Nationals Senator Matt Canavan didn’t need to appear on last night’s Q&A to face questions about damage caused by the marriage equality debate, as his recent call for people to “grow a spine and grow up” pretty clearly explained his viewpoint.
But a question from a young gay man in the audience made the most of Canavan’s presence, if only to illustrate the problems with the senator’s stance.
A man identified as Gordon recounted his history of schoolyard bullying to Senator Canavan, saying he was spat on, told he was “riddled with AIDS”, and that “I was threat to children and that being gay was no better than being a paedophile.”
Gordon asked Senator Canavan how he could reconcile his view that Australia’s LGBTIQ community should “grow a spine” when that’s the kind of horrific abuse they can expect to receive, and why hadn’t he done more to protect the community.
Senator Canavan said his comments referred to both sides of the debate, before pivoting to the view “I am very worried about the fact that we are struggling, I think, in modern democracy, to respect other people’s opinions.”
He went on to say “living in a democracy sometimes means you’re going to hear from people you disagree with,” clinging to a kind of false equivalency that sees vocal opposition to a strictly “traditional” view of marriage and the abject, damaging hatred still spewed at LGBTIQ Australias as commensurate.
Senator Canavan said he simply wants the right to hold a viewpoint, a right which he and every other person on the ‘No’ side inarguably has. He ignored, or seemed incapable of recognising, the fact that the ‘No’ side lose nothing by being told they’re wrong, while queer Australians are still having the validity of their relationships – thus their sexuality, and sense of self – openly stomped upon.
For what it’s worth, Gordon wasn’t too happy with Senator Canavan’s response, either. You can hear it in full, here:
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