Magda Szubanski Picked Apart The ‘No’ Campaign’s Shaky Arguments On ‘Q&A’

The same-sex marriage postal vote has been a point of contention for Q&A panellists for yonks, and for good reason: it’s not that often a singular policy issue is so transparently engineered to divest responsibility from those in power, over an issue for which the Australian public has already expressed overwhelming majority support.

But last night’s edition of the show was different, in that it focussed on the issue of same-sex marriage. It fielded vested interests from religious establishments. It featured equality advocate and entertainer Magda Szubanski. It featured ‘No’ campaigner Karina Okotel.

And, critically, it featured questioner Patrick Cairnduff, who asked why his family structure is so objectionable to Okotel’s campaign.

Cairnduff – who has also criticised the administration of the postal votes themselves – explained “when I was younger, my mother and father separated. I live in two families. On one side of my family I have two mums, lesbian parents. On the other side I have a mother and a father, heterosexual parents.”

His outlined his viewpoint, saying “from my position, experiencing both types of families, I can see that what matters is the love and support I receive from both of them, not the form that comes in.

“Why can’t you accept that?”

Okotel’s response was initially in keeping with her media representation as a bit of a “bleeding heart”, as the campaigner appeared to celebrate the love between Cairnduff’s parents – on both sides. When pushed by moderator Tony Jones on whether she has a problem with same-sex parents raising children, Okotel even said “why not?”

But Szubanski’s interrogation of the issue provided a different aspect to Okotel’s claims.

“You say the problem with marriage is it will lead to problems with children, that vulnerable children are threatened,” Szubanski said.

“I’ve read you saying this over and over that one of the consequences you have spoken about is if we pass through marriage then same-sex people will have children.”

Of course, same-sex couples in Australia have been permitted to adopt and have children through IVF procedures for ages.

“That’s very different to parenting and being raised by same-sex parents,” Okotel retorted. “Absolutely.”

Cue a tidal wave of disapproval from the audience, who simply could not square the apparent difference between having children and, uh, parenting.

It’s the kind of logic that only seems to make sense if you believe a child is not ‘parented’ unless it was conceived and raised by a married heterosexual couple. Weirdly enough, a follow-up question on the nature of IVF cut to that viewpoint.

“Do you have the same issue with straight people?” Szubanski asked. “One in six couples have a fertility issue. Are you going to dictate who can and can’t have children, not just gays?”

Unfortunately, Jones cut in before Okotel could elaborate on her perspective. But what had already been established is this: Okotel, and the ‘No’ campaign by proxy, appears to have a genuine, fundamental issue any form of fertility treatment – or family structure – that may result in parents raising a child not biologically their own.

In a September op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald, Okotel wrote “I’m often asked how I would feel if my child was same-sex attracted and my answer is: I do now and always will love them unconditionally, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“The questions though that I do not hear being asked are: would you be happy for your grandchild to deliberately never know their biological parent?”

As illuminated by Cairnduff and Szubanski on last night’s show, the ‘No’ campaign’s ideological bedrock doesn’t seem to be impeding social progress so much as actively winding back hard-fought victories like access to fertility treatments and adoption.

How’s that for attacking someone’s right to choose?

Watch the clip below: