Traditional marriage campaigner David Van Gend recently did that most rare of things – he defended the freedom of his opponents. David’s book, Stealing from the Child – The Injustice of ‘Marriage Equality’ has courted controversy. In fact, the book proved so controversial that publisher Connor Court’s usual printer McPherson’s refused to print it. How did van Gend respond to this refusal to print? He defended their right to do so.
Van Gend justified his stance by saying, “It is a shock to find a commercial printer acting as a censor for the gay lobby. That has a chilling effect on free public argument in a free society. However, it is within their right as a private company to discriminate against people like me on ideological grounds. I accept that. We are not like some people who would take anti-discrimination action. We do not think those sort of laws are worthy of a free society and we do not use them.”
Now imagine for a moment how the marriage equality lobby would respond to a refusal to distribute, Gayby Baby. We all know what would have happened. They would have declared a rainbow jihad against the company involved, and they would have gone to the courts utilising anti-discrimination laws. We have seen exactly this kind of campaign used against any conservatives advocating for traditional marriage. In fact, Van Gend himself has been dragged in front of Queensland’s anti-discrimination commission for views on same-sex marriage published in the Courier Mail. He has also has had his practice vandalised and been the target of social media smears.
Although the government has not outlawed the printing of Van Gend’s book, it’s important to note that a printer refusing to print a book is a free speech issue in the sense that it is a form of cultural censorship. Naturally, this culture of censorship is only targeted at conservative voices. There is a joke that’s attributed to Ronald Reagan: “An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell, ‘To hell with Ronald Reagan.’ The Russian replies: ‘That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, “To hell with Ronald Reagan,” too’.” In the People’s Republic of Australia, it’s increasingly the case that one can stand out the front of a church and say, “To hell with those bigoted Christians.” The rainbow jihadist could reply, “That’s nothing, I can go on the ABC and say, ‘to hell with those bigoted Christians,’ too.”
Brendan O’Neill wrote in Spiked, that the same-sex marriage debate is not about gay marriage at all, but gay validation. It’s about the government declaring full recognition of gay relationships and effectively outlawing belief in traditional marriage. This is why many in the same-sex marriage lobby never got behind Senator David Leyonhjelm’s private members bill because it preserved the right of people like David van Gend to publicly support traditional marriage. It’s very important that we don’t advance one freedom by denying another. People like Van Gend rightly fear that legalisation of same-sex marriage will be tied in with a whole lot of anti-discrimination laws targeted at them.
GetUp’s campaign against the marriage equality plebiscite has called the equal funding for the No campaign funding hate. In one sense, I agree that our government shouldn’t be using our taxes to fund propaganda for either side. However, this isn’t GetUp’s argument, they don’t disapprove of government funding for political campaigns, they just don’t like government funding for political campaigns they don’t like. This is increasingly the tactic of the left and rainbow jihadists; to use any means possible to censor views they don’t like. Considering much of our limited protections for free speech in this country rest on the ‘reasonable person’ test, it’s important they don’t win this culture war.
Only a decade ago, the Australian parliament voted in favour of defining marriage as being between a man and woman. Regardless of the outcome of any plebiscites, votes in parliament, or High Court rulings, many people will continue to hold that view. It’s extremely important that the gaining of one freedom, the right of same-sex couples to marry, isn’t followed by the restriction of another freedom, the right of people to believe and act in response to that belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The seismic change in public opinion on same-sex marriage has been achieved through freedom of speech. Activists for the marriage equality cause have been free to advocate a view that until very recently many found distasteful. We need to have some faith that a continued discussion where everyone is free to speak their view and act on their conscience will continue to advance freedom. Dragging people through the courts because of their deeply held beliefs is completely unacceptable and will only harden resistance to same same-sex marriage and greater equality for gays and lesbians.
As a libertarian, I don’t like government meddling into the personal lives of individuals, however, if it is to meddle it should do so equally. Therefore, I could never agree with the continued restriction on the right of same-sex couples to marry. But, I defend David’s right to his beliefs. Whatever one might think of David van Gend’s views, we can all learn from his defence of freedom. Ultimately, if we are only willing to defend the freedom of people we like or agree with then that’s not freedom at all.
Justin Campbell is on the executive committee of LibertyWorks.