On August 16th, opponents of same-sex marriage held a "National Day of Marriage" conference at the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Organized by the Australia Christian Lobby*, the National Marriage Coalition, Dads4Kids, and the Australian Family Association, the rally drew approximately 500 attendees, according to Pink News. The gathering was the climax of National Marriage Day, an Australian campaign against same-sex marriage. (See www[dot]marriageday[dot]org[dot]au/)
The Australian Family Association declared the gathering a success on its website, citing quotes against same-sex marriage from speakers. (See www[dot]family[dot]org.au/index.php) As I looked through the quotes from various right-wing speakers, I was struck by how their rhetoric closely resembled that of American anti-LGBT voices: marriage is sacred, children should have a mom and a dad, same-sex marriage will topple the nation, opposite-sex marriage has been the cornerstone of all successful societies, men and women need each other, ad nauseum. Is this resemblance because anti-LGBT activists across the globe network and thus speak the same language? Is it because such activists tend to think within the same paradigms, no matter what their nationality? I don't know.
Among the speakers at the gathering was Queensland MP Bob Katter, who mocked same-sex marriage as something that "deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The article also quoted Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, who said he did not want legislators to take the right to marry away from his four daughters. The "best protection" for his daughters, he claimed, was a relationship with a caring husband. Katter's words angered me, while Joyce's words left me puzzled. LGBT activists across the globe struggle for the right to have same-sex marriages, not to deny marriages to heterosexual couples! To boot, what exactly is he protecting his daughters from? His rhetoric seemed to depict same-sex marriage as somehow a threat to opposite-sex marriage, which it is not.
Another speaker at the National Day of Marriage was Rebecca Hagelin, a right-wing American columnist and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad. During a talk entitled “One Man, One Woman: The Future Of Civil Society”, Hagelin reportedly claimed that same-sex marriage would lead to legalized marriage between children and pedophiles, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. (Any of this sound familiar?) The LGBT rights group Australian Marriage Equality was outraged, condemning Hagelin's homophobic rhetoric.
ABC News (Australia) did a short segment on Hagelin's comments and the uproar they have caused. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
However, the week had its bright points. In the days leading up to August 16th, numerous pro-LGBT rallies took place in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, protesting a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act which forbade same-sex marriage. Also, on August 16th, Galaxy Research released the results of a survey commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality in a report entitled Same-Sex Marriage and Religion. The study found that the majority (53%) of Christian respondents supported marriage equality, demonstrating that many Australian Christian reject homophobia. Not surprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby sneered at the report. (See australianchristianlobby[dot]org[dot]au/2011/08/mr-lobby-dismisses-claim-that-christians-support-same-sex-marriage/)
Australia, like the U.S., has both Religious Right voices condemning LGBT equality, and devoted activists calling for LGBT rights. As struggles between right-wing and progressive values continue in the U.S., they also continue in many other parts of the world.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
Brisbane Times: No Love for Gay Marriage Among Queensland MPs
Pink News: Australian anti-gay marriage rally held as poll finds Christians support equality
Sydney Morning Herald: Anger over rally to ridicule gay marriage
Standpoint: Marriage Equality Debate: Anti-Marriage Equality Rally Held in Canberra
* = As a side note, I was struck by how the goals of the Australian Christian Lobby resembled those of some American Religious Right groups. The Australian Christian Lobby's website states that the organization's vision is to see "Christian principles" accepted in the way Australia is governed, and to have the contributions of Christianity reflected in Australia's political life. (See australianchristianlobby[dot]org[dot]au/about-acl/)