It’s inevitable that the debate on same sex marriage, which has reached a new level since the passage in Queensland last week of the Civil Partnerships Bill and the decisions of the ALP National Conference on the weekend, will be a political one. To date, some of the least edifying contributions to that debate have occurred when it has been framed in a manner which is Political in the partisan sense, and consequently, also over-personalised. (Rodney Croome‘s distasteful speculation about Julia Gillard’s “real” views is one representative instance.)
In a previous post on the ALP Conference, Kim cited Labor Senator John Faulkner:
It is not for governments to grant human rights but to recognise and protect them. Human rights can never be at the mercy of individual opinion or individual prejudice … A conscience vote on human rights is never conscionable.
The missing step in Faulkner’s oration is that many need to take a journey to reach the recognition that marriage equality constitutes an instance of a universal human right. In other words, the separation between secular and faith values also requires a parallel recognition that civic and human values may clash with personal values (which may or may not be informed by faith).
In a much less abstract way, this process of decision making is something with which Irfan Yusuf wrestles in a piece published in The Drum today.
Yusuf counterposes two propositions:
I believe in the existence of a Creator. I believe my Creator sent various wonderful people to spread His message. Here’s a few of them: Moses, Abraham, Noah, David, John the Baptist and Jesus.
(And in case you’re wondering, I’m not generally regarded as a Christian.)
One of the things I believe God taught was that human sexuality needs to be regulated. Heterosexual sex outside of marriage is a no-no. Homosexual sex is a no-no. Desire isn’t inherently bad. But carrying it out is wrong.
…there are many of us who are uncomfortable with gay marriage due to our private and strongly held religious and/or moral beliefs. Feel free to vilify us, but don’t expect such vilification to change our minds. And don’t expect us to withdraw from this debate just because we are having some trouble accepting your opinion.
What you can do is appeal to other layers of our decision making process. Believe it or not, I think that my religious beliefs should not bar me from supporting specific legislation that removes inequality and unfairness in a range of areas.
What Yusuf is calling for in this piece (and it’s important that the entire article be read), it seems to me, is for the debate to be conducted in a respectful, reasoned and non-dogmatic manner. There ought to be a recognition that for some, supporting same sex marriage is a difficult step to take, in conscience. But at the same time, the debate ought to form consciences, and direct them to the legitimate call of the other for recognition: a public call for equality, for the public recognition of the value of what is private and intimate.
I write that because I am not quite sure that the opposition which forms the premise of Yusuf’s conclusion is sustainable, though I thoroughly endorse the sentiment:
Because sex is almost always a private matter. But injustice against even one of us will end up hurting all of us.
It’s perhaps more about a public respect for the other’s conscience, and a recognition that the public good of equality outweighs the private voice of discomfort. But whichever way one chooses to analyse the issue, what Yusuf has, courageously, given voice to is a process of public and moral reasoning that ought to, in the last instance, prevail.
It is also necessary to recognise, as Anna Bligh did last week, that the voices in favour of a flat refusal to recognise equal love are those of privilege: invariably those of male, married politicians. And to recognise that the everyday injuries done to those who do not fit the straightjacket of heterosexism are profound, and ought not to be hidden, but rather redressed.
Note should be taken.