The problem with the PM's position on marriage equality

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How Kevin got his groove back

The Prime Minister's response to a Pastor's question on gay marriage on Q&A on Monday night has gained widespread support on social media, but will it translate in the polls?

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So Kevin Rudd’s gay marriage performance on ABC's Q&A has gone ‘viral’.

It is Rudd's ‘Bartlet moment’ according to the Guardian - referring to the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet in Aaron Sorkin's long running political wet dream The West Wing. ‘Answer of the century’ said one #qanda Twitter commentator.

But was anyone listening to what he was actually saying?

Matt Prater: questioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on his gay marriage stance.

Matt Prater: questioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on his gay marriage stance. Photo: Screen grab, Q&A

Let’s break down Rudd’s argument, which is fairly easy to do ever since he began illustrating his rhetoric with obscene hand gestures.


Firstly, Rudd said, he believes people are born gay. According to ‘the science’ this means that being gay is ‘natural’.

God this is nonsense.

Prime Minister kevin Rudd; his response has been positively received.

Prime Minister kevin Rudd; his response has been positively received. Photo: Screen grab, Q&A

Sexuality is a spectrum, something that anyone who has escaped the straight jacket of sexual guilt, self-abnegation and denial that pervades so much formal religion would be already aware of.

There are not just gay and straight people, although there certainly are those who identify exclusively as one or the other, or have decided to hate one or the other identity and pretend they have never even flirted with different parts of the spectrum of desire laid out before all of us every day of our lives everywhere all the time.

‘Gay’ and ‘straight’ are historically bound nouns and legal constructs and have no biological foundation.

There is no gay gene, just as there is no Labor party gene or Queenslander gene.

Biological predisposition stems from our species having to adapt to our environment over millions of years.

But for all of prehistory there was nothing in nature prohibiting the exploration of sexuality and desire – there were no priests or social conservatives in the Paleolithic age whose diktats our primitive ancestors needed to conform to on pain of death.

A human being is full of diversity and mutation and curiosity and it would take a million years of ruthlessly favouring or persecuting some narrow part of the spectrum of sexuality for anything like a 'gay trait' to emerge in our genetics.

The fact is – homosexual and heterosexual are legal definitions and obeying or breaking a law does not suddenly recode your DNA.

The law also defines marrieds and unmarrieds – a lifestyle choice that is (hopefully) linked to desire. Is there a ‘married’ gene? Is there a jaywalking gene or a fly-tipping gene?

But let’s go back to the word ‘natural’, one of the most abused, meaningless adjectives in the language.

Given appeals to science in the gay marriage debate are completely bogus, what are people trying to say when they talk about ‘natural’ in this context? It could be something like – it’s not what people normally do in our legally and religiously limited culture (a tautology that appeals to a rule to justify a rule). Or, more probably—it’s not what we used to do when we lived in the trees or for instance roamed the plains of the Rift Valley catching waterfowl with stone axes. That kind of 'natural'.

Even given this absurd definition, why would anyone aspire to be ‘natural’.

Civilisation is about escaping a state of nature -- because appeals to what is 'natural' should also include demands for more killing, raping, infant cannibalism, incest, intimidation, greed and violence.

We hold up clothing, language, money and other technology as evidence of civilisation, but when it comes to sexuality, relationships and pleasure we seem to incongruously look back to the animal kingdom.

Given that a measure of thoughtfulness beyond the grunts and howls of animal behaviour is our general standard for judging the good in virtually every other human endeavour, let’s just for fun apply this standard to sexuality and see what happens.

Recent science shows heterosexuals aren't even making conscious choices about who to form relationships with -- blind trials with smelly laundrydemonstrate that immunogenetics can be unconsciously communicated through sweat.

All evidence shows that heteros pick mates with complimentary rather than overlapping immunogenetics, probably to increase their children's resistance to viruses. Most heteros are simply picking a complementary piece of DNA to fuse with rather than bonding over higher qualities like intellect and compassion.

So, I would like to argue that heteros, if they are indeed more 'natural', also apply less free will to their relationships. 

Hetero relationships are also, in our current climate of persecution and shunning, more obvious, less thought provoking, easier and therefore lazier. Apply those adjectives to other marks of taste like food, music, literature and film and you begin to see that heterosexuality in its tightly defined modern form is definitely not the civilised choice. It is the Doritos or the Coolabah Fruity Lexia of sexuality.

I say that as an embarrassed 'hetero' myself.

Which leads us to the second pillar of Rudd’s much-lauded argument. He said that because people are ‘born gay’ that they deserve then to get some basic legal recognition for their relationships– civil unions, partner visas, etc.

Basically full citizenship is for 'natural' people, and 'unnaturals' are subordinate.

But legal protections and citizenship rights are marks of a mature civilisation. They are for people who have risen above a state of abject nature and monkey instinct–through education and the development of critical faculties. 

So if anyone deserves the legal protections of civil unions it should be people who are able to define their love without reference to the habits of wild animals or just a vibe they pick up from some immunogenetically complementary laundry.

I know Rudd was attempting to respond to a question asked by a Christian pastor, but this debate is bigger than biblical hermeneutics.

Perhaps another question for the next Q&A then: why do boorish tyrant heteros trying to enforce their not-very-thoughtful forest floor understanding of sexuality on the rest of us deserve to have their own relationships blessed with the legal protections and citizenship rights of a civilisation founded by smart, caring, compassionate, sexually curious people?