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Malcolm Turnbull on marriage equality

Malcolm Turnbull used the Michael Kirby Lecture to make a supremely compelling case for marriage equality. It's a really good speech, and it's hard to disagree with anything he says. But of course people have found a way, and not just anti-equality campaigners but people in favour. This is bizarre.

The apparent problem is that towards the end of the speech Turnbull suggested that "the numbers are not there for gay marriage in this parliament". That's pretty widely accepted as being the case given the Coalition isn't opting for a conscience vote. Turnbull thinks it would probably still be the case even with a conscience vote - fine, he's relatively well-placed to make that kind of judgement and it seems like a reasonable proposition. The response given in the speech is that the numbers are present for civil unions and we should legislate for the rather than "letting the perfect be the enemy of the good".

Australian Marriage Equality issued a press release headed "TURNBULL DISAPPOINTS ON GAY MARRIAGE" which is full of buzz-y phrases condemning civil unions: "they entrench discrimination rather than remove it", "they will never be a solution to the acute hurt and discrimination". The AME website has plenty of other items lashing Turnbull for even daring to mention civil unions. Rodney Croome on The Drum has a slightly more substantive take on the same issue.

I'm going to borrow some snark. Here is the list of places where Malcolm Turnbull said civil unions were a good enough solution:
1. Nowhere.
2. Not there either.

AME is right to say that the ground is shifting quickly on this issue and the numbers will probably be present, if not in this Parliament, then certainly in the near future. That is in no way counter to the fact that civil unions could be passed significantly more quickly and easily, and that that would be some step towards equality and fair treatment - not a final step, not a step instead of marriage, but on the way to it. This is perfectly clear from the speech.

Croome's piece is slightly more promising in that it offers reasons why legislating for civil unions is actually worse. Well, it tries to, amongst other things - in a strange and quietly vindictive piece, there are various stabs at Turnbull-as-person and an odd attempt to analogise to the failure of the republic referendum. And even putting all that aside, the arguments he makes fail a basic plausibility test. Civil unions are obviously worse, from an equality perspective, than full marriage equality. But if they were worse than a no-recognition status quo, that would make Campbell Newman's decision to tear up civil unions in Queensland is a win for the gay movement. Hold up there! The reactions I have seen to that act suggest that's not the case, I doubt any even vaguely significant number of people believe it, and AME doesn't seem to.

So what's going on? I wish I had an answer! But I can see very little explanation. Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech repudiating his party policy in great detail and in every conceivable way - he not only supports marriage equality, but also argued that the Liberal Party should allow a conscience vote. He is writing posts on his blog (in the face of an extremely one-sided comments section - personal favourite below) continuing to make the case. His only crime seems to be suggesting that there might be a staging post on the way to the goal which he agrees is what should ultimately be achieved. The vast majority of people, unlike Rodney Croome, don't think that total lack of recognition is better than some, imperfect, equality. For those people - including me - attacking Malcolm Turnbull makes no sense.

Although it may all become moot, because once Turnbull reads this comment on his blog he will surely change his mind:
"The problem is it will not stop there. They have been talking for years about men being modified to carry babies."