Election campaigns, even if they run for eight weeks, are a democratic delicacy. For a while there is some extended focus on matters of public policy. As Christians we bring a commitment to follow the Way of Jesus, as best we can understand and discern that.
Uniting Justice Australia (UJA) has assisted us, again, by preparing a well-researched, clearly written and professionally designed document A Flourishing Society. I hope that many UCA members and congregations make good use of that resource. The briefs on refugees, climate justice, Indigenous respect and other public policies are of high quality.
With the exception of aged care, A Flourishing Society ignores the injustices faced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) Australians – discrimination in housing and employment, bullying at school and the lack of marriage equality, all of which can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Some conservative Christians, led by Lyle Shelton and the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), do not share the reticence of some Uniting Church leaders to speak out on LGBTIQ matters. Unfortunately, the policies of the ACL are based on the doctrine of heterosexual and cisgendered* superiority. As with the sin of racial superiority, this heresy denies trust in God as the Creator of all. It is a form of a-theism, parading in Christian garb. The ACL trenchantly opposes marriage equality, and led the very successful campaign against Australian Government support for the Safe Schools Coalition.
In the latter case, the policies of the ACL are not only wrong, they are dangerous to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable LGBTIQ young people. Such ill-informed and prejudicial and potentially dangerous discussion is the risk of the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality. To its credit, UJA presented a well-argued submission to the Senate opposing the conduct of a plebiscite, and has also supported civil marriage equality in submissions.
At their recent national conference ACL policy arguments make increasing references to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and LGBTIQ inclusion, as seen in a current article. Such arguments are fundamentally flawed. It was the Nazi regime which sent millions of Jews, plus thousands of gypsies and homosexuals to the gas chambers. The parallels are not only odious – they are false.
If the marriage equality plebiscite proceeds, I expect many Uniting Church congregations, clergy and leaders to participate in the debate, with careful and reasoned discussion – standing in solidarity with our LGBTIQ sisters and brothers.
*(‘Cisgender’ refers to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex. That is, they are not ‘transgender’.)
Warren Talbot is the national secretary of Uniting Network Australia, the Uniting Church’s LGBTIQ advocacy network; and convenes the Mission and Justice Team at the Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney.