Arsehat award for July 2015 – Eric Abetz

Yes, I know, it’s only the second day of the month, but Eric Abetz holds a special place in hell and he opened his mouth on something we’re both very passionate about and he lied, or if that’s not quite accurate, he misstated actual facts.

You see, the reason I know that Abetz is bending the truth, is because this particular story impacts directly on me, what The Australian claimed I said, and the fact that I am very very sure that Eric Abetz and the Australian Journalist Ean Higgins worked together to discredit me, James, and Bi-Alliance Victoria.  This all happened in 2012, so for most people it’s the distant past, but I don’t forget being used by a queerphobic politician who was out to trash a Senate Committee looking into marriage equality (I have a LONG memory).

Let’s start at the beginning and move to what Abetz has done today in a mostly linear fashion.

I published on my blog my submission to the Senate Committee, I also submitted it online as was available at the time (though apparently it was never received by the committee).  James (my husband) who was then president of Bi-Alliance Victoria, submitted a submission on behalf of Bi-Alliance Victoria (see submission 181).  As you can see from both submissions, we called for the same marriage rights for same-sex relationships as people in opposite sex relationships.

Out of the blue, we received a call from Ean Higgins at The Australian, who wanted to talk about our submissions to the Senate.  We didn’t expect Mr Higgins to stab us in the back, so we talked to him, he called back and asked some more questions, and then wrote a factually incorrect article titled, “Marriage for four put to Senate” for The Australian.  I wrote to the Australian to request a retraction and an apology and only got one after I involved the Press Council (sadly not online).

Only after the event did I realise that Ean Higgins and Eric Abetz had probably colluded to discredit my submission, and the submission of Bi-Alliance Victoria, and went out of their way to suggest that by granting marriage equality to people in same-sex relationships, granting legal recognition to people in polyamorous relationships was just around the corner*.

In the dissenting opinion in the Marriage Equality Senate Committee, Abetz and Cash wrote (pdf):

1.27 Coalition senators are of the view that in considering Senator Hanson-Young’s Bill it is appropriate to consider the potential consequences of where the logic of ‘marriage equality’ may lead.
1.28 The majority report seeks to selectively highlight certain submissions received by the committee in support of the proposition that ‘Marriage Equality for same-sex couples is not a ‘slippery slope'”.
1.29 The majority report fails however to acknowledge submissions received by the Senate committee from Mr James and Mrs Rebecca Dominguez and, further, the evidence given by former High Court Justice Michael Kirby at the committee’s hearing in Sydney, which cogently demonstrate that the conclusion of the committee majority in this regard is factually incorrect.

1.31 Mr and Mrs Dominguez are practising polyamorists. Mrs Dominguez is the former President of PolyVic, an organisation representing Victoria’s polyamorous community.
1.32 Both Mr and Mrs Dominguez made submissions to the Senate Inquiry. Only Mr Dominguez’s submission (Submission 181 on behalf of the Bisexual Alliance Victoria) was published due to the number of submissions received by the inquiry. Mrs Dominguez’s submission was however posted on line at http://blogs.bluebec.com/submission-to-the-senate-on-marriage-equality/. While the submissions by Mr and Mrs Dominguez did not explicitly canvass polyamorous marriage, both made subsequent statements supporting this proposition at some time in the future.
1.33 In an article in The Australian newspaper on 23 May 2012, entitled ‘Marriage for four put to Senate’, Mrs Dominguez is quoted as saying: ‘Some time in the distant future we should look at the idea of plural marriage’. On a blogsite entitled Polyamory in the news, Mr Dominguez said:
I just want to re-stress that: despite the Oz misquoting yet again and saying The Greens are “against” poly marriage, they have actually said simply that it’s not part of their platform and they have no plans to pursue it. If there is ever a popular movement to legalise poly marriage in the future, The Greens will be the first to lend their support, I guarantee it. A few poly people are angry with them for not expressing support, but I think we need to be realistic.
1.34 A number of other polyamorists subsequently expressed the view that there should be greater recognition of polyamorist relationships, or disappointment with the Greens’ claim not to support polyamorous marriage.

I don’t think for an instant that any of these Senators are savvy enough to google us, I would expect that Higgins was still stalking us online, hence the comment regarding Polyamory in the News, which James commented on, he wasn’t quoted in the article.

Ok, so why am I dragging out all this dusty history from 2012?

Today Abetz opened his mouth regarding the joint party (Liberal/Labor) Private Members Bill regarding Marriage Equality, as this is an issue that isn’t going away any time soon, and Ireland and the USA have now legalised same-sex marriage (which just looks weird as something to type out – because marriage shouldn’t be illegal, but I digress). Abetz is quoted in the Guardian as stating:

Senior Abbott government minister Eric Abetz has suggested legalising same-sex marriage could open a “Pandora’s box” of legalising other unions, including polyamory.

Abetz called on frontbench colleagues to take “the honourable course of action” and quit their leadership positions if they were unable to support the Liberal party’s “long-established policy” of upholding marriage between a man and a woman. And he suggested the change would trigger subsequent calls to allow marriages between three or more people.

“To try to change the definition now will open a Pandora’s box because if you undo the insitution [sic] of marriage by redefining it for the latest movement or the latest fad you will open a Pandora’s box for all sorts of other potential possibilities,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

Asked to be specific, Abetz said: “Polyamory, clearly – well, polyamory is one of those. That has now been promoted not only to Australian Senate committees but it has been commented on and pursued in Holland, in Scandinavia, in the United States, so let’s not be under any illusion that once you start unpicking the definition of marriage there will be other consequences.”

The interviewer, Kieran Gilbert, said: “So you’re suggesting that it would be legalising multiple spouses, is that what you’re suggesting, that that’s a prospect?”

Abetz replied: “No, no, no, no; look, don’t try and verbal me. What I said was that if you undo the definition you then open up a Pandora’s box and if you say that it is no longer an instiution [sic] between one man and one woman you then do open up a Pandora’s box.

“Indeed, dissenting judges in the United States and elsewhere have referred to that possibility, so what I am saying is not something new. It is something that many people around the world have said and we have in fact witnessed it.”

He also suggested it was the “Asian century”, yet Asian countries had not embraced same-sex marriage.

When Gilbert questioned the comparison, given Australia also differed from many Asian countries on the issue of capital punishment, Abetz accused the media of championing the cause of same-sex marriage rather than allowing “a proper, appropriate debate”.

Abetz added: “I detect that the Australian people are getting a bit sick and tired of the one-way traffic that is being promoted by Australia’s media.”

So much fail, in so little airtime.

A) Poly people did not insert themselves into the 2012 Senate Committee on Marriage Equality, Abetz, Cash and the other dude went and found polyamory and shoved it in there on their own.  The Australian’s coverage of poly news at that time (see the Poly In The News link above) was solely to get Polyamory into the political consciousness so that they had a good reason to dissent against marriage equality at the time other than writing “we’re queerphobic bigots” 100 times.

B) Poly people aren’t clamouring for marriage recognition, and are unlikely to do so any time soon.  Even if they did, I don’t understand why this would be a good reason to deny people in monogamous committed same-sex relationships to marry now.  You could always put in a thing about monogamy if that really concerns you.

C) Abetz really is a complete cock weasel. Actually that might not be fair, a cock weasel actually sounds like a cool idea.  Abetz is a complete and utter arsehat.

* An aside – the Family Law Act of something something, actually recognises multiple relationships in the event of a divorce or separation – so that those couples that have separated but cannot divorce (ie one is missing, offshore and can’t be contacted, etc), any future relationship that they are in can still be recognised for the purposes of separation of that subsequent relationship.  So the fact that I am legally married AND living with another partner, means that the Family Law Act probably already recognises my two relationships… isn’t that nice.

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One thought on “Arsehat award for July 2015 – Eric Abetz”

  1. Re: “Even if they did, I don’t understand why this would be a good reason to deny people in monogamous committed same-sex relationships to marry now. You could always put in a thing about monogamy if that really concerns you.”

    Monogamy is not the direct opposite of polyamory with respect to this conversation. The Act describes having only one marriage at a time, not one sexual partner at a time, and it is culture like religion that interprets this (illogically) to mean monogamy. Monogamy and even sex are not requirements for marriage. Non-monogamy might constitute grounds for divorce but that is dependent on concepts of irreconcilable differences.

    The idea of putting monogamy into the Marriage Act 1961 is patently silly even for Abetz. If you want law reform start with the law. Otherwise there is a slippery slope to fall down.

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