If you’re in the market for a lens to view the world through that has absolutely no grounding in how the world actually works, I have two things to offer you: getting really into believing in the healing power of crystals, and libertarianism.
Libertarianism is the belief that if you let everyone do whatever they want all the time, everything will just sort itself out magically. It’s rooted in the fuck-eyed belief that everyone alive is on an equal playing field and that things like centuries of entrenched systemic racism will just go away if we make it legal to be racist. It’s a political ideology that conveniently allows the person who subscribes to it to do absolutely nothing while still feeling like they are fighting the good fight.
Libertarians in Australia have found their voice in David Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrat senator, gun enthusiast, and professional testicle impersonator. Leyonhjelm has used his time in parliament to advocate for axing paid parental leave (bad), legalising weed (good), relaxing Australia’s gun laws (bad), legalising marriage equality (good), denying climate change (bad), and thunderously humiliating himself over his massive hypocrisy about Wicked campers (extremely good).
Like most libertarians, Leyonhjelm will occasionally fall on the right side of an issue, but always by sheer coincidence and never out of any intention on his part. A pretty good example of this is his stance on marriage equality: he’s been a long time supporter because he doesn’t believe the government should interfere in personal relationships but he’s now pushing for the bill to allow huge protections for discrimination against gay people in relation to weddings.
Obviously, this isn’t entirely fresh ground. Refusing to concede even the slightest bit of happiness to the queer community, the ‘no’ side very quickly pivoted from their sizeable loss in the postal survey to making sure that they are the sole custodians of the manner in which marriage equality is achieved here. Instead of, say, just amending the Marriage Act to say “two people” or even just removing the definition inserted by the Howard government that excluded same-sex couples, we are looking at a bill that includes a number of exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.
Because this country is absolutely fucked, the tenor of the debate regarding the exemptions in the bill isn’t “Why are we doing this?“, it’s “How far can we push it?“, and Liberal senator and possible vampire James Paterson seemingly pushed it as far as it would go, with a bill detailing an insane list of things peripherally related to marriage that it would be OK to use as a foundation for discrimination.
Powerful chodebeing that he is, though, Leyonhjelm found a way to one-up even that steaming pile of legislative diarrhea, proposing even stronger blanket protections for those who are deadset on discriminating. While the protections being proposed by others are centred around the idea that people shouldn’t be forced to provide marriages services to something that they believe isn’t marriage (still a deeply fucked concept), Leyonhjelm has put forward an amendment that amounts to pretty much “do whatever you like“.
It’s a bit dense but the offending snippet (applied to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984) is as follows:
Nothing in Division 1 or 2, other than section 26, renders it unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status in the course of providing, or offering to provide, goods, services or facilities for, or in connection with:
(a) the solemnisation of a marriage under the Marriage Act 1961 ; or
(b) the preparation for, or celebration of, such a marriage; or
(c) the preparation for, or celebration of, events associated with such a marriage, including:
(i) an event announcing or celebrating the engagement of the parties to be married; and
(ii) an event celebrating the anniversary of the marriage.
Translated, it would mean that anyone acting in a non-government capacity (section 26 refers to Commonwealth services) is free to discriminate on sexuality, gender, and marital status with complete carte blanche as long it has absolutely anything to do with a wedding. The specific wording of the amendment leaves it very open-ended: theoretically, it would be legal for you not to sell someone a bottle of champagne they wanted to take as a gift to the engagement party of a straight couple because the purchaser is gay or a woman or married. Conversely, if this were to pass, you could deny someone trying to buy something for their partner as an anniversary gift solely because they are straight without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. It’s weird.
If this seems like an absurd thing to wack onto a marriage equality bill, that’s because it absolutely is. The amendment seems more like Leyonhjelm getting to partially act out his fantasy of any and all discrimination being legal than any attempt to satisfy ‘traditional’ marriage proponents. I, for one, don’t want to live in an Australia where I’m grilled by every cake shop owner about whether or not I’m into men (cute guys reading: yes, I am) and whether or not I’m taking my hypothetical cake to a wedding (I’m not, I’m eating it at home, by myself).
Time will tell how much dumb bullshit like this actually ends up in the bill.Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles