Are You Over The SSM Debate Too?

I was downtown yesterday when I was accosted about my very public stance on same sex marriage. Several times.

Now I should point out I like chatting about this sort of thing because I think equality is important and I refuse to simply hope it comes along all by itself. I’m determined to do my part. But I’m so tired of having to battle against the same old arguments regardless of how many times I spell out what I see as plain & common sense, not to mention decency towards other members of our community. 

“Tell me honestly how you’d feel if one of your kids turned gay,” this one bloke asked me yesterday. 

A bloke. I’ll add, who I’ve known for years and who I have a lot of time for…and who obviously reads the local Gympie Times, which I’ve been quoted as pro-SSM and have even had some letters to the editor about my thoughts on the matter. In fact, I responded to the first one and they printed my response yesterday (the two letters are reproduced below).

“It wouldn’t bother me,” I assured my elderly friend. Because it really wouldn’t. Genuinely. Not a bother in the world. It’s not the sex of the person my kids date which I’ll be worried about. It’s the character. 

But I was quickly told I was wrong and, unbeknownst to me, I would be very worried about it.

“Because they’d have such a hard road ahead of them,” he said.

“Which is kind of why I’m doing what I’m doing,” I told him.

Not just for my kids though. I don’t think it takes a lot of empathy to understand when the society you’re a part of treats you like a freak you’re not in for a great time.

Then he gave me the slippery slope argument about how things are going to the dogs.

“You’ve got women in Rotary and Lions,” he pointed out like this was a problem. 

“Hmmm, and they can vote and shit,” I continued for him.

He didn’t catch my sarcasm.

Then, like he’d reached the crux of his whole argument, my old friend said something odd. He told me young people are impressionable and implied they can be turned gay.

“I don’t think they can,” I told him. “You sort of are what you are.” Then I plucked a scenario from my own personal experience. “I went to an all boy boarding school for five years and I didn’t have the urge to touch a single cock.”

It’s true. All those magnificent penises in the showers going to waste because it turns out I have a thing for boobies. 

But perhaps the most telling point my mate made through his spittle and frowns was when he recalled a trip he took overseas when he was a young man.

“I was given a lift by two men and it turned out they were gay,” he said. “And I thought to myself, what if they fancy me?”

There was no zinger moment. That was his whole argument. 

Which was probably the saddest point he made. 

Instead of focusing on the good deed these blokes had done for him, giving a hitchhiker a lift between towns, he was focusing on their sexuality and a ‘what if’ which not only didn’t eventuate but wasn’t even on the cards. His fear of gay people was dictating his memory of an otherwise fairly innocuous good deed. 

And this is the real issue the YES camp is fighting against: fear, what ifs and prejudice. 

All things which will eventually, once we allow for same sex marriages in this country, start to diminish as the discrimination against people in same sex relationships continues to slowly fall away from our collective consciousness and we can all just get along with our lives.

I’ve been riding this bandwagon for years now. I’m keen to talk about other stuff. Let’s get this done.

I bought this shirt yesterday because it made me chuckle. Master12 has been keeping up with my name being batted around in the letters to the editor and reckons I’m like Harry Potter now because I was misquoted as saying bigot. He thinks that’s pretty cool.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR  14 Aug 2017

God will stop listening

MADAM, with regard to Bruce Devereaux’s reported comment that “most opponents of the change (to same sex marriage) of being old and bigoted” (The Gympie Times, August 9).

With age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. I fear greatly for our younger generations.

They have had it so good (comparatively) for their entire lives and have become so spoilt that they have no concept of what things can really be like.

I am old enough to have seen what life can be like and those older than myself have experienced it (including a world war).

When was the last time that Bruce even saw a non-disposable nappy, and how would he be without all that government (family) support that he receives?

Human nature does everything that it can to decide for itself what is right and what it is wrong and in doing so will do everything that it can to justify doing that and to justify the decisions that it makes. There is only one true standard for true morals and that is God’s law. The physical House of Israel was called out of Egypt to be a physical example to the rest of mankind of God’s system of governance.

That system of governance was based on God’s commandments, statutes and laws. Under the Covenants that the House of Israel agreed to there came (with their compliance) physical and material blessings and (with their non compliance) physical and material curses.

Time and time again when Israel became well off and prosperous as a result of their submission to God’s governance they would turn against God and bring upon themselves the curses of the Covenants. Is this not exactly the condition of this nation at this time?

Who needs God, most will say. Well let me tell you, “In our distress we will cry to God early but the day is coming that He will not hear us.”

Alan

Below is my reply. Well, the Readers Digest version of it. My initial response was about 900 words and included an example list of Christian institutions (Catholic, Anglican, Mormon, Greek Orthadox, Brethren, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostal, Windsong, Baptist, Messianic, Apostic, Southcottism, Lutheran) competing for the souls of the faithful and some of the Spaghetti Monster’s divine noodly nonsense, but apparently I wasn’t allowed to commandeer a whole page of the paper. 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR 20 Aug 2017

Discrimination at it’s core

Alan, I assume you missed The Gympie Times restating what was attributed to me: “Bruce said he did not use the word bigot”.

I’m not anti-old people: I am old people.

Older Australians have the one proper excuse for finding the idea of same sex marriage difficult, having grown up in a period of our history when it wasn’t simply frowned upon to be gay, it was illegal.

From that to “okay to be gay” to them marrying is maybe a step too far for such an ingrained prejudice.

I get that.

Now I freely admit I’m wary of religions, but I generally quite like religious folk.

That said, my beef in relation to same sex marriage is firmly set against religious institutions who should stop attempting to instruct people who aren’t part of their congregation.

Regarding your wonderful fire and brimstone sermon on the “one true standard for true morals”, your conviction you know God’s mind seems surprising given within your faith’s umbrella there’s such varied Biblical interpretations.

Hundreds of splinter groups all saying they have it right and the others, of course, are the false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20).

Regarding your odd inquiry about cloth nappies, I confirm I’ve extensive encounters with them – none good and lots involving rashes and soaked bedding.

Thankfully, lots has changed on that front since those heady days of “poofta bashings”, cassette tapes and camera-less phones.

Responding to your assertion my family is living on “all that government (family) support” we receive, I politely mention we both have businesses we work, submitting returns and paying our share, unlike churches who don’t and still feel they should have a say in state matters.

For me, SSM comes down to discrimination at its core.

The pro-marriage equality side of the debate isn’t about more rights for our gay citizens but that these Australians deserve the same rights as the rest of us.

I’m an atheist and no biblical scholar, but maybe check out James 4:11-12 and Matthew 7:1-5.

Bruce Devereaux

Say it with tees, I say. ‘Always be you’. We will get there. I just want it now instead of later because right now people are hurting and they shouldn’t be. Vote YES for a better world where people can be themselves without fear or shame. Or if you can’t quite bring yourself to vote YES but you just want people to talk about something else, please consider throwing the envelop away.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

Don’t forget to enrol to vote

19 Comments

  • Hi Bruce,

    I had been working a response to your letter to the editor published online on the 20 August 2017. Which I will send to the editor tomorrow on its competition. My response isn’t about Same Sex Marriage but on your generalised sweeping statements and lack of factual evidence.

    After getting to know you recently and engaging in fun robust debate, I would hope you are assured that I have a great deal of respect for you as a person. So, I was surprise that the arguments in your letter were so poorly informed.

    Let me quickly address your statement that the Church doesn’t pay tax and instruct the public in what they should believe.

    Churches who are a charity and are endorsed by the ATO receive tax concessions as do all ATO endorsed charities in Australia. In fact, religious organisations do pay tax where appropriate. Depending on what sub-category they fall into, they pay fringe benefits tax, payroll tax, land tax, rates and other local government charges, stamp duty, and so on. In some states, they qualify for land tax concessions and others they don’t qualify.

    I refer to an article by Natasha Moore in the Sydney Morning Herald dated October 10 2016, where she Identifies that:

    “The major reason why churches are not taxed like businesses is because, actually, they aren’t businesses. Their activities lie largely outside the taxable economy. There are plenty of organisations (like sporting clubs, historical societies, conservation groups, art galleries) and plenty of transactions involving money (inheritance, gifts, lottery wins, children’s pocket money) that we don’t tax. These aren’t “special privileges”. They’re just interactions between people that the government neither deserves nor expects a cut from.

    Cultural or other community organisations may or may not be wealthy, but a museum’s large endowment or a religious denomination’s property holdings don’t change the purpose for which they exist. You may not like religion very much; you may not like art, for that matter, or bingo or dragon-boating. Yet the goals of both the University of Sydney and the Uniting Church – the goals of the local bridge club and the local synagogue – are fundamentally distinct from those of corporations.
    Tax law isn’t a popularity contest: whether people are coming together and pooling some of their (already taxed, mind you) income in order to run a kids’ soccer tournament or a worship service, you either need to tax all community organisations or none.”
    Natasha then goes on to ask one of Australia’s leading experts on charity law, Anne Robinson;

    What would happen if the government did simply revoke tax concessions for churches and start taxing them like corporations. Would it matter that much?

    Anne Robinson responds with;

    “The church has no entitlement to special treatment under tax law,” she said. “It is also true to say that if the church closed up shop and didn’t provide the schools, the hospitals, the social welfare infrastructure – society would go bankrupt, basically. It would cause the kind of social disruption that would bring governments down. They could not fund these social goods without the contribution of the church.”

    Natasha then continues with figures from a government report gathered in 2010

    “The last time somebody did the maths (about a decade ago), 23 of the 25 largest charities in Australia were faith-based. A 2010 government report on the contribution of not-for-profits found that the sector has nearly 5 million volunteers contributing $14.6 billion in unpaid work; that faith-based charities are by far the largest category of NFPs; and that they have a significantly higher ratio of volunteers to employees even than other charities.
    The tax code as it stands represents rational self-interest on the part of governments – which in this case, at least, also means rational common interest.”
    For the full article: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/churches-arent-business-and-they-still-deserve-a-tax-break-20161007-grxntr.html

    So, the “church” contributes by far the largest amount of social capital of any welfare group in Australia, and so I would suggest as a collective of people, it’s contribution to the welfare of the Australian public outweighs the tax contributions on the donations given to it.

    Secondly the income of the many individuals, (that identify as “the church” including pastors), who put money in the collection plate on Sundays pay tax on their salaries and other income streams, so like most Australian’s “the church” pays tax.

    Regarding religious institutions instructing people who aren’t apart of their congregation, I fail to see where this is happening, in fact I haven’t experienced that from the Christian church in the last decade. I can concede that it would happen from time to time with zealots of all religions, but on mass I don’t see evidence of this in the Australian community. If your reference is regarding religious organisations instructing people outside of their faith as joining in with the debate on same sex marriage at the moment or any social debate. Then I perceive that what you are really saying is, I don’t care for their opinions and heart felt convictions but I expect you to agree with mine?

    Mate let me know if I have got that last part wrong, it is a question I have of you, not an assumption I have of your thoughts.

    The Courageous Father

    • In a nutshell: Australian Christian Lobby.

      ‘The Australian Christian Lobby is a grassroots movement of over 80,000 people seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics.’ That’s a direct copy and paste from their website.

      • Bruce, there are many people that need to change their attitude and practices in regards to abuse in the church. And I am happy to have that conversation with you. But let’s not get distract from the point that you made a statement that wasn’t true. Try to keep to the point mate, by trying to distracted from it you are avoiding accountability yourself.

        • Wasn’t true? My point is that churches should be taxes, like every other corporation and business in Australia. They are rich because they don’t. To be fair, I’ve only glanced over what you wrote and responded to the point which caught my eye. I’ll get back to you after I’ve put the kids to bed, done some work and read the whole thing. But you can’t gloss over the Australian Christian Lobby so you can still claim Christian institutions aren’t fanning the flames. When the church leaders instruct their congregations to vote against the gay members of our communities in this they are stepping of their brief and trying to influence laws to suit the faith position of their church. That is the very definition of interfering with those who haven’t asked to be preached to by their interpretation of their holy book.

          • Bruce, Mate churches pay taxes on commercial endeavours, they do not pay tax on donated, charitable or NFP income as assessed by the ATO, just like other charitable organisations, In fact most, (not all), churches are transparent in that they they publicly publish their annual reports, where other charity organisations like Conservation Volunteers Australia don’t publicly publish their annual report, (what are they hiding?). So your statement that churches do not pay tax is not true.

            Your argument fails to accept or you choose not to give credit the churches key financial & practical support of the welfare and community sector in Australia. I personally have volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours and given thousands of dollars along with the majority of my christian friends to support communities, locally, nationally and internationally. Who in the church has hurt you so much that you would deny that church does any good? In your interactions online I don’t see you give any credit to the church for the good that it does.

            The Australian Christian Lobby is a lobby group as is Australian Marriage Equality, lobby groups lobby on behalf of their memberships point of view, so if your argument stands then it should be applied universally across all Lobby groups as their objective is to convince people groups of their point of view.

            Church leaders are free to teach based on their beliefs it’s in our constitution that they have that freedom, again they are not out on the street corner trying to school those who don’t subscribe to the faith, they are teaching to their membership.

            When it comes to influencing laws there are many business groups and people groups who have an organised membership that they instruct to vote in a particular way on a variety of laws, how is this different? In fact I have been privy to conversations when I worked in the medical industry, between leaders of a lobby group who where actively influencing law makes so that their membership could financially gain from new laws not being introduced. How is this any different? It is different but is it right?

            The Courageous Father

            • Jeremy, a lot to unpack.

              I’ve struck this before where my stance means I’ve somehow been hurt by a church. It’s actually a dangerous sort of question, given all the instances coming to light of actual harm being done to kids in the care or flock of church institutions, but I confess I have never, ever been mistreated by any church I’ve been a part of. I simply fail to believe what they believe and I fail to see why they should be singled out for special treatment. I’ve mentioned many times online how grateful I am to all the people who helped, prayed and sent messages to our family through our hiccup, and I’ve also mentioned many times how many of my friends are people of faith, including Catholic and Mormon and Anglican. And probably others but I just aren’t aware of them. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with them, nor them me. My sense of what is right comes into play when I see religious institutions being given special treatment. I simply don’t think they deserve or need it.

              Regarding the ACL, they are explicitly pushing for politics to reflect their religious beliefs. If you’re not then that is wonderful, but you can’t simply claim this is not happening. It is. Religion is attempting to maintain a grip on this element of our citizen’s sexuality and companionship. Generally, because Christian churches aren’t renowned for welcoming openly gay people into their flocks unless they’re looking to bury their sexuality for the sake of their faith, we’re talking about people outside of the religion. Trying to influence people who aren’t of their faith – this is the point I’m making in my post. If gay people want to submit to ‘their god’s truth’ then I have no issue with that. To dictate rules for people generally? I’m going to fight that big time smilie.

              Regarding your medical industry comparison, it’s hard to compare without all the facts, but I wonder who it discriminated against? Was some group of Australians being beaten down or oppressed?

              You’ve mentioned you’ve been involved with church enterprises who pay tax on commercial ventures, which is fantastic (no sarcasm). So now let’s look at what a religious institution can claim as charity work. I find points d) & l) to be very pertinent to this conversation. I’ve copied and pasted the following from http://theconversation.com/election-factcheck-is-the-australian-sex-party-right-about-religious-organisations-tax-and-record-keeping-61427

              This is explicit under the Charities Act 2013. It defines a charity as “a not‑for‑profit entity” – which can’t be an individual, a political party or a government entity – with one of the following 12 “charitable purposes”:

              a) advancing health;
              b) advancing education;
              c) advancing social or public welfare;
              d) advancing religion;
              e) advancing culture;
              f) promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia;
              g) promoting or protecting human rights;
              h) advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public;
              i) preventing or relieving the suffering of animals;
              j) advancing the natural environment;
              k) any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs a) to j);
              (l) the purpose of promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a State, a Territory or another country…

      • Your still avoiding mate, on commercial endeavours, they pay income tax. Infact I have been involved with churches who have changed the status of some of their entities from not for profit because they no longer felt the entity met the definition of not for profit.

  • Yep I am over the SSM debate,but not for the same reasons as you.
    1. I and every Aust now has the opportunity to give their decision on the matter.
    2. Honesty has prevailed. the LNP govt promised us all a say and we will get it – albeit not a plebiscite.
    .3. Majority rules.

    Cheers Dennis Bray

    • The yes lobby says it is plain and common sense. They say they are fighting against fear, what ifs and prejudice.
      Well thats not the case in my view.
      So the yes lobby if they want me to change my view .
      They need to convince me accordingly with postive benefits of a yes vote.
      So i am over the debate because i dont want to lobby anyone for a no vote . Each Aust is now responsible for their own vote.

      • Which lobby? The only one I’ve mentioned is in the comments and it’s the Australian Christian Lobby, who are against SSM – so siding with your thoughts on the matter I think.

  • New Zealand as you probably know has had marriage equality for a few years now, and contrary to the fears of those who were against it, civilisation has not fallen apart as a result. In fact it all feels very civilised. And really, it’s no longer even an issue. We have much bigger fish to fry, like economic inequality. There’s no drama. People have just gotten on with life. It’s just all very “normal”. Australia will probably get over it too, in a very short time.

What do you think?