Peter Hartcher, the political and international editor of the Sydney Morning Herald -- one of Australia's most influential papers -- just published an editorial castigating Australia's leaders failure to lead. In a piece entitled "They can't stonewall forever," he ripped both Julia Gillard, Australia's Prime Minister and head of its Labor Party (shown left with Penny Wong, right, her Finance Minister and first openly lesbian cabinet member) and Tony Abbott, head of the opposition Liberal (but conservative) party, for opposing the tide of history as regard to marriage equality.
There was no mincing of words by Mr. Hartcher.
What do slavery, wife beating and child labour have in common? All were once mainstream practices in Western countries. Today, they are unacceptable violations of rights...He then gets into brass tacks and statistical truths...
Why do Australia's political leaders think that discrimination against gay people should be any exception to what the Harvard psychology professor Stephen Pinker calls the Right Revolutions that have been raging for decades, even centuries?
At the end of World War II, homosexuality was illegal in all but a score of nations. Today, the balance of global attitudes has reversed sharply; 120 nations have decriminalised homosexuality while about 80 retain it as a crime.Having laid out why the Gillards and Abbotts of Australia are anachronisms, Hartcher delivers his coup de grace.
... resistance to gay marriage in Australia has collapsed not in 50 years but in no more than seven... In 2004, fewer than one in four Australians was in favour of official recognition of gay marriage... But by November last year, the position had reversed dramatically. Support stood at 62 per cent, according to a Herald Nielsen poll. Opposition was exactly half as widely held, at just 31 per cent.
The Herald Nielsen poll showed that, among Labor voters, a whopping 71 per cent favour official recognition of same-sex marriage... As for Abbott... he too is in the minority of his own party on gay marriage. The Herald Nielsen poll found that 50 per cent of Coalition voters support same-sex marriage, and 44 per cent oppose.
The unvarnished truth is that on same-sex marriage, both leaders followed the ironic advice of the 19th-century French democrat Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: "There go the people - I must follow them, for I am their leader." Gillard and Abbott have staked out positions they thought mainstream, but the mainstream has deserted them. Not wanting to look foolish and weak, they will hold their positions. Later this year they will frustrate the effort to give gays equal rights.One really has to wonder how hard it could be for Gillard and Abott to look at the world changing or to think about how they will be viewed twenty or thirty years from now. Do neither of them feel the call of the future's past?
And they will be left on the wrong side of history.
"He ((Obama)) is the first president to say he's in favour of gay marriage. He will also be the last Democratic president willing to not say that he was in favour."Can Australia's leaders really feel comfortable with such a historical legacy -- blocking the advance of human rights for who-knows-how-many-more years, despite the overwhelming sentiment of the people they are supposed to serve? Do they really want to be Stephen Douglass to Abraham Lincoln? John McCain to Barack Obama?
I would think not. But apparently they do.