Had you pointed a microphone at a drowning man you would not have got a more desperate interview performance than that given by Eric Abetz regarding same-sex marriage on AM this morning. Senator Erica had already contributed a mostly irrelevant piece on the subject to The Age this morning, in which he dilated on the US Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-equal marriage laws and amendments in all states, based on an interpretation of a constitution that does not apply to us. Having wasted that bit of real estate, Senator Erica doubled down on bad faith in the interview, pointing out that uh everyone had uh said uh at the time of the uh republican debate that there was a uh majority public opinion in uh favour of a uh — I’ll stop this now — republic, and look what happened.

Look what happened, indeed. The question was split three ways, with an overall majority in favour of a republic, divided between the two forms offered. Does Erica believe that anyone is fooled by this sort of junk? Possibly, because he also believes that the whole same-sex marriage push is all the fault of the meeja. “Why uh did the uh” — very addictive, isn’t it? — did the uh media focus on a same-sex marriage vote in Pitcairn Island, with a population of 48, when a vote against same-sex marriage in Austria was passed over in silence? Gee, I dunno. What is the news value of a middling European country voting against same-sex marriage as opposed to a vote for same-sex marriage in a territory that has no same-sex couples wishing to marry at all?

By mid-morning, Erica had drifted further out to sea, arguing on Agenda that a vote for same-sex marriage would allow polyamorous marriage in the door. Sigh, let’s go through this again. The argument against polyamorous marriage licences — involving more than two people — is structural. The key point of marriage is to give one other person a key role in decisions regarding medical treatment, inheritance, children, etc, etc. Polyamorous marriage can be argued against on the grounds that having two surviving spouses would defeat the purpose of the institution — whatever the gender arrangement. It’s an entirely separate issue.

Blame the meeja, muddy the waters, go spurious. If this is the best that the anti-same-sex marriage crowd can do, they’re sunk. Their only chance of public success — whatever the parliamentary vote might be — is to emphasise the doctrine of prudence as regards significant cultural change: affirm the importance of total equality of civil partnerships and marriage, and urge the public to tread carefully in altering ancient rites (not my argument, but these people need the help). Erica’s a boon for the marriage equality movement, because he’s doing double duty — he wants to fight the equality push and preserve the comforting delusion that we remain a Christian society. Service to the latter is making it impossible to fight the former. The sound of a man drowning in the Tasman.

By the way, you know who else the Austrians voted for …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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