I must admit that I haven’t been following the gay marriage debate that closely. I had read some excellent stuff from small ‘r’ right-wing politician, Malcolm Turnbull (that small ‘r’ is right as in correct) but he was clearly constrained by affiliation with a party not confident in their members to let them vote with their conscience. But otherwise I had figured there was broader support.
I guess I have been away too long. The vote on gay marriage was overwhelmingly defeated with much of the government voting against it. My reading of this is that, as it turns out, they perceive the electorate as not ready and are unwilling to show moral leadership. The alternative is that they are bigoted on this issue. Take your pick. Either way, it doesn’t look good. And let’s face it, when the US President comes out in favour of a change in moral stance, you know that when you oppose it you are on the wrong side of history. And when it actually impacts on people who are not harming anyone else, the whole exercise is shameful and repugnant.
By way of contrast, yesterday I happened to be in a meeting with members of the Icelandic parliament. They are proud of their attitudes in this space and even prouder that they have elected a leader who is not only openly gay but married as well. They should be proud of the fact that they have got to the right value system relatively quickly.
One member of Parliament who did not vote ‘yes’ yesterday was Andrew Leigh. He is very supportive of gay marriage and bases his views on evidence as much as morals (although the latter would be sufficient). However, Andrew was on paternity leave and welcomed a new baby into the world just as the vote was taking place. As it was a conscience vote, he could not pair his vote and so support was one less than it would have been. Of course, given our research on birth timing, it seems like he is a case against the sort of power we think parents have to negotiate birth dates. But then again, the vote was only symbolic. I suspect that had his colleagues been on board and the vote had mattered he and is wife might have done with his absence.
But Andrew taking paternity leave raises another point of order. If Andrew were gay, right now, he would not have had a right to ‘skip work’ to attend the birth of his child. The Government has passed legislation to enable this but that will only come into effect in 2013. Think about it. By dint of his sexual preference, Andrew could hold his new born on a workday; something denied others. Shame.