The Politics    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Weathercocks and signposts, mark II

By Sean Kelly

Warren Entsch makes the case for same-sex marriage

Last week I wrote about the young Scottish National party MP Mhairi Black and her maiden speech. I praised her use of Tony Benn’s distinction between signposts and weathercocks (weathercocks “spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them”; signposts “stand true, and tall, and principled”).

I also praised her ability to make us see those among us facing difficulties most of us do not understand; not just to glimpse them but to really look at them, full of both hurt and aspiration.

Today a Liberal National MP showed that this is not a lost art in Australia. Warren Entsch has been a long-time supporter of rights for gay people. He has campaigned consistently on the issue, despite the resistance and bemusement of many in his party. (There’s a great ten-year-old profile here.)

In an interview with the Guardian today, Entsch puts the case for same-sex marriage in simple and sharp terms:

The cemeteries are full – are full – of people that have never been able to come to terms with their sexuality and that’s a fact. Why should we as a society do things that will contribute to filling those bloody vacant spaces in cemeteries because we’re not prepared to accept the worth of an individual for who they really are?

The force of Entsch’s case is that it shifts the focus of the debate from “marriage”, where it so often gets stuck, and onto the people who will actually be affected by the shift – people who often spend much of their lives fighting for acceptance, people whose rates of suicide and depression are far above those of most Australian demographics. In two sentences he paints the tragic arc of too many lives, and makes us see that it could be otherwise.

Entsch can recognise that same power in others, too: he plans to use this video from Lachlan Beaton to convince his colleagues to change their minds.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, Entsch has made it pretty clear he’s a signpost.

 

Today’s links

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

@mrseankelly

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