THE Trump campaign in the US and the celebration of difference at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras marks a stark illustration of the choices facing modern society.
The choices are between acceptance, tolerance and equality on the one hand and prejudice, inequality and divisiveness on the other.
Donald Trump’s campaign gains more and more momentum as it appeals to prejudice, social difference and discord by:
- Threatening to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out.
- Dismissing any form of detente in favour of conquest, “we don’t have victories any more”.
- Being a misogynist as he refers to journalist Rosie O’Donnell asking him hard questions. “Rosie is crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb – other than that I like her very much” and “she talks like a truck driver” and another journalist “unattractive both inside and out”.
- Excluding Muslims: “They’re not coming to this country if I’m President”.
Trump has a mixed message on gay and lesbian policy but has stated he would appoint judges to overturn same-sex marriage.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, exemplifies the alternative.
“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade has become one of our nation’s most popular events, drawing people from all over the world,” she says.
“It is a spectacular celebration of all that has been achieved in the past 40 years. But it’s also a reminder that we’ve still got much work to do to achieve true equality”.
The Mardi Gras is the largest of its kind in the world and projects Australia as a tolerant nation that celebrates diversity, that accepts difference and is prepared to be understanding.
However, the reality is different. Australia has a Prime Minister, who has personally expressed agreement with marriage equality, but is prepared to use delaying tactics in an attempt to take the issue off the political agenda.
A plebiscite is not needed. He knows that every poll on marriage equality is overwhelmingly in favour with recent Galaxy polls showing around two thirds of people in support.
A binding referendum in Catholic Ireland made marriage equality a reality. Ireland did not collapse into moral turpitude.
A referendum is not needed in Australia. A simple conscience vote is what is required. Let ordinary people see which of our politicians are tolerant and which continue to support divisiveness.
In the ACT, we know that our Federal Labor members, Andrew Leigh, Katy Gallagher and Gai Brodtmann support marriage equality while the proudly conservative Zed Seselja from the Liberals opposes.
The ACT Assembly has tried on a number of occasions to introduce marriage equality. The government is led by Andrew Barr. He is judged by his performance as Chief Minister rather than being a gay man. Liberal Brendan Smyth has regularly marched (with me) in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as a recognition of the positive role that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people play in our community. This year Smyth was joined by Nicole Lawder MLA from the Brindabella electorate marching with me and the “Camp-berra” float along with Canberra Liberal, Paul Sweeney.
History will be a harsh judge on those who resist marriage equality.
Ms Goldie summed up why this will be the case: “As long as loving, same-sex relationships are invalidated through the failure to recognise marriage equality, those of us affected remain virtual second-class citizens. As long as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continue to suffer discrimination in the workplace, in our schools and in the streets through bullying, harassment and violence, those affected remain on the margins of society.”
At a time when the world is becoming more tolerant, more understanding, more accepting of difference there is also the backlash – represented most clearly by the growing support for Donald Trump.
However, Australians should also be looking in the mirror. The Abbott government was the most intolerant of governments for decades. There was a reasonable expectation of change under Malcolm Turnbull – and, although there has been a change in tone, the attitude to marriage equality and the harsh attitude to refugees (also shared by Labor) reflects a growing intolerance in our community.
Striving for an inclusive society is a worthwhile goal. Australia has the potential to be a society that resists persecution, pits itself against the judgemental and values difference.