So some Gays, a Council and a Scary Religious Ethics Action Group walk into a bar…

February 22, 2007

A big thumbs up for the Melbourne City Council’s attempt to set up a Relationships Declaration Register.

From the article:

The Melbourne City Council, however, is on the verge of striking out on its own, giving small recognition to same-sex couples. In November, deputy mayor Gary Singer and councillor Fraser Brindley successfully obtained in-principle support – albeit via a narrow 5-4 vote – for the council to set up a Relationships Declaration Register. A discussion model for the register was released last week. If it goes ahead, the register would be a Victorian first.
Brindley, who entered council in November 2004, was motivated to set up the register because of government inaction.

“It is entirely out of frustration with the state and federal governments that we are doing this,” he says. “I was hoping that in the ensuing two years we would get some action… It’s essentially an issue of equality: some members of the community are not being afforded the same rights and status as others, and that’s an injustice in my mind.”

Unfortunately, this is only a very small step forward. The council does not have the power to confer the same rights as married heterosexual couples, but the registration could be used as evidence of a relationship in legal proceedings. A similar scheme is already in practice in Sydney, and Tasmania (despite, or perhaps because of it’s acknowledged poor history on gay rights) which has a more comprehensive scheme that confers spousal rights on registrants.

Naturally, though, the scheme has drawn opposition from those who regard homosexuality as immoral. Christian group Salt Shakers has led the most high-profile campaign against the proposal, and also attended last week’s meeting.

Once again we have argument based on the unsubstantiated major premise that same sex relationships are immoral. This is poor logic at best, and at worst willful sleight-of-hand. (If you have a high threshold for dogmatic intolerance, you can read more about the for Salt Shakers here. Fair warning though – these guys are scary.)

“We oppose the normalisation of homosexuality,” Salt Shakers chief executive Peter Stokes explains, before drawing an analogy between prostitution laws and homosexuality laws.

I oppose the normalisation Creation Science and Intelligent Design, but unfortunately it turns out that sometimes other people with different ideas to you have rights as well. Stupid rights.

“Before they legalised prostitution, there were 50 brothels throughout Victoria. But now we have something like 500… When you legalise something, you automatically give it a stamp of approval. Therefore, any recognition of same-sex relationships, whether it be by councils or governments, is going to give that relationship type a stamp of approval.”

Woah! I think someone just took a leap of faith in their logic. When you legalise something you are saying that the state will not censure or punish you for it. A law is an explicit statement of unacceptable behaviour and as such it is a false dichotomy to consider that things not explicitly prohibited are somehow implicitly endorsed. This is just sloppy thinking.
But this is beside the point. It was once illegal in the United States for a black person to sit at the front of a public bus. It was once illegal for women to vote. Governments and laws aren’t always right – they tend to reflect the prevailing thought at the time of their inception, and don’t always keep up with a changing moral Zeitgeist.

Stokes also argues that few gay people are seeking recognition of their relationships, citing relatively low numbers of registrations in Sydney and Tasmania.

Well, quite frankly this argument is just stupid. This kind of scheme is about providing opportunity and rights for people to make a choice about what they want. The current system discriminates by obviating any such choice for a particular section of society based on what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

I think that if opponents of schemes like this cannot provide reasons for the premise that same sex relationships are in some way inherently wrong (because there isn’t one other than “because my god said so”), then their arguments based on it are inherently flawed, baseless and present no legal or ethical justification for this kind of discrimination.


One Response to “So some Gays, a Council and a Scary Religious Ethics Action Group walk into a bar…”

  1. Therefore, any recognition of same-sex relationships, whether it be by councils or governments, is going to give that relationship type a stamp of approval.

    Err, Peter, that’s kind of the point. Top marks for reading comprehension.

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