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Editorial: That was...The Gay Agenda

Fri 10 Dec 2004 In: Features

This is the first in a short series of editorials which aims to draw together impressions gained and lessons learned during the final stages of the progress to the passing of the Civil Unions and related legislation. It signals our hope that our news and features coverage will be returning to less CU- and politics-dominated themes. Editorial: That was...The Gay Agenda Opponents of equal rights and responsibilities in society for glbt folk love simple, even simplistic, slogans. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” is an old chestnut which still appears on billboards and in the letters to the editor pages decades after its “best by...” date. “The Gay Agenda” is another, more sinister, bit of verbal smear that is still trotted out by those who try to convince society that glbt people's decades long struggles for equality and fair play is nothing more than the public face of something menacing and sick bubbling away, something which will erupt and consume decent society unless it is vigorously repressed. To those people who fear the destruction of society as they see and understand it I can offer some words of comfort. In a moment. Along with the prayer which opens Parliament and the legal charitable status of religious organisations it is the one remaining place where in our proudly secular nation (ie. not subject to the dictates of religious doctrine or interpretation) blurs the lines between religion and the law. The legal concept of marriage has always been a way of bringing form and practicality to the religious concept of marriage. In recent years as society evolved many couples have chosen the practicality of legal marriage or marriage-lite (aka defacto relationships) but with fewer or none of the religious aspects. Society changed and evolved but laws did what they do best: remained firm and unyielding. Throughout our nation's history our laws on marriage have remained flavoured by religious concepts. You don't have to go back too far to find the caveman-like “man is the head of the household” stance, so beloved of unyielding Canute-like fundamentalists and their herds of scared and envious observers of life's passing parade, tucked away in odd statutory recesses. Women only got their own independent right to vote just over 100 years ago for goodness sake! The Relationships (Statutory References) Bill was a mammoth collation of little nips and tucks required to bring over 150 years worth of accumulated NZ laws into alignment with the equal rights and responsibilities ethos of the Human Rights legislation. What came to be packaged as the Civil Unions Bill was really just a subset of those surgical revisions and additions. But because laws about relationships including marriage are rooted in rigid attitudes, and because they affect some of the most deeply personal aspects of our lives, and because they are one of the few areas left where religion and secular law agree to remain shacked up together, that subset of changes was always going to be perceived in some circles as more of an extreme makeover. Last evening, by what will inevitably described as both a narrow squeak and a comfortable margin, enough of our elected representatives saw through the fearmongering, bullshit, ignorance and power games to see the Civil Unions legislation, imperfect but workable, tidy up the delivery of equal rights and responsibilities for all New Zealanders as required by the Human Rights legislation. So last evening, in New Zealand at any rate, the second to last item on "The Gay Agenda" was ticked off. You see, despite the bizarre and sometimes just plain sick scenarios fundamentalists and bigots have conjured up in recent decades to try to scare New Zealanders, our elected representatives ensured the availability of equal treatment and opportunity under the law to the last people who had been legally-mandated second-class citizens. Of course there never was a formal "Gay Agenda," but if there had been it might have been worded something like: Objective: To not be treated like crap all our lives, for all time, by most people. Agenda: Item 1: Encourage glbt people to stop hiding from the crap-throwers. (Done) Item 2: Identify and encourage like-minded non-glbt supporters to assist us. (Done) Item 3: Wash off the years of accumulated crap and defend against the crap-throwers so that most ordinary New Zealanders can see us as we really are. (Done) Item 4: Show the crap-throwers that they can still be respected by their mates and kids even if they're not throwing crap at us. (Done) Item 5: Get rid of institutionalised support for crap-throwing. (Done) Item 6: Be vigilant against any resurgence of bigotry, intolerance, hatred, brutality, repression, divisiveness, etc. directed at us or any other minorities by unthinking or angry people under the influence of malicious or power-hungry community leaders, because the recipe for crap is still out there. My words of comfort to those who fear The Gay Agenda are that change is often difficult to embrace but for them the worst may be over. We have now largely ticked off Items 1 to 5 and they're welcome to join us in working through Item 6 because they too are a minority group that one day may need protection and support. Jay Bennie - 10th December 2004    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Friday, 10th December 2004 - 12:00pm

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