Prolific LGBT activist Rodney Croome wrote in a recent edition of the MCV that marriage equality in Australia would translate as a win over the global tide of deep homophobic backlash against LGBT people in places like Russia, Uganda, other parts of Africa and the Middle East. Please, spare me.
"Far from being a distraction from the global battle, fighting for marriage equality in Australia is one of the best ways to challenge our foes and inspire our friends across the globe."
Croome's problem is that he either doesn't understand or does not accept that backlash against LGBT people in developing countries isn't happening in spite of a Western fight for same sex marriage but rather because of it.
LGBT rights have been hard fought and won by many, particularly in developed countries where the discussion on rights and freedoms for LGBT people is a lot more advanced. In Australia, like in other parts of the West, have to admit that queer rights have been won, at least from the 90s onwards largely without backlash.
Yes, churches and other fundamentalist conservatives oppose loudly, but that hardly surprises anybody. The backlash against a militant desire for a law that in Australia would be largely symbolic has in fact occurred in places such as Uganda, Russia and the Middle East.
The magnificent gain of our rights and freedoms in the West is impacting on our fellow LGBT communities in developing countries. African and Russian presidents alike enact anti LGBT laws by proclaiming to all and sundry that homosexuality is an import from the West.
There has even been evidence of members of the Evangelical Christian Right of the United States and other developed countries working with law makers in Uganda to draft their specific anti gay laws. The idea being that if we can't stop the gays in the US, let's go stop them elsewhere. Our myopic focus on domestic Australian issues of marriage equality lets us conveniently forget or overlook what is happening in other parts of the world.
Croome argues that in Australia we can walk and chew gum at the same time. That we can support two causes and be committed to a local and global fight, that:
" If you can attend a rally or write a letter once, you can do it twice."
True, at least in theory, in practice the reality is different. Resources, whether they be time, money, donations, political involvement or support are scarce and precious. It also presupposes that all a cause needs is for one to attend a rally or write a letter. If that was all that was required we would have achieved marriage equality by now.
The time we have to devote ourselves to issues near and dear to us is scarce and the money we have to donate, is precious. Sure, it isn't a zero-sum game, yet the reality is that many LGBT people while being generous donors, seldom donate to specific LGBT causes, let alone ones that they feel have no direct bearing on their everyday lives.
Croome also falsely assumes that marriage equality in Australia will somehow be a beacon of hope and faith to other countries. He writes:
"Allowing marriage equality to stall because we have to fight the Putins of the world gives them a big win.
Homophobic dictators are against LGBTI equality in every form. They don’t draw distinctions between gaoling gays and marriage equality. They only want to turn back the tide of global history."
That would be a valid argument if 'Presidents like Putin and Museveni actually considered Australian domestic policy before appealing to the lowest common denominator of their electorates.
I'm no great friend of either of them but I would be sure that it is because LGBT people have fought and won so many rights in the West, Museveni, Putin et. al. would seek to deny their respective LGBT peoples theirs.
It's an incredibly entitled, Western view of the world to argue that if we have all our rights here we will act as a beacon of equality to all those places where those wretched poor are wanting theirs.
I doubt local support organisations in places like Cameroon, Uganda, Iran or Russia have meetings where the number one item on the Agenda is marriage equality, let alone Australian marriage equality. Their fight is focused on survival, not on the superfluous desires of Croome and his ilk.
I for one would like to see some nuance to the marriage equality debate. I do want the laws to pass, absolutely but I am under no delusion that somehow queers marrying in Melbourne will inspire and energise queers living in Monrovia. Queers dying in Iran, or imprisoned in Cameroon hasn't really inspired us to action in any great sense of the word. Why would they be inspired by our ability to marry?
We need to understand that our hard won rights are having a global backlash. Our front yard is not just our patch anymore, our community is now round and borderless. We need to be good global citizens, let's not patronise our fellow LGBT communities elsewhere by telling them that we need to have the freedom to marry and that it's for their own liberation. Until we start working with, not against, those whose rights and lives are under real threat we can't claim any sort of moral high ground.