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Ending the toxic ripple effect of prejudice

  • 30 November 2017


As the senate passed Dean Smith's same sex marriage bill by 43 votes to 12 on Wednesday afternoon, I was attending a work lunch. A colleague had been surreptitiously checking her phone beneath the table, and as the result was announced she reported it to the assembled guests.

Some of us broke into applause. It was a special moment for this woman (and for those of us who voted yes in the government's marriage equality postal survey): she is gay, and she was bearing witness to the unfolding of history — a groundbreaking legislative decision that would help cement her right to marriage equality.

But as history has taught us all too well, governments can't legislate against hatred and intolerance. As a friend stated on Facebook in anticipation of this historic moment, 'No law can change human biology. No law can make natural what is unnatural. No law can make equal in fact what is unequal in fact.'

Such rhetoric is a reminder that the realm of human rights is still a bloody battlefield in which certain groups continue to proclaim superiority over others. In an era of supposed enlightenment, when consensus should have been reached around what constitutes the commonly held rights of all human beings (and where laws have been passed and declarations and treaties signed in support of these shared rights), still there are those who fight viciously to keep others from accessing the basic rights they enjoy themselves.

The slogans carried into battle serve to further ostracise and dehumanise whole groups of people: stop the boats, build the wall, expel the Muslims, stop the fags, ban the feminazis, vote no.

Buoyed by conservatism's rapid global upswing, governments are frequently guilty of encouraging (if not directly fomenting) such discord. Here in Australia, Turnbull's government amplified the hostility in the matter of sex marriage by issuing, against expert advice, its unnecessary and ill-considered postal survey.

In so doing, he gave his constituents permission to openly express deeply offensive and often hateful opinions on public forums, and bestowed upon them the righteous belief that they were entirely within their rights to do so.


"It's too bad for those who believe their religion is under threat, for the right to religious expression doesn't give them the right to discriminate against other human beings."


It should be no more acceptable to slander a person's sexuality than it is to disparage their race or their religion. But the genie has been