Jan 31

I’ve spent the last 10 years reading widely the thoughts on what the christian right has to say about homosexuality, discrimination, marriage equality and the way they think the world should be.  Last year I pulled back, I unsubscribed from various blogs and newsletters and turned my back on the intolerance and hatred coming from those that would dearly love to return to the basic tenets of their religion, where they were right, homosexuals should be stoned to death and women are nothing more than their personal servants.  I can’t say I’ve missed them.

consequencesEvery now and then I like to check in, as I did with Lyle Shelton the head priest at the Australian Christian Lobby.  He does this sort of pretend radio spot and puts it up on the website, so I had a listen, as he was talking to David Van Gend, a bloke who thinks he has authority because he’s catholic and a doctor.

I’ve written about Shelton and Van Gend before.

I love to flex my mind and listen to their reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to get married, here I’m unpacking some of what they have to say.   You’ll find the full audio and transcript linked at the bottom.

The blog is pretty long, sorry about that.

We start with Lyle doing the intro.

Ever since the Greens member from Melbourne Adam Bandt stood up in the Federal Parliament in December 2010 and moved a motion that MPs consult with their constituents about changing the definition of marriage. The so called gay marriage debate has been on in earnest.

It’s been happening since the Australian Government changed the marriage act in 2004, and it has been earnest, that bit is right.

It’s been five long years as a small minority of activist urged by a willing media have kept this issue alive in the public square and in politics, despite opinion polls seemingly showing majority support for the idea of changing the definition of marriage. The polls also show it’s a very low order issue with voters. It is well down the list of people’s priorities that they think politician should be focusing on.

By defining the group agitating for change as a ‘small minority’ is to suggest that because it’s a small group it’s unimportant, put that in with the idea that people think there are more important things to worry about is saying just how unimportant the whole debate is.  The easy answer is then to simply change it as most people think the change should happen, gets it off the table to focus on more important things.  It’s also important to remember that Lyle thinks that he his being denied his right to free speech, somehow the small minority is the only voice that is being heard by the willing media.

We should also note that the Australian Christian Lobby is a small minority, he is suggesting that they are somehow significant.

The same-sex political juggernaut has seemingly been unstoppable

Oh good, a small minority that is a political juggernaut!  Such power that doesn’t seem to have been successful yet.

…last week in London the same-sex political agenda suffered a significant setback. Anglican Primates from around the globe met to consider the issue because leaders of their church in the United States and Canada have accepted same-sex marriage in defiance of the bible’s teaching. Instead of endorsing the North American’s capitulation to the culture, the 27 of the 36 voting Primates voted to actually censure the North American Church for straying from Christian teaching on marriage.

Perhaps he could define how this is significant.  The anglicans did just what they are supposed to do.  Play by the rules of their religion.  You’ll note that this ‘significant setback’ has not got the United States or Canada governments rushing legislation through to comply with the Anglican Primates biblical teaching.  Nothing has changed really, just a bunch of men (are there any women here today?) in silly hats telling another bunch of men in silly hats that they can’t play with each other for a couple of years.

This is very, very significant. It just goes to show that with courage and conviction this agenda can be turned.


One man who has been showing great courage for many years in this battle is Toowoomba GP and president of the Australian Marriage Forum Doctor David Van Gend. Last year Dr. Van Gend had his doctor surgery spray painted with the word bigot and television advertisements that he produced refused broadcast by the tax payer funded SBS. Dr. Van Gend joins me on the line now, welcome to the program David.

Oh the man is a hero, someone sprayed bigot on his surgery and SBS refused to show his ads on the tele.  Give the man a medal!

Lyle Shelton: David, this meeting of Anglican Primates. I made much of that in that in the introduction because I do think it’s significant that when people stand up, this agenda can be resisted and can be turned around and that’s something you’ve been doing in your work and private capacity as president of the Australian Marriage Forum.

Doctor David Van Gend: I think so because a lot of people understand that there’s something enormous at stake with marriage.

Seriously?  Like what, the end of civilisation perhaps.  Everyone agrees that Ireland is heading towards full destruction, New Zealanders are all turning gay and that the US has found the hand-basket and now slipping on the slope to the pits of hell.

It’s not a religious issue so much with Anglican or with people have every right to weigh in on this.

The anglicans seem to think it’s about what’s in the bible, that sounds like a religious issue.  But Van Gend is right, it’s not a religious issue, it’s a civil issue and people from everywhere are weighing in on it.

It’s about the truth of nature that marriage is a man, woman thing in our culture because it’s a male, female thing in nature.

This is just a nonsense.  There is no marriage in nature, when was the last time you saw a moose priest preside over the marriage of a buck and a doe?  Do they sign their certificate with the horns?  Marriage is a human construct, probably an extension of the males desire to lord it over the woman and be the boss.

It only exists doesn’t it because male, female relations typically have been momentous consequence of creating children and children need the love and protection of a mother and father.

So now it only exists because of children? Before it was a natural thing.  Just a reminder, there is actually nothing momentous about having children.  Have a look around, the whole of our biodiversity rests on our ability to reproduce.  It’s pretty commonplace and happens all the time without marriage.  While we’re talking about love and protection, sadly that’s not actually the case.  This is a fanciful notion that once married you live happily ever after.  We all know the reality of filicide, familicide, mariticide and suicide.

They need the identity and the belonging that goes with being bound to their real mum and dad. That is what marriage achieves. For every child marriage gives them a mum and dad and so-called homosexual marriage makes that impossible. Impossible and that’s the injustice mate.

Mate, listen up, there are plenty of kids out there growing up in families with same-sex parents.  They actually don’t have identity issues.   The injustice is trying to make the world fit your flawed model.  Families are made up of many different types of formations, your ideal is just one of many.  Each have their own merit, none is the best.

Lyle Shelton: Now. This isn’t about being anti any people you just very eloquently said what marriage is and why it’s a justice issue for children

Good Lyle, it’s not about being anti-gay, despite the fact that Van Gend just said gay people can’t really have children.  It’s impossible.

but you’re a doctor and you see people from all walks of life including same-sex attracted people and your advocacy for marriage is not in any way motivated by any animus towards people.

He’s a doctor!  He sees gay people!  He has no animus towards people like me.  Keep that in mind.  The good doctor from Toowoomba sees gay people.  And note this sideways move now, he moves to talking about sexuality and connecting people’s same-sex attraction with marriage.  The two really aren’t connected.

Doctor David Van Gend: I don’t think it’s possible, yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to know especially young gay people but older ones too, I don’t think it’s possible to know them and not just want to put your arm around them and say, “Look, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.” Something’s happened, something’s happened to put you in a position of, to these patients I see, of considerable suffering and anguish. They don’t know where this attraction came from. They don’t know why they go it, they don’t know what to do with it and a number of them have a conflict between those feelings and their own convictions about what marriage and parenting and family is. This is sets up a terrible tension and I think that tension can be resolved. I think we need to get to a very clear position in Australia. Where gay couples have all the liberties and all the equality of any other couple, any other couples married or defacto that as you know Lyle, they already have all that liberty and called.

Where to even start.  Now the GP is a psychologist, I’d like to see his qualifications. He wants to hug gay people and tell them everything is ok, as if that will somehow help people come to terms with their sexuality.  People like me, he suggests, don’t know where this attraction comes from, but that’s ok, because he has the answers.  It’s because something has happened to put me in this position, therefore it can un-happen.  Oh, and he sees a lot to these patients, a lot!  In Toowoomba!  They have considerable suffering and anguish.  Sounds like they’re all rushing to his surgery because it’s got bigot painted on the outside.  But that’s ok, he can resolve the tension, no doubt by telling you that god loves you. attaching electrodes to your testicles and zapping you with 1,000 volts while showing you pictures of an erect penis.   Oh, and that’s ok, because when you go back to the real world, you’ll be treated like everyone else because you have all the liberties and the equality you’ll ever need, just like real couples.  On one hand we are suffering and in anguish, on the other hand we are treated equally.

Lyle Shelton: That’s right 85 laws were changed in 2008 and state governments have allowed relationship registers. There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples.

You know Lyle, when you tell someone that they can’t do something because of who they are, that’s called discrimination.  You can get married to the partner of your choice (at least, I’m assuming it was a choice), but I can’t.

Doctor David Van Gend: Perfect. That’s it, they have full relationship equality and that is what a liberal society should achieve.

Perfect?  I don’t have full relationship equality.  I can’t get married.

That’s where we’re at but you’ve got to also let children have the one institution in society that exists for them. Marriage exists for children, they’ve build around mother and child.

Rubbish.  Marriage is between two adults, has nothing to do with children.  This is really easy to test, plenty of kids are born without their parents being married, plenty of them live with one parent, plenty with same-sex parents, plenty of them without parents.  Marriage exists because we want it, not because we have kids.

The very word matrimony is broken into two words, mother and the state of. It’s the state of motherhood is matrimony and marriage exist to serve the interest of mother and child. It serves to bind men, feral by nature men to their mate so that both of them can be bound to their child. That’s the whole purpose of it and gay people get this.

Excuse me, I’m not feral.  I don’t need to be bound to a woman to be tamed.  I’m not sure how it works in your part of the world.  And the binding doesn’t work, men and women still have sex outside their marriage, they still have children outside their marriage, and they still break up.

You’re going to listen to Christopher Pearson used to write about marriage needing to be a to man, woman thing, or Dolce & Gabbana, the great fashion gays what they said about it or Doug Mannering, all these other serious principal gay guys who say we got what we want. We got the liberty and benefits that we want. Don’t take marriage away from children, it’s their only structural institutional possession and that’s where we’re at Lyle. We can all get to this point of saying, yes, yes our fellow citizen who are same-sex attracted must have all the liberty and equality of any of us, and they do. Now that is enough do not let them usurp the one child sense of institution that there is and remake it in their own adult centered image. That is an injustice against child and that’s where we draw the line.

Ho hum.  A few gay people don’t want to get married, or have the jesus bug, therefore all gay people should listen to them.  In their minds this also works for chrisitans.  David and Lyle are good mates and christian, therefore the whole world should agree with them because they have jesus and they are right.  Between them they have worked out where to draw the line and you’re not allowed to cross their line because… well because jesus!

Doctor David Van Gend: It breaks all marriages because I was sitting in America couple of months after their definition of marriage was changed. I looked around this restaurant. None of those married men and women, none of them have the same marriage they used to have because marriage has now become purely an adult romantic affair. A relationship between any two adults of any sex was no further meaning than that.

This sort of makes my brain hurt.  It’s a huge assumption to say that everyone in the restaurant is married, and if they are, that they are sitting at the table with their spouse.  So because the US now has marriage equality, people already married don’t have the same marriage as before because same-sex marriages exist?  SMH (that’s shaking my head)  And…. their marriages have now become purely adult romantic affairs!  So before it was what?  A child’s romantic affair?  No romance at all?  Marriage is not romantic?  Well at least us gay guys have put the romance back into marriage, you’ve gotta be happy with that.

What they signed up to is marriage being the vocation of a man and woman given by nature itself to undertake the great task of creating a home, a new family and new generation. That great vocation, that great honorable life task has been degraded into a mere romantic association between any two people.

This is it!  The world is ending!  Straight people lives have been wrecked by two lesbians calling each other wife and setting up  a home and a family and a new generation!  You should see my face right now, I’m simply horrified!  I had no idea that getting married to Michael in New Zealand would change the world so much.  Why didn’t someone stop me?  (I’ll leave the answer hanging…)

So that’s gone but more importantly Lyle, the relationship between all parents and all children is redefined when you change marriage as the great lawyer Margaret Somerville pointed out when Canada brought in gay marriage. They changed all of the legal reference to natural parents and made it legal parents. Now, a natural parent is a fundamental, natural relationship which government has to respect, has to stand back and let natural parenthood prevail but once you abolish natural parents because you got rid of natural marriage. All parents and all children are related by a government definition which the government can damn well change whenever it likes. It’s a legal fiction and no parents and children any longer have a natural relationship. They have a legal fiction for a relationship. Be like profound, you’re playing into the hands of big government. People have no idea …

Adoption.  That’s where the old parents have their rights removed and have them assigned to another parent(s)  You know, the government damn well changed the legal fiction.  The relationship is established by law.  Has nothing to do with nature really.  If want you are saying, Davo, is that every child has a mother and a father, then you are right.   What happens after that, nature doesn’t give a rats arse about.

Doctor David Van Gend: …It was an article in Courier Mail and they had for and against forum. I was asked to write the case against gay marriage and someone else wrote the other one. … this is what I’d said, I’d said, yes, yes, it is discrimination to prohibit the marriage of two men but it is a far worse case of discrimination to allow this and thereby abolish a mother from the life of any child created within that marriage or words that effect….Of course we discriminate against two men by saying they can’t marry because they can’t.

Remember, they told us that there is no discrimination.  Remember that they have no animus towards gay people.  Remember, Michael and I are married, even though he says we can’t.  We have a marriage certificate with both our names on it.

It’s not possible because marriage is by definition a natural institution of male and female

It is possible, nature doesn’t define marriage, humans do.

but more importantly they can’t because that would impose a far worse injustice on children who will be created by surrogacy or adoption or whatever under this new institution not by tragic circumstance law but this kids won’t miss out on their mum because their mum’s died or there’s a divorce. These kids in the future will miss out on their mother because an act of parliament today decreed that they will miss out.

I have two children, neither of them have missed out on their mother or father.  Michael and I will not have children, therefore we can get married.  Or wait, nobody else can have children because Michael and I are married, but if a straight couple do have children one of them must leave so the other can marry a person of the same-sex.  And this is ok, because it’s not tragic.  At least that’s what I think he is saying.

Doctor David Van Gend: Actually Lyle, from a wide reading into the activist literature on gay marriage and gay issue.

He reads widely apparently, he reads activist literature on gay marriage.  Excellent, it’s good to have a well-rounded view.

That’s actually the main objective. Gay thinkers, gay activist don’t really care about gay marriage, they actually despise it.

This is right, however, reading as widely as you do Davey, you surely understand that this is but one of many, many views.

They always have despised marriage. It’s a bourgeois, hetero normative, slightly religious patriarchal repressive thing that cramps your gay style.

I have never despised marriage, I’m gay, I’m an activist.  However, I understand that Julia Gillard, who is a woman, not gay and probably not an activist had some thoughts about marriage and it being repressive.  Perhaps I’m not reading widely enough.

They despise it, they always have but in the mid ‘90s, they realize that there’s this new thing in town called antidiscrimination law

Well no, I think you need to wind it back about 20 years when gay people starting saying stop beating us up, stop putting us in jail.  Stop telling us who to have sex with.

and if you normalise homosexual marriage in law, you have normalise homosexual behaviour in all its manifestations with the force of the law and that gives you two things.

Homosexuality has been normalised as you say.  It’s actually not considered abnormal for people to be not straight.  Remember that he has no animus towards gay people.

It gives you control of the curriculum so that all children with gay marriage bought in. All children must be taught the homosexual behavior is no different to the relationship of their mum and dad. That it is normal and natural and right and if parents disagree to bad it’s the law of the land.

Children must be taught?  The sub-text of this is that he still considers homosexuality unnatural, and something to be ashamed of.   Just below the surface here is that vague notion that gay people are recruiting children to be gay.

You’ve missed your chance, it’s gone and the second thing is they the big stick of antidiscrimination law to beat the churches and other conscientiousness objectors into submission and that is what they are trying to do now but we can resist it now. We will not be able to resist it when gay marriage is the law of the land and they know that and this is why they want it.

And here in lies the real reason, at the end of the interview.  He really doesn’t want gay people telling him what to believe.  He really wants to maintain his right to discriminate against whomever he wants.  He sincerely believes that once gay people are allowed to get married that they will set about dismantling society and force him to get gay married, or something.  While he admits that marriage equality is inevitable, he is attempting to frighten people into thinking that their world will change so much that civilisation itself will come crushing down, and the people who are not currently being discriminated against and those that he bares no animus towards will be fully responsible.

Despite what these two white men with their wealth and privilege say, this is about power and control.  This is about their rank as men, head of the household, rulers of the world.  It’s bad enough that women want to do things other than be mothers and dedicated wives, now they have to contend with same-sex couples wanting to get married.  And when they go back to the basis of this power and privilege – the bible – it says that homosexuality is an abomination, that those that participate in it are worthy of death, women should not be heard, that there is no divorce and children should be seen only.  This is the world they want, where they are the centre of the power, so the small town doctor and the pretend high priest are treated as demi-gods.


Part 1

Part 2

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Jul 31

Dr David van Gend is a family doctor from Toowoomba.  He’s also the president of a group called Australian Marriage Forum. He’s written an open letter to the Australian Education Minister, Christopher Pyne. Van Gend is asking that Pyne reconsiders the decision to fund the Safe Schools program throughout Australia and goes on to quote a range of studies and provide information.   I understand that he is talking about Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA), which the government is funding.  The program forms part of the National Safe Schools Framework and specifically the SSCA program is about creating safe and supportive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse people by reducing homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in schools.  I note that it’s about reducing and not eliminating.  The National Safe Schools Framework is described as  providing Australian schools with a vision and a set of guiding principles that assist school communities to develop positive and practical student safety and well-being policies.  A very noble cause indeed, and a clear recognition that bullying of students needs to be addressed, no matter what the cause. Reading van Gend’s letter isn’t much fun.  It’s the normal anti-gay stuff that I’ve seen a thousand times.  I’ve picked some of his more outrageous bits to think about:

The political justification for ‘Safe Schools’ programmes, or the associated ‘Gay-Straight Alliances’, is that there is a plague of gay-based bullying in our schools, and the only way to counter that is through celebrating homosexuality. That justification, however, is doubtful.

It’s not clear that there is a plague of gay-based bullying in schools, but the Growing Up Queer report released in February 2014 is reported in The Age (7/2/14):

A disturbing two-thirds of non-heterosexual young Australians have been bullied about their sexual orientation, according to a new report that reveals widespread homophobic harassment and violence in schools, at home, work and at sporting events. The Growing Up Queer report, to be released on Friday, also found 16 per cent of respondents had attempted suicide and 33 per cent had harmed themselves largely due to homophobic harassment – mostly verbal among students and, in some instances, teachers.

This is a current research paper with relevant Australian data based on a sample of  1,000 people.  The figures are disturbing and certainly not worthy of the being equalled to something of a plague.  If two-thirds of young gay people are being bullied then we need to address it. Van Gend goes on to quote a UK study, also of 1,000 people.  However, he attempts to use this study to minimise the impact of bullying on gay people.

In one large study comparing a thousand homosexual and heterosexual adults in the UK, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003, the researchers found no increase in bullying of gay men compared to heterosexual men, whether at school or subsequently, whether verbally or physically. “Reports that gay and lesbian people are vulnerable to such experiences because of their sexuality are often taken at face value”, these researchers noted, with other studies failing to draw a comparison to heterosexual students. In other words, there are many reasons to be bullied at school – for being too smart, too dumb; too fat, too weak; or for being “gay” even when you are not gay. A report in the news only last week finds one-third of 10-year-olds in Australia report being bullied for various reasons. That is something many young people go through, and the claim that homosexual people suffer disproportionate bullying appears to be “taken at face value”.

He omits the following sentence from the report:

Bullying at school was reported no more often in gay than heterosexual men, but the gay men who had been bullied regarded their sexual orientation as the main provocation. Gay and lesbian participants were more likely than heterosexual participants to have consulted a mental health professional in the past, regardless of current mental state.

It is quite telling that he cherry-picks his information to support his contention.  He uses a study that is over 10 years old, well before marriage equality was a reality in the UK.  There are plenty of recent studies around, it doesn’t take much to find them. Van Gend then moves the subject from school bullying to illicit drug use by gay people.  He seems to be suggesting from a 2010 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that somehow gay people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, but I’m not sure of the connection to bullying, nor does he really identifying why he is making that link.  A quick review of the 2013 AIHW report shows a decrease in the use of alcohol, specifically fewer 12–17 year olds are drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol increased significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 64% to 72%). The misuse of alcohol and drugs is always disturbing, and van Gend is suggesting that it’s because gay people can’t cope and they turn to alcohol, when heterosexuals don’t cope perhaps they resort to letter writing instead of alcohol. Van Gend then makes some observations from his profession:

From my observations as a family doctor, the pressures that depress a young gay man are more intrinsic than extrinsic: the sense that something has gone wrong deep inside; the depressing and degrading effect of his compulsive sexual encounters; the unresolved anger at what he sees to be the cause of his sexual confusion, such as childhood abuse by a male.

I’m not sure about his qualifications, if he’s just a family doctor I hope that he is referring these young gay men to appropriate support.  I’d suggest with his reputation as a conservative doctor, that the only young gay men who visit him are taught from their religious background that something is wrong.  Van Gend is unlikely to reassure them that everything is ok or that they are normal.  He also then assumes that his patient is having compulsive sexual encounters and that he was abused by a man during his childhood.  None of which he supports.  No indication of numbers or resolutions. He then states:

It trivialises a homosexual person’s suffering to blame it primarily on the external environment – or alleged excess of bullying at schools. There are less insidious means to address the perennial problem of bullying — for all students — than by normalising homosexual behaviour in the curriculum.

There seems little room for doubt about the impact of bullying.  Homosexual people have no need to suffer.  It has been concisely demonstrated in the Growing Up Queer report that external factors do impact on the well-being of gay people.  We as a society should make every effort to minimise suffering for all of our citizens, not just those that he would classify as ‘normal’. He then uses information from The American College of Pediatricians, he acknowledges that they are a conservative medical group and claims that they are represented across 47 states.  He neglects to tell us that their membership is about 100 professionals and that they are a break-away group from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  They broke away after the AAP supported gay adoption.  Interestingly the AAP has around 60,000 members.  So, who are you going to trust? Van Gend then sets about suggesting that when left alone, young men will turn out heterosexual.  He considers homosexual feelings to be some type of confusion.  He’s suggesting that it’s just a phase that young men go through. Finally, after taking us through the standard rhetoric of what makes someone like me gay and how I shouldn’t be treated as a normal citizen he then talks about HIV and venereal disease.  As if this is the singular most important reason why we shouldn’t treat gay people as normal, because it’s bad for our health:

Even using the simplest, most objective measure of harm – the burden of venereal disease (and in Australia it remains the case now, as for the last 25 years, that around 85 percent of new cases of HIV/AIDS are in “men who have sex with men”) – it is obviously harmful to lock a young man into a lifestyle that he might have avoided, were it not for the assertion of homosexual normalcy, by programmes such as ‘Safe Schools’.

It’s so easy to carry that ‘warning’.  No doubt he still thinks that heterosexual people only have sex after they are married and then only have sex with one person.  He clearly demonstrates the need to educate young people about safe sex.  His method of abstinence has never worked.  History is full of tales of sex outside marriage.  We used to call those children bastards. I don’t understand this concept of locking someone into a lifestyle.  He is referring to the gay lifestyle, of course.  Sexuality is not something that you can pick.  Sure, there are some that don’t fit the mould of one or the other, but generally speaking once you’re happy with your life, why would you need to change?  The sort of lifestyle he is talking about is one I know well.  Pretending to be heterosexual.  There is a lot of pain in denial.  My advice is to avoid it at all costs. Van Gend also cherry picks the ‘venereal disease’ information.  I’m not sure of the percentage of men who have HIV in Australia.  However, he ignores the bigger picture.  50% of those with HIV worldwide are women.  Over 35 million people have died from AIDS related illness.  To suggest that we can make HIV/AIDS disappear by asserting that homosexuality isn’t normal is short-sighted and shows a complete disregard for the reality of our world.  Quite frankly it’s disturbing to have a family doctor practising with such a limited view of sexuality.  I’d be so bold as to suggest it’s just outright dangerous. Van Gend is perfectly entitled to express his opinions but when he takes those opinions into the public sphere and uses his profession as a way to lend it credibility then he needs to be scrutinized and held to account. The one thing missing from van Gend’s letter is his motivation.  Considering his faith background he is very likely catholic and still of the opinion that gay people are disordered and an abomination. While he might not actually stone people like me to death, he probably thinks that his god was on to something with that idea. stoning

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