Flat White

Same-sex marriage and the “political advocacy” of the AMA

5 September 2017

7:31 AM

5 September 2017

7:31 AM

Dr Pansy Lai, a practicing Sydney GP, who appeared on the Australian Christian Lobby’s advertisement for the “no” campaign last week has not only been subjected to a torrent of vile online comments and threats, as well as an online CommunityRun petition with the aim of seeing her deregistered as a paediatric medical practitioner. After mounting public complaints GetUp!, the online platform described as empowering and facilitating the petition had it pulled. This is simply one of the inevitable but unforeseen consequences though of the push for same sex marriage. It’s part of what we call the ‘slippery slope’ effect of introducing this legislation.

Note that the petition called on the Australian Medical Association and the regulatory agency to deregister her for “her participation in the recent ‘no’ campaign against marriage equality in which she [allegedly] willfully spread misinformation and non-scientific evidence.”

Now, this was a particularly big call to make, especially when the AMA itself has a petition going around against it, signed by over 630 doctors and 25 professors, in part regarding its “suppression of evidence of harm to children” as well as “uncritical support for evidence of benefit to children.” The 18-page document clearly demonstrates via the referencing a number of peer-reviewed articles that the AMA has misled both politicians and the general public as to the health risks associated with redefining marriage.

What’s more, the AMA Director of Public Health has written to one of the members stating that he was personally aware of the papers cited in their critique but nonetheless were overlooked in the AMA’s official statement.  If anyone could be accused of “willfully spreading misinformation and non-scientific evidence in order to promote discrimination,” it could just be that the AMA itself has been compromised, choosing ideology over science and political advocacy over professional concerns.

I could go on at this point to refer to the plethora of cases overseas where businesses, schools, churches, universities, hospitals, and law courts have had to explicitly support the new orthodoxy once marriage is redefined. I could refer to example after example, but I think you get the point. There is a clear ‘knock on effect’ that we can expect to witness if marriage is redefined.

But it seems that to many people today, the mere mention of a possible “slippery slope” occurring is immediately dismissed out of hand. As Peter van Onselen has said recently, it’s a “tired and lazy debating point used too often by the unthinking conservative.” Ironically, that’s a tired and lazy way of arguing in and of itself because rather than deal with what the logical consequences of a certain course of action might be, it is merely dismissed out of hand as always being illegitimate.

Stephen Chavura though has recently defended the legitimate use of the ‘slippery slope’ argument and some people’s objection to it stating: “All public policy analysis considers the potentially negative side effects of proposed laws and policy, however just.”

The argument, simply presented then, is not that everything has the same effects on everybody, but that it always has the same damaging effect. That’s because social norms and moral values are never completely static or rigid but what you might say are, “fluid.” Like teaching your children the importance of brushing their teeth daily, norms and values need to be taught, instilled and developed.

Let’s apply all this to the issue of marriage redefinition then. Will it have any knock-on effects for the wider society on related issues? I think I know what Pansy Lai would say. But what about the removal by Free TV Australia of the Dads4Kids ad celebrating Father’s Day because it, “likely contained political matter.” Are they serious?! Since when was a father singing a lullaby to their baby daughter or playing footy with his son in the park such a controversial social issue?

What’s more, when people like Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, state that, “those trying to link the vote on same-sex marriage with religious freedom are simply seeking to obfuscate and instil fear” she has not engaged in any philosophical reasoning or logical explanation with those she disagrees with but simply writes them off as being morally deplorable.

Significantly, examples of the ‘slippery slope’ line of argument abound no matter what side of politics you align yourself with. For example, Bill Shorten famously argued that a public debate on redefining marriage could even lead to gay teenagers committing suicide. Even Aubrey Perry in The Age over the weekend argued that there’s more at stake in the postal plebiscite than SSM. It’s got to do with the removal of Christianity from the public square altogether.

As my four-year-old son knows all too well, of course, there is such a thing as a ‘slippery slope.’ After all, that’s how slippery dips – I mean, “slopes” – work! Like starting off down a slide at your local park, once you start gaining momentum it’s really difficult to stop, let alone go back to where you originally started from. Especially when you realise that a whole lot of other people have gone down the slide with you, preventing you from ever returning to where you were before.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield. 

Cartoon: Ben R Davis.

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