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Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Australian has stripes in the game of public advocacy in this country and most media watchers know that its allegiance lies toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, which makes it no surprise that the paper today brought a big gun onside - British sociologist Frank Furedi - in its campaign to ensure that Australia's marriage laws are not tampered with. Furedi says that support for gay marriage is a mere pose, a way to differentiate oneself from the Great Unwashed, a self-serving item of garnish whipped out from the cabinet of the elitist conformist and dabbed on the persona like parseley in a butcher's display, saying "I'm better than you, sod off".

This rant of Furedi's is published after New York State in the US legislated yesterday to allow gay marriage following a period of 30 days.

Furedi's spray is upsetting because it posits the feelings of those who disagree with gay marriage as the point of primary concern. We disagree with you therefore we believe we're better than you, so go back to your suburb and your midday soaps. Queue tears of frustrated rage from men and women in the middle class.

But it's not the whole story. Most people I know who support gay marriage do so because it is an equity issue. The real story behind the news here is the number of - especially young - people who find themselves on the outside of the social compact due to their homosexuality. It's not in the news because of the media's silent acknowledgement of youth suicide. When young people kill themselves, as they do all the time, the story never gets reported. This silence allows characters like Furedi to happily sound off on the issue of gay marriage as though it were merely a neighbourly spat over the back fence about tree litter.

But it's not. It's not about the actor who apologises for a homphobic comment by "coming out as an ardent supporter of gay marriage", as Furedi says. And it's not about "evangelicals ... being more troublesome than Muslims in their attitudes towards mainstream views". One is merely conforming in order to avoid being ostracised by the community that feeds them. The other merely takes the path of least resistance: the Bible says homosexuality is a sin and it's easier to question "mainstream views" than question the Bible, and God. These are inconsequential and venal peccadilloes in the face of the distressing loss of life among our youth who, faced with the bullies that abound in society, take an option that immediately removes them from anguish and sorrow.

A vote for gay marriage is not a vote for the views of the New York elite with their coffees and high fashion accessories and weekend visits to the Off-Broadway theatres. It's not a tug at the cultural forelock. It's a matter of basic human rights. It's an acknowledgement of the realpolitik of the suburban street, where "gay" is a term of automatic disparagement and suffering is real, and happening right now.

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