It was a packed City Recital Hall last week in Sydney for a public debate on same-sex marriage, which was broadcast by the BBC to a global audience of 70 million viewers.
Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP, spoke in favour of same-sex marriage. Opposing her was University of Sydney ‘queer theory’ academic, Professor Annamarie Jagose who said: “I am arguing tonight from an adamantly left-wing, progressive and pro-gay perspective that marriage is not a necessary good for gay people.”
“There is a tendency among its proponents to represent same-sex marriage as ‘the final chapter’ in the story of gay acceptance,” Professor Jagose said. “The ‘last civil right’ as it has exaggeratedly been called.”
Speaking with her after the debate, her irritation at such a linear story of the same-sex marriage issue became clearer. “This whole tendency amongst discussion around same-sex marriage to presume this developmental narrative – that we come from a bad place, that we’re in a better place, that we’re going to a great place – it’s an ideological narrative,” she said. “It’s an easy story to tell, a very appealing story, but I don’t think there is much logic to it.”
Deputy National Convener at Australian Marriage Equality, Sharon Dane, said: “The issue about marriage equality is not just a legal one, it’s a social standing.”
“It’s the issue of denied access to something everyone else has and the negative message that sends.” Ms Dane said changing the legal definition of marriage is the best way to bring about social change.
Such an argument presenting marriage as the solution is a red herring, according to Prof Jagose. “It doesn’t at all follow in my mind that the legalisation of same-sex marriage will result in decreased forms of homophobia or increased prestige to homosexual persons generally,” she said. “Internationally, where same-sex marriage has been legalised we’ve seen corresponding outbursts of homophobic violence, hate crimes and so forth,” Prof Jagose continued. “So, it doesn’t seem logical that extending marriage to same-sex couples will address those underlying issues of social justice.”
“I read the literature and I know in an anecdotal way that for lots and lots of lesbians and gay men, marriage is just something that we are almost entirely indifferent to or even bored by,” she
said. “For most people, they couldn’t care less.”