Monday, 29 August 2011

Dr Kerryn Phelps speaks now...


Dr Kerryn Phelps, contributor to Speak Now, appeared in a brief debate on marriage equality on the Australian Seven Network's Sunrise morning program, Aug. 30th.

The discussion -- with Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson Jim Wallace promoting one Christian model -- probed the reasons for religious opposition to marriage equality.

Wallace relied heavily on the trope of the 'natural', reminiscent of Pope Benedict XVI's famous diatribe two days before Christmas, 2008, when he tied his campaign against homosexuality to environmentalist causes, calling for a 'human ecology' to protect the species from self-destruction.

The Pope averred that 'saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction' (Reuters 23 Dec 2008). Pointedly ignoring the pervasive deleterious effects on the environment that stem directly from Church teaching, he recommended that humanity needed to 'listen to the language of creation' to understand the intended roles of man and woman.

If the Pope were really drawing his teaching from observing the 'natural world', he would have noticed, along with zoologists, that so-called 'homosexual' acts have been observed among literally hundreds of species.  Such acts are recognised increasingly as normal variations of sexual behaviour.

Check out the book by Bruce Bagemihl, PhD, [Stonewall Inn Edn. 2000] which makes very clear how prevalent homosexual behaviour is a part of natural diversity.  Wallace and the Pope are both deploying a construction that manipulates the trope of the natural world in the service of the ideologies of their respective religions.

Phelps asserted that there are, in fact, religions that support marriage equality, in response to which Wallace invoked a document he had presented to Parliament, which he said had been endorsed by over 50 churchmen from the 'Evangelical, Pentecostal, Catholic and Orthodox divide', averring that 'You can't get broader than that'. Apparently he was unaware that  his 'broad' cohort included only Christian groups and that they were all churchMEN !

Phelps pointed out that in fact many church men have come out in support of the cause and, going beyond the narrowly Christian framing, cited the statement by a Council of Progressive Rabbis who issued this statement earlier 2011:

"We, the members of the Moetzah, the Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, Asia and New Zealand, support marriage equality under Australian law.

"Judaism teaches that all human beings are created betzelem Elohim (Genesis 1:27), in the image of God, and are therefore entitled to full dignity and equality. The Jewish people are all too familiar with discrimination and worse, and we reject it however rationalised.

"Australian law should guarantee equality; marriage being both a religious and a civil status. There is no reason for Australian law to limit or discriminate against the civil or legal rights of any individual or group.

"Therefore, we, the Moetzah, call upon the Australian Government to enact speedily legislation granting full marriage equality."

Revd. Nathan Nettleton, a Baptist pastor in Melbourne, has contributed an essay to Speak Now that argues strongly for same-sex marriage as supportive  of the 'institution of marriage'.  See his piece, titled: 'Supporting Same-Sex marriage as a heterosexual, Bible-believing, Baptist pastor.' 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Psychologist Paul Martin speaks now

Contributor to Speak Now, psychologist Paul Martin, reports back on his meeting with the Prime Minister in Canberra...

 In my meetings with MP’s and with the Prime Minister in Canberra, one angle that they say is new to them is of the connection between mental health and same sex marriage.  

The information I give them is based on my 25 years as a psychologist specialising in the area of same-sex attraction and the most recent research-based public statements from the American Psychological Association.

I talk to them about the fact that everyone is brought up in a homophobic world and almost everyone who is same-sex attracted will absorb these negative messages and, naturally, will have beliefs about themselves, including being 'defective' and socially excluded. 

The statistics regarding mental and physical health problems in gay and lesbian populations are extremely negative.  This includes recent Australian data which suggests that gays and lesbians are more than 4 times more likely to attempt suicide and have much higher rates of mental disorders and physical health issues.  This is a direct result of ‘internalised homophobia.’

One of the internalised homophobic beliefs is that same sex relationships are not as valid or valuable as their heterosexual peers.

According to the research, and my clinical experience, when the issue of same-sex marriage is debated, the negative rhetoric stated by community leaders leads to psychological distress for gays and lesbians and their children.  This is due to the fact that what they are hearing confirms what they already believe about themselves.   If they were brought up in a society which valued same sex relationships, the non-evidence based words spoken by these people could be easily brushed off as being somewhat silly, or a result of bias and stigma.

Research clearly demonstrates that when heterosexual people value gays and lesbians’ relationships, the psychological wellbeing of those people increases significantly.  In talking with politicians I mention anecdotes of friends of mine from Canada and Norway who say that when they are with a group of people which includes gays and lesbians, the level of worth seems palpably higher as they proudly introduce their husbands and wives and show off their wedding albums.   When they come to Australia they say how amazed they are at the general difference in the levels of wellbeing. They are saddened by the sorts of words they hear spoken by the opponents of same-sex marriage.

The best way to stop this ongoing distress for same-sex attracted people and to automatically and instantly improve their psychological wellbeing is to allow the choice to marry.  This won’t solve the psychological issues overnight, but it will be an important step towards improving the mental health of many thousands of Australians.

Three contributors to Speak Now meet with the Prime Minister

Prof. Kerryn Phelps is shown on the left, with her wife, Jackie Stricker.  Rodney Croome is next to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and on the extreme right is Brisbane psychologist Paul Martin. They are joined by the tireless national spokesperson for PFlag Australia, Shelley Argent. 

Phelps, Croome and Martin have all contributed pieces to Speak Now.

The group met the P.M. and another 14 politicians in Canberra last week to raise awareness of the human story behind marriage equality.