It has been some time since I have considered myself particularly passionate about same sex marriage. Although firmly in agreement with the principle that everyone should be equal before the law, I have struggled to convince myself that exclusion from the institution of marriage is any real impediment to a rich and fulfilling life. Notwithstanding all of this I find, and have always found, the sentiment that underscores opposition to same sex marriage to be detestable.
The pleas of Archbishop Jensen not to conflate his views with bigotry are laughable, the concession made by Fran Kelly on the ABC’s Insiders program that opposition to marriage equality is not indicia of homophobia was craven. The opposition to marriage equality stems from minority yet prevalent view that homosexual intercourse is a depraved act.
The union of marriage –heterosexual or otherwise –is a thoroughly conservative, at times prudish concept. Those bellicose opponents of same sex marriage regard extra marital sex as a selfish indulgence in lust and gratification. In their puritanical world view intimacy outside of wedlock is animalistic, degenerate and weak, a capitulation to unsanitary urges. The lifelong commitment to keep only one partner, to devote their lives to the singular partner and to enshrine the commitment in law is supposed to sanction the otherwise immoral act.
Conservative views of sexual intercourse impart marriage with immense importance. In the correct circumstance sex can be the manifestation of true love, in the wrong circumstance it is the manifestation of something vile and loathsome. When Barnaby Joyce referred to same sex marriage as decadent he was in fact referring to homosexual intercourse. In this way marriage is supposed to transfigure something vile into something holy and beautiful, which brings us back to the homophobic quest to stop marriage being extended to same sex relations.
No reasonably minded person could be left with much doubt that Eric Abetz and those of like minds regard homosexual intimacy as something vile and immoral. They lost the legal fight to prevent it many years ago, now they are digging in to try and restrict it to what they might term “immoral contexts.”
For decades bigots have stereotyped homosexuals as promiscuous debauchers. The last thing they want now is for same sex couples to start entering enduring, monogamous marriages that would seem to satisfy conservative ideals. And therein lies the true driver of this furious push to keep marriage equality at bay: marriage equality looms likely to destroy the most mainstream critique of homosexual lifestyles, in doing pulling back the veil to reveal the naked and irrational disgust that homophobes reserve for homosexual intercourse. And should this proxy debate be shattered and the bigotry get flushed out into the open its practitioners will become the pariahs of conservative politics, shunned in mainstream political groups as Hansonists have been for the last decade. This fight isn’t about etymology and it definitely isn’t about protecting any pre-existing marriage, it is about preserving the last remnants of plausible deniability against the all too accurate charges of bigotry.