Statistically, some of you reading this will be thinking of voting No in Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite.
Of those, a small number simply don’t like gays and don’t want them to be happy. Hate can’t be reasoned with, so if that is an accurate description of your worldview you might as well stop reading now.
But unlike some in the Yes camp, I know there are other No voters who aren’t just bigots and homophobes but have genuine and rational concerns about religious freedom and legal precedent.
A common argument I hear (whispered, rather than proclaimed, so as to avoid social media ostracism) is that if we allow same-sex marriage to occur, then we will set a precedent for government to force private religious institutions to adopt the secular position and reduce religious rights in the country.
Well I agree with you that a church or mosque or temple should not be forced to marry same-sex couples, nor should an evangelical pastry chef be forced to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
But the government is not a business or a private religious institution. It has to treat taxpayers equally and should not be allowed to discriminate.
Arguably the government should play no role in marriage at all, leaving it to be a private or religious matter rather than a revenue-raising opportunity for the nanny state.
Again, I agree in theory. But it’s too late for that. Now that it is a function of the secular state it needs to be applied equally to all people.
If conservatives don’t like that, they only have themselves to blame.
It isn’t widely known that the Marriage Act 1961 never actually specified that marriage should be confined to heterosexuals. That didn’t come until 2004, when the Howard government amended the Act to align it with the traditional definition.
If the Christian lobby feels so strongly about the definition of marriage, then it never should have let its mates in Parliament get involved. Instead, it supported and lobbied for Howard’s redefinition.
Or, to put it another way, it supported government intervention and regulation – something conservatives usually oppose.
If ‘crony capitalism’ is the state doing deals with corporations in contravention of the free market then this is ‘crony culturalism’.
Getting the government to protect the definition of marriage to the exclusion of others is no different from getting the government to protect a certain industry or sector of the economy.
It enhances the role of the state in peoples’ lives and allows politicians to pick winners and losers.
This sets a far more dangerous precedent than allowing same-sex couples to marry ever could.
The idea that religious freedom needs to be protected is sound. But that is not the question we are being asked.
Voting Yes is not only the right thing to do on a moral level. It is the right thing to do if you believe in limited and accountable government.
Author’s note: This article has been amended to remove the phrase “just as a Jewish deli should not be forced to make a sandwich for a Nazi”. It was not the author’s intention to in any way equate gay people with a murderous, fascist regime.