This morning, Radio National’s Breakfast Program played a soundbite containing Kevin Andrew’s justification for opposing the ACT’s marriage equality laws. What he said was on the surface of it brain-bendingly bizarre, mendacious and unhinged, but underneath there is a terrible logic:
There are two competing views about marriage today. One is the traditional view, and that is that marriage is essentially a protective institution for children and women, and that’s between a man and a women. There is a new version, a new view if you put it that way, that says that marriage is essentially an affectionate relationship between adults. Now, there are many affectionate relationships between adults, which the law has no part in. Brothers and sisters, members of family, just good friends, have affectionate relationships. I don’t think that is marriage, I don’t think that the law should step in to those sorts of arrangements, and that’s why I continue to support the long held definition.
Insane, huh. The immediate urge is to write Andrews off as some slavering crazy Grandpa Simpson-type waving a cane around, and that would be possible, if only the slavering crazy backward types did not currently have power in Australia. Moreover, the statement deserves a decent parse, as it displays classic Howard-era rhetorical technique. We’re probably going to be hearing more of this sort of crap in the years to come.
Let’s take the premise that “marriage is essentially a [ed: legal] protective institution for children and women”, and that this is the “traditional view”. I’ve added in that it is a legal institution, because that’s implied by what he says later.
Marriage has changed enormously in the millenia it has existed, so it is difficult to point at any one moment in time whose definition of marriage is traditional. The Week here has a potted summary, should anyone wish to check out what is so self-evidently true to anyone who hasn’t lived with their heads stuffed up their bums. The fact that Andrews dismisses any formulation of marriage that involves love suggests the traditional format he harkens back to is the one of the pre-Enlightenment models that existed before the 17th C. Noice!
Secondly, he identifies what he defines as the alternative view, then attacks that. In logic, that is known as the straw man attack. No-one, nowhere, defines marriage as “essentially an affectionate relationship between adults”. From that ridiculously broad overgeneralisation about the meaning of marriage, he then claims that affectionate relationships exist between all sorts of adults, including brothers & sisters, friends, and family, and that the law has no place in determining the parameters of those structures.
I’ll just take a moment to try to push my brain back into my ears from where it has exploded from the complete and utter nonsensical stupidity of what he said. Perhaps he’s living, breathing performance art, existing only to show hypocrisy and logical fallacy should be done. Because now we’re getting from the literal meaning of what he’s said, and into the implications – the whistle to the proverbial dog.
Proposition A: Marriage only exists to protect children and women.
Implication 1: Women and children need the institution of marriage for protection, because naturally men are arseholes and will take advantage of them without some sort of legal protection. No-one else in a relationship will be an arsehole, ever.
Implication 2: People in non-traditional relationships do not deserve the same level of protection.
Implication 3: Children from non-traditional relationships do not actually exist so there’s no point considering them or their needs anyway.
Implication 4: All this namby-pamby getting married for love stuff is just codswallop. (I hope Mrs Andrews was listening.)
Proposition B: The only alternative definition of marriage is an affectionate relationship between two adults.
Implication 1: Love? What is this love of which you speak? It sounds highly illogical and frankly dangerous.
Implication 2: This definition of marriage includes all affectionate relationships between any adults at all, including “brothers and sisters, members of family, [or] just good friends”
Implication 3: OHMIGODFATHER, MARRIAGE EQUALITY WILL LEAD TO SEX BETWEEN EVERYONE. NASTY FREE FOR ALL ORGIES IN EVERY BATHROOM! GETTEM ORF GETTEM ORF.
Implication 4: No, seriously, how else does that affectionate adult statement make the slightest bit of sense?
It’s hard to imagine this entire argument being constructed by someone who had experienced love. Perhaps that is the problem?
Okay, let’s forget what Andrews actually said, because clearly that was just a load of shite aimed at going over well with a receptive audience. He’s tossed in a few comforting motherhood phrases, like ‘traditional marriage’, which make the unconsciously homophobic feel all cuddly and warm. He’s managed to squeeze the concept of protection of children and vulnerable into it to increase the fuzzy goodness. He’s made some unbelievably irrational claims sound quite reasonable. And to wind it up, there’s a well veiled slippery slope argument, carefully phrased enough to not attract the sort of ridicule Cory Bernardi received with his bestiality claim.
Essentially, what we can take from his statement is the following: Kevin Andrews is completely and utterly incapable of even conceptualising non-traditional marriage. He is so bamboozled by non-traditional marriage that he’s willing to toss out all the sweet romanticism of modern marriage to accept a definition of marriage that became outdated in the 17th Century.
Moreover, we can fairly safely assume that Kevin Andrews doesn’t like gay marriage, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.