On the few occasions I have written anything on the question of gay marriage, which I support in a pretty casual and unexcited kind of a way, I have been taken aback by two things.
The first is the often crazed level of anger displayed by those readers who support the status quo, replete with references to sodomites, unnatural acts, child abuse, and even the odd claim made famous by Liberal Senator Corey Bernardi that same-sex unions are the start of a slippery slope which will culminate in people marrying their pets.
The second is how few of these emails and letters there are.
Based on a straw poll of responses to some four or five columns, it seems to me that there are a hell of a lot of Australians out there who do not care.
There are heaps of Australians who got married and will always regard their wedding as a very special day. Contrary to the claims of opponents of gay marriage, these married Aussies are not so arrogant to believe that the institution of marriage belongs to them and their hetero mates, or that two blokes or two chicks tying the knot would somehow subvert the sanctity of holy matrimony.
There are also plenty of married and straight Australians who would dispute the view that they should have a monopoly on having kids.
Indeed, when you look at some of the utterly dysfunctional, drug-addled and booze-abusing heterosexual parents out there, a straight hostage swap to get some these kids into a gay household could actually do them the world of good.
New Zealand passed laws allowing the legal recognition of same-sex marriages this week. The Kiwis are ruled by a conservative government which is ideologically not that different from what an Abbott government would look like.
Despite Tony Abbott’s Catholicism, there are somewhat surprising signs that this issue could be looked at quite early and openly in the life of his government.
By stating that he will consider a conscience vote on the issue, Mr Abbott would be giving his MPs a new level of freedom to exercise their minds on the issue as they wish.
It would not be surprising if the number of Coalition MPs favouring change was comparable to the numbers within the ALP.
Many Labor MPs oppose change because of their own religious convictions or because they are fearful of the backlash they could suffer from Catholic or Orthodox churches in their electorates.
I should stress here that I am not having a go at the churches. They are completely entitled to their position and to put it with vigour, especially given the religious origins of the concept of matrimony.
There would undoubtedly be many Coalition MPs who would share these views or be fearful of them. But there would be two groups within the Coalition who would back change in a jiffy the moderate MPs who have always backed it, and the libertarians with an instinctive dislike of government who think it’s a matter of liberty, choice and happiness and that the state should stay out of people’s bedrooms (which is my reason for backing it, by the way).
Nothing is ever truly inevitable but gay marriage is starting to look more and more like it is on its way. Barry O’Farrell is a cautious politician but the NSW Premier was very forceful this week in support of the change.
As he said, the Kiwis gave women the vote nine years before Australia did, and it would be a pity if gay people had to wait that long for a reform which means so little to most of us and so much to them. I’m with Bazz.
There is nothing Julia Gillard can do about it this term because it would involve breaking an election promise, and it would also offend the socially conservative caucus members who told her that retaining the status quo was a precondition of their supporting her leadership.
As long as the debate goes on, the more dated the opponents of change often look. I really don’t think we have anything to fear and I reckon Australia is at the point where most of us don’t.