The No campaign has been so absurd, where is left for them to go?

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz actually said legalising marriage equality could lead to people wanting to marry the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Friday, September 8, 2017

With the High Court ruling that the government’s postal survey on marriage equality is legal, it’s full steam ahead with the much-vaunted respectful debate.

We can expect more No campaign ads like the one where a mother pretends the principal at her son’s school told him he could wear a dress to school if he chose.

Never mind that this never happened, or it has no direct relevance to two consenting adults marrying. More disturbing is what sort of person is seriously bothered by their son wearing a dress? Honestly, so long as they aren’t coming out as Scottish, it’s fine. I mean what next, a girl wearing pants? The mind boggles.

Seeming determined to take top place in the “beyond absurd” stakes for No arguments, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz actually said legalising marriage equality could lead to people wanting to marry the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Abtez really doesn’t need to worry here. There is little chance of anyone seriously wanting to marry the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I mean, the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne, maybe. That bridge is alright. I’ll admit I would not say no to some West Gate action, but I still don’t think it is marriage material. It could probably show you a great time, no doubt, but it’s just not the type of bridge you’d take home to meet the parents. And nor does it have to be. The social conservatives in government don't seem to realise that it isn't the 1950s any more — we don't have to marry any random fling.

With the campaign really getting under way now, you have to wonder where else the No campaign has to go?

Having produced such ridiculous arguments so far, surely about the only thing left is to suggest if you allow marriage equality, then giant aliens might descend on our once proud nation and marry slugs and then produce a super-race of huge slug-alien hybrids who’ll take over and turn every school into a strip joint.

It is tempting to see these arguments as nothing more than desperate moves from a losing side. But while it does indicate they cannot win the actual argument over marriage, the No side also aren’t stupid.

They know what they are doing — deliberately trying to muddy the waters to sow confusion and uncertainty among soft supporters of marriage equality.

In the case of the “boys-in-dresses” ad, they are dragging in broader issues around gender. The aim is to target those who might not see anything wrong with letting two consenting adults get married, but are susceptible to fearmongering of the sort directed at the Safe Schools project — implying that marriage equality is only the start of further changes that make some nervous.

In Abetz’s case, as batshit crazy as it is to raise the prospect of marrying inanimate objects, it is meant to provide opponents of marriage equality with a technical, legalistic excuse for being bigoted.

It means an opponent can say: “Look, I don’t object to gay people, it is just once you mess with the law like this, all kinds of unintended things could follow. And we don’t want that. We don’t want weirdos marrying bridges.

“I’m sorry, but the risk to our bridges is just too great. Some of my best friends are gay, but then some of my best friends are bridges, so you can see it isn’t as simple as these politically correct activist types make out.”

Of course, some arguments are just straight out stupid. The infamous “seatbelt analogy” being used in one No campaign leaflet defies logic to such an extent, I can’t think of a single way to mock it. Except to note these people must be really freaked out by the multiple buckle systems at work on harnesses. I mean, what does the Bible say about the role of more than one buckle on the same safety system?

The good news is, while this campaign has given a platform to some ugly bigotry, an objective view shows that marriage equality is only a matter of time.

The real question is to make it not just come in as quickly as possible, but with the strongest, largest and most visible expressions of public support possible, to make it clear the vast majority stands firmly for equality.

[You can book tickets to Carlo Sands' solo show "Inspired?", on at the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival on Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. Proceeds to Green Left Weekly.]

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