In the cafe where I have lunch every day, there’s a big screen TV that shows ads. Today it’s showing a series of subscription promos for The Australian, one of which has this tagline:
The sanctity of marriage. The human rights issue. The conundrum.
But there is no conundrum, and it shows the poverty of the media’s thinking not just on this issue, but in general.
Like it or not, from a media business perspective the journalist’s job is to fill space between and around ads, while offering just enough useful content, as bait, to keep readers and viewers coming back. It’s in their interest to create “debates” (here, a “conundrum”) where none exists.
What’s wrong with thinking that there’s an issue in Australian politics around gay marriage?
Well, this is essentially a conflict between religious and secular values. I very much doubt that, in the absence of media coverage of the issue or political parties taking a position on gay marriage, the average Australian cares very much whether gay people can marry or not.
Those churches (such as the Catholic church) that have an interest in protecting “the sanctity of marriage” are hollow shells. They have a public voice because in past times they were relevant to public life, but these days, how many middle-aged people go to church? How many young people? How many children? Where once Christianity held a place in public discourse, now it doesn’t. Catholic cardinal George Pell’s best feature, in terms of public debate, is that he’s a talking head with a controversial opinion.
Newer religious influences, such as conservative Islam, simply don’t deserve to be heard: never have and never will.
Repressive variants of religion that would oppose such things as gay marriage and abortion are relics of a premodern past. Our world has moved on.
It’s different in the US, where religious belief is still far more widespread and accepted, and has a real place in people’s daily lives, both personal and public.
But let’s not fool ourselves, or let the media fool us.
Gay marriage is not an issue. There’s no reason to forbid it, so it should simply be permitted.