawing an analogy between the strength of Christians’ ownership of traditional marriage and the strength of Aborigines’ commitment to the land. Ms Keech’s decision to vote against the bill was particularly odious in view of the fact she, reportedly, has a gay son.

But, let us move on to Mr Chris Foley, the Independent MP for Maryborough.

Mr Foley began with the all too familiar ‘some of my best friends are gay/black/jewish’ canard which is inevitably followed by a stream of homophobic/racist nonsense. He didn’t waver from the formula.

“I have a number of gay friends who I see regularly—” said Foley.

This brought a predictable groan from both his fellow MPS and from the gallery.

“Two of our lifelong friends are a young lesbian couple who have just had a baby. We visited them in hospital and wished them well with their baby.”

But Foley doesn’t think his friends’ baby should have the protection of parents with a legally recognised partnership.

He continued (though he really shouldn’t have):

“The first time I met one of my best friends who comes to visit me regularly in parliament was in a former life when I was a full-time piano bar singer. He tried to pick me up. He would be one of the gayest people I have ever met in my life. I will never forget the first time he came in. He had the handbag, the lipstick and everything going on—”

There was a collective gasp from the floor and the gallery.  The gayest person he had ever met in his life????  I think that’s when my hand involuntarily flew up to my mouth.

There was such outrage at this remark the speaker had to call for order.

Yet, Foley blundered on:

“This particular gentleman has been a friend of mine for over 30 years. He has since changed his mind in terms of relationships and has gone on to marry his wife and they have four children. I want to tell members that he was a very good friend of mine when he was gay and now that he is straight he has also continued to be a very good friend of mine.”

Yes, Mr Foley, so you suggest that all those damned homosexuals up in the public gallery should just ‘change their minds’ and marry someone of the opposite sex instead?  Did it ever occur to you that this ‘friend’ (if he exists) is bisexual? Or homosexual and repressing his sexuality?  There are many homosexuals in the community who are, or who have been married with children.  That doesn’t make them straight, Mr Foley.  Nor does it make them happy, whole, or psychologically well adjusted. Note that Foley doesn’t mention his friend is ‘happily‘ married.

Next, Foley launched artlessly into the ‘slippery slope’ argument:

“Where do you stop when you change the time-honoured principle of the way relationships have always been? How do we then say polygamy is wrong when someone has more than one wife? How do we then say polyandry—where a woman chooses to have more than one husband—is not an appropriate relationship? How do we say polyamory—where there are multiple relationships—is wrong? There has been lobbying from all sides on the issue. I must admit that I had to reach for a dictionary when some of these terms were presented to me during the hearing.

It is my contention that one of the dangers of this bill at law is that, once you start to move away from traditional marriage relationships, you set yourself adrift on a sea without an anchor and anything goes. We start to push the boundaries a little towards people having all sorts of totally strange ideas.”

And, of course, having used all the usual cliches, Foley brings it home by casting Christians as the true victims in the debate:

“When I look at this argument I am very concerned that Christians are often portrayed as being hateful or spiteful towards gay people in particular. I just do not see that to be true in the Christians that I know. They have nothing but love and grace towards people regardless of their orientation. In some respects I believe that this has become an ipso facto referendum on whether Christianity is some sort of bigoted and uncaring religion. “

Yes, Mr Foley.  The Christians opposing civil unions and same-sex marriage are so loving and caring they ignore the evidence that homosexuality is not chosen and cannot be changed.  They ignore the evidence that psychological distress and suicide attempts are astronomically higher in the gay community than the general population. They close their ears to expert opinion that this is linked to discrimination against the gay community. Gay teenagers are killing themselves, but the good Christians think it is more important that their sensibilities about marriage are preserved.

And why would a gay teen kill themselves? Because Christians, Mr Foley, are telling them they are less than equal, not normal, and sinful in the eyes of God. Because Christians, Mr Foley are telling them they can change (when they know they cannot). Christians equate homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality when what most homosexuals want is simply a loving, monogamous relationship with a consenting adult partner – the same as the rest of us. And then Christians tut-tut and shake their heads when gay teens are bullied at school – completely denying the fact that it is their attitudes which precipitate such behaviour.

Christians are telling gay teens the only way they can have a ‘normal’ family life is to deny their sexuality and marry someone of the opposite sex – ruining not only their life, but, potentially, that of their spouse and any children of that misgotten union. And if they choose not to marry, Mr Foley, your good Christian friends tell them, “That’s okay, providing you never have an intimate sexual relationship or have children.”  How would you have felt, Mr Foley, if you had been told that as a vulnerable teenager?

What’s more these bigoted, homophobic Christians even ignore the fact that other Christians, reading from the same holy book, following the same Christ and worshipping the same god find no problems whatsoever with civil unions or same-sex marriage.  It never occurs to them for one moment that there might be a kinder, more humane way of looking at things – they are too preoccupied shoring up their own prejudice.

But none of that figures on Mr Foley’s radar.  He concludes:

“As a matter of conscience I cannot support the legislation, but I do so with a struggle in my heart and I wish no ill feeling towards people who share a different point of view.”

And my response? My fat arse you don’t, Mr Foley!

The people of Maryborough should be shocked and embarrassed to have a representative who apparently did no research whatsoever into homosexuality before voting on the bill.  Instead,  Foley based his decision on his own ignorance and bigotry and then had the unmitigated hide to display that ignorance proudly ‘for the record’.

Let us pause for a moment and contrast Foley’s stance with that of my local MP, Peter Wellington.  Mr Wellington is no screaming lefty.  He was once a member of the National Party, now an independent. He is also a Christian. This is how someone who has done the research and approached the question openly and honestly viewed the question of civil unions:

Mr Wellington began by reading some correspondence, for and against the bill, from members of his constituency.  Then he read a notice he had received from the Australian Family Association – a conservative Christian lobby group:

“This is an interesting one from the Australian Family Association. It is headed ‘Campaign to target MPs who support Civil Partnerships Bill’. It states—

An Australian Family Association leaflet campaign will target any MPs who back the controversial Civil Partnerships Bill,
scheduled for a tight vote in the Queensland parliament next week.

MPs who support the Civil Partnerships Bill can expect churches everywhere to help letterbox their electorates with leaflets similar
to those the AFA distributed in the seat of Capricornia in recent weeks (see below) though in this case the leaflet will conclude …‘When you vote … place___ MP last!’

Now Wellington began to roar:

“I do not agree with the Australian Family Association’s view that this bill is attacking the institution of marriage or is introducing same-sex marriage to Queensland. The God I believe in does not threaten or intimidate people who may have a different view. I say tonight to the Australian Family Association and to the other people who have contacted my office and threatened to campaign against me: I will vote for what I think is right and just, and I will not be intimidated, whoever you are. I will support this bill.

I do not wear my Christianity like a badge on my chest, but the God I know would never sanction behaviour that threatens people cruelly because of their genetic make-up.

… I believe this bill will simply provide for a registry whereby eligible heterosexual and homosexual couples in relationships can apply for registration as a civil partnership. I will be supporting the bill. As an Independent, I am proud that I am able to vote according to what I believe is right and just. I am not intimidated by anyone or any interest group.”

Contemptibly, the Liberal National Party not only voted as a bloc against the bill, they did so at the direction of their unelected leader, Campbell Newman who has put on record his support for same-sex marriage. Further, they did not even have the courage to explain their personal objections to the bill – only one representative for the LNP spoke against the bill, the rest sat silent.

People of Queensland should be aware that Newman and several of his MPs put aside what they knew and even acknowledged to be right in order to make a political point.  A sharp contrast to Peter Wellington who may well lose his seat for doing the right thing.

Those who voted against the bill were:

—Bates, Bleijie, Choi, Crandon, Cripps, Cunningham, Davis, Dempsey, Dickson, Douglas, Dowling, Elmes, Emerson, Flegg, Foley, Gibson, Hobbs, Hopper, Horan, Johnson, Keech, Knuth, Langbroek, McArdle, McLindon, Malone, Menkens, Miller, Nicholls, Powell, Pratt, Robinson, Seeney, Simpson, Springborg, Stevens, Stuckey, Wilson.

Look for the name of your local MP in that list and consider, before casting your vote in the next state election, whether you want to vote for someone who puts what is right above what is politically expedient.  Consider whether you want to vote for someone who does not support the full equality of all Queenslanders.

Chrys Stevenson

Source:  Hansard report on Civil Partnerships debate.

To thank Peter Wellington for his support of the Civil Partnerships bill email:  nicklin@parliament.qld.gov.au

15 thoughts on “Spotlight on Political Bigotry

  1. Jayel

    Hi Chrys

    Another interesting article. It must have been wonderful to be there to witness the bill being passed.

    Re the LNP: The recent article about an Australian woman living in Portugal being blocked from marrying her female partner because the Australian government refused to issue a no impediment document had me simultaneously in tears at her plight, aghast at the effrontery of our petty-minded government and my blood boiling at the cruelty. This prompted me to write an email to my local member, Bruce Flegg, saying I hoped he would have the guts to vote to end the discrimination against same-sex attracted people in the upcoming vote for the civil unions bill. Below is the response I received – make of it what you will.

    “The Beattie/Bligh/Fraser Labor government has been in office for 20 years.
    With only eight parliament days left before an election, Andrew Fraser
    plucked a major piece of legislation out of the air to consume the debate on
    the last days of the parliamentary term. This is a cynical political ploy
    that uses people such as yourself, who are genuinely concerned one way or
    another about the issue of civil unions, as political toys. Because of the
    panicked timeframe, it also denies the community the opportunity to examine
    and discuss it.

    For example, this legislation amends 21 different laws in Queensland!

    It not only deals with same sex relationships but introduces a third type of
    heterosexual relationship being a civil union between a man and a woman
    which is a further type of union on top of the already existing unions of
    marriage and de facto marriage.

    The legislation also has significance as to what sort of issues can be dealt
    with by the federally controlled Family Court.

    The LNP has taken a decision that this is not an appropriate way to deal
    with this issue and has therefore decided that all LNP Members will oppose
    the Bill.”

    My reply:

    “Regardless of the reasons for the introduction of the bill, it would reflect
    well upon the Liberal party if it took this opportunity to occupy the moral
    high ground and address the issue for what it is – one of redressing what
    amounts to nothing less than discrimination on the basis of sexual
    orientation. Unfortunately, it seems that political considerations take
    precedence over human rights. This is an extremely disappointing stance to
    take.

    However, you say that you do not believe the Labor bill is the way to deal
    with the issue of same-sex marriage. This suggests that the LNP
    has a better way of dealing with it, so I would be grateful if you could
    direct me the documented LNP’s policy/approach for a better way of
    redressing this discrimination.”

    I’m still waiting…

    Reply
  2. roberttobin

    The Ghost of Old JOH is still haunting Parliament House, Briabane. I saw it when I was an extra in a movie shoot in the old Legislative, Council Chamber.

    Reply
  3. Gary Walker

    Thank you, Chrys.

    On behalf of all of the Gay/Les/Bi/Trans people in the USA… I applaud you.

    Thank you for being an intelligent voice of reason for a just and noble cause.

    I wish the USA could put politics and all of that silly nonsense aside. Just do what is right and proper and admirable.

    The USA is a mighty nation in many ways but we are very lax in setting good moral examples.

    Bless you, sweet woman.

    Reply
  4. cushla geary

    Thank you, Chrys, for your ferocious championing of this issue. I just wish there was some liklihood of its becoming a legislative issue in my own state.
    I am not, myself, gay – but I have very dear gay friends, and have watched them struggling with this issue, which should be so simple, for a long time. Now one couple is old, with one of the partners nearing the end of her life, and still they have to battle the law’s inadequacies to do for each other’s future security, what I, a heterosexual person, simply take for granted.
    This is not right, it is not just, and IT IS NOT ON!!!

    Reply
    1. Phil Browne

      Cushla thanks for your compassion on this issue. Have you considered approaching your state MP and asking them to put forward a Bill? If your MP was not supportive, you could approach other MP’s. I don’t know which state you live in, but I assume you know that Tas, Vic, NSW and ACT all have Civil Unions. Just today the ACT has introduced legislation to upgrade their Civil Unions, I think to allow the incorporation of a ceremony. Good luck.

      Reply
  5. Phil Browne

    Another superb article Chris and I loved reading your comments. I have been horrified at the filth and discrimination coming out of the mouths of some MP’s – especially Jarrod Bleijie and Chris Foley.

    I have heard the LNP is recruiting your people straight from fundamentalist bible school to promote their extremist right-wing views. With some of the things I have heard from one particular young MP, I believe this is likely to be correct.

    As I said today to MX newspaper, some of our MP’s need to get their noses out of their bibles and realise we are a secular country and they are running Qld and not their local church.

    These politicians make me feel ill. Thank you for all your efforts for equality – very much appreciated.

    Reply
  6. crazyhorse

    ” .. the God I know would never sanction behaviour that threatens people cruelly because of their genetic make-up.” @ Peter Wellington, cited above.

    While there is overwhelming evidence homosexuality is innate in almost all homosexuals, there is minimal evidence it is genetic and, if so, only in a small proportion.

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      I don’t have time to research this thoroughly at the moment, but a quick look at scholarly articles suggests that genetics is widely considered as one, but probably not the only, factor leading to homosexuality. It may be that there is a biological or genetic predisposition to homosexuality which may be exacerbated by other factors (e.g. hormonal/environmental). Given that Wellington was not giving a lecture on biology, I think we can fairly safely assume his ‘short-hand’ method of ascribing homosexuality to biology rather than choice is more accurate than not.

      Reply
      1. Michael Barnett

        This sort of discussion presumes that heterosexuality is “right” and homosexuality is “wrong”, from a biological perspective. How about we take the view that both are right and there are variations on how sexuality is expressed, just like hair colour, or handedness etc.

        It makes me uneasy when people (not saying anyone here is) assume that heterosexual is the default sexual orientation, with any variation from this being inferior/different/broken/less (you know what I mean).

        Michael.

      2. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Michael, as you know, no such suggestion was meant or implied. One may have a genetic predisposition to red hair or blue eyes. It does not mean that there is anything inferior/broken/or less about someone having red hair or blue eyes nor that being blonde or brunette (or green-eyed or brown-eyed) should be the default hair (or eye) colour.

        Nor is it a slight to suggest some environmental factor. I was ‘born’ ambidextrous with a tendency to write with my left hand (although not exclusively). When I wrote with my left-hand during class, my teacher hit me over the head with a book. That ‘environmental factor’ may have caused me to abandon my slight preference for writing with the left hand, and allowed my right hand to dominate. Instead, other elements in my character caused me to think (in Grade One language) “Fuck her!” and I henceforth refused to write with anything BUT my left hand. I now call myself left-handed – and believe that is my genetic predisposition – although I may well have ‘swung’ the other way. In no way, though, do I consider my ‘left-handedness’ a ‘choice’.

      3. Michael Barnett

        My handedness has been fluid all my life. My parents advised me when I was younger that I initially was left-handed. At some stage before I was about 9 or 10 I was encouraged (gently, nor forcefully) to try to learn to write with my right hand, with the explanation given that it would be easier for me. I did in fact learn to right with my right hand and that became the hand I preferred to write with. However they also encouraged me (this will sound weird) to keep practicing to use my left hand to write, as an exercise, presumably so I could do it. And I did practice, and it wasn’t so easy, but I can do it. You can tell my dominant hand if you look at my writing.

        I can use a mouse in either hand (prefer left these days, but did that initially to deter people who wanted to use my desk and who put my mouse in a different place to where I liked it to be). I can use chopsticks with either hand (prefer right), can pour a box of breakfast cereal better with my left hand than my right (requires fine motor control), and a variety of other things such as using a saw, a screwdriver, or stirring a pot, better with my left hand than my right.

        So this is interesting that environment has strongly influenced my handedness. However it hasn’t had the slightest influence on my sexual orientation. Hormones in the womb might be the most likely explanation if genetics aren’t. I don’t need an explanation however and don’t really mind if one isn’t found. It is interesting, and as an academic exercise I’d be curious to understand the mechanism behind determining sexual orientation, but I don’t want to see people try to “fix” it, because it’s not broken. I am a fully functioning male, capable of procreation and if I want to have a child, I can, just not with my partner. 🙂

      4. Michael Barnett

        Chrys, there has been some inconclusive research done hypothesizing a connection between handedness and sexual orientation. An interesting observation, of my three previous partners (makes me sound like I get around…) two have been left-handed, and I have a strange handedness that might have been left-dominant. I don’t recall the handedness of the one other partner. I don’t know if is proves anything other than I might be attracted to left-handed men. 🙂

  7. Phil Browne

    I have just watched the full webcast of the debate and vote in Parliament. Yes Peter Wellington was fabulous and I loved the way he remained secular despite his Christian beliefs, and his harsh criticism for the Family Association. I was surprised and thrilled to hear Peter read in Parliament the letter I sent him (discussing how civil unions will provide certainty re Next of Kin status in emergency medical situation) asking him to support the Bill. Another friend also had an MP read her letter too.
    It’s great to see supportive MP’s who do take seriously the correspondence we send them..

    Reply

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