Despite the fact that a lot of people in the queer community never wanted to be subjected to the postal survey, it’s not at all hugely surprising that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has spent the time since the results were announced wheeling out his best shit-eating grin and lapping up the credit for marriage equality in Australia.

Instead of just pushing the party to legislate it, Turnbull opted to make the marriage equality process one that was lengthy, torturous, and tacitly empowering to Australia’s shitheel homophobes. Even after Australia voted yes, we’re still left with an inherently homophobic debate about just how much discrimination against gay people and gay relationships is OK – all this because Turnbull didn’t want to piss off the conservative wing of the Coalition.

Regardless, Turnbull is acting astoundingly proud of himself, believing that he somehow brought about this wonderful outcome, despite the fact that he pushed for the legislative equivalent of throwing your hands up and saying ‘no, you pick where we eat, I don’t mind’.

In his speech in the lower house today, Turnbull opted to trot out some very familiar reluctant conservative rhetoric about how marriage for gay people is good because it will help society if we have more traditional family bonds, instead of it being great because, y’know, equality.

There was one bit that stood out, though:

John Howard was most definitely not thinking of gay couples when he said in 1995: “A stable, functioning family provide the best welfare support system yet devised.” But the point is well made. Co-dependency is a good thing. If we believe two gay people are better off together than living alone, comforted only by their respective cats, then why should we deprive that relationship of equal recognition?

Putting aside the cats bit for one second, I would argue it’s probably not hugely ideal to bring up John Howard in your speech on marriage equality, when it was his government that amendment the Marriage Act in 2004 (no postal survey needed) to explicitly exclude same-sex couples from the definition of marriage – something it didn’t do before. The whole reason we’ve had to go through all this garbage is because little Johnny Howard was starting to see other countries legalise marriage equality and he couldn’t stand the thought of it happening here.

Back to cats, though. It’s a weird joke that smacks of someone who feels like they’ve earned enough Ally Points™ to say pretty much whatever, but it really doesn’t speak to the point of why we want marriage equality in any fashion.

Australia didn’t decide to grant equality to queer people because we see some utility in it in increasing social cohesion or whatever. We weren’t asking for it because we believe that monogamous marriage is the ultimate relationship and that being unmarried or single is somehow worse. We want marriage equality because we deserve equality. We deserve the same right to choose or not choose to enter into a marriage with someone. For some people, living alone with a cat is the actual dream, for some people, it’s being able to finally marry the person they love.

Turnbull isn’t just taking credit for something he doesn’t really deserve to take credit for, he’s also taking credit for something he doesn’t understand. Malc, cobber: shut up.

Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles