That slippery slope

Playwright Ron Elisha reflects on the personal cost of the marriage equality campaign and the specious argument of ‘the slippery slope'.
That slippery slope

Photo credit: Tarquin Black

My daughter is crying.

It’s not that she’s fallen over and barked her knee. Nor is it the trauma of immunisation, or the disappointment of an ice-cream accidentally fallen into the dirt. If only it were that easily remediable.

She doesn’t cry all that readily. My memory is tested to recall the previous occasion upon which tears rolled down those normally untroubled cheeks.

With the exception of her first two hours outside the womb (when she roared with a ferocity normally reserved for footballers), her face has habitually been wreathed in smiles. A happy, contented, uncannily warm and affectionate child (coming in at a whopping 8 lb 11 oz), she smiled on the day she was born and, despite such smiles being dismissed by nursing staff as ‘wind’, has continued to smile from that day forward.


Until today.

Lest you form the wrong impression, let me reassure you that hers is not the smile of the feeble-minded, uncritical in their appraisal of the world and its woes. Behind those smiling eyes is a profound sensitivity, a deep well of feeling for her fellow beings and a laser-sharp sensibility. 

She understands how the world works – has done, somehow, almost since the day she could speak – and her quips at its foibles, though merciless, are always irresistibly funny. She takes that humour with her into the world of social work, where she dearly hopes that she can lessen the burden of misery with which so many of our disenfranchised are afflicted.

But today there is no mirth.

Today she is being accused of being a deviant. A monster. A depraved creature, not to be trusted in the company of children. An alien. An ‘other’ to the community’s ‘self’. A being unworthy of the basic human rights extended to her fellows.

Today the word ‘No’ is being writ large in the clear blue sky over our city – as if by the hand of God – slowly dissipating into the air around it, polluting its clarity and besmirching its blueness.

And, indeed, it is the hand of God at work here. Through the Church. 

The institution that has done more to foster paedophilia than any other on the face of the Earth throughout the centuries has the temerity to accuse my daughter of being an unfit parent. My daughter. The very epitome of kindness, who has never intentionally harmed another human being, has studied hard, worked hard, paid her taxes and, in short, done everything that ever could have been asked of a model citizen. 

We are told that the Church is defending the sanctity of marriage.

What nefarious calumny has not been visited upon the human species in the name of ‘sanctity’?

In Australia, as in most countries, the law provides for a separation between Church and State. Marriage equality is not a religious matter – it is a legal matter. A matter of basic human rights under the law.

It’s time that the Church stopped sticking its Papal nose where it doesn’t belong.

For nigh on two millennia, the Church has waged a doomed rearguard action against the forces of truth and of knowledge and of freedom and of enlightenment. 

It fought Galileo. And lost.

It fought Darwin. And lost.

It fought contraception. And lost.

It continues to fight homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia. It will lose each and every one of these battles.

And yet it continues to fight us, tooth and nail, at every step of the journey towards true human dignity.

Must we do this? Must we pass through this endless purgatory every time decent human beings attempt to push back the boundaries of human ignorance and suffering?

The Church speaks of the sanctity of human life. Yet it had not the slightest hesitation in denouncing Galileo, in burning innocent women at the stake for fear of witchcraft, in carrying out a pitiless Inquisition, in quoting scripture in defence of black slavery, in persecuting Jews and homosexuals, in sanctioned molestation of children entrusted to its care, in getting into bed with Adolf Hitler, in denying the equality of women, and in systematically commandeering the rights of decent human beings to exercise a measure of control over their own destinies.

Must we do this, over and over and over again? Can we not simply live and let live? Can the Church not, for once in its deeply chequered history, let us get on with our lives, and our deaths, without assuming the God-given right to interfere?

We are being asked to vote Yes or No. But this is the coward’s way out. This evades the true issue at stake here. Which is equality. The boxes on that form should read ‘Equality’ and ‘Inequality’. The word up in the sky, so blithely traced out by that feckless pilot, should read ‘Inequality’. 

Would that make its supporters proud? To see the word inequality writ large in the heavens, as if it were something to which to aspire? At least call a spade a spade, and have the guts to own your bigotry.

Again and again, we hear the specious argument of ‘the slippery slope’. Today it’s gay marriage, tomorrow people will be marrying animals. (If that’s the case – though there’s precious little evidence to suggest it – then so be it. Who am I to deny Fido marital bliss?)

But what about that other slippery slope? The slope that says: Today you deny the LGBT community the right to marriage, tomorrow you deny them the right to life. Because that’s the logical conclusion of what’s being said. These human beings aren’t equal. They don’t deserve equal rights. Just as the Africans in America didn’t. Just as the Jews in Germany didn’t. And we saw how that ended. 

That’s what you call a slippery slope.

* * * 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises that responses to the Australian marriage law postal survey should be mailed by this Friday, 27 October 2017 at 6pm local time, in order to be counted. Survey responses received after Tuesday 7 November 2017 will not be counted.

Ron Elisha

Wednesday 25 October, 2017

About the author

Ron Elisha is a playwright based in Melbourne, Australia.

His stage plays include In Duty Bound (1979), Einstein (1981), Two (1983), Pax Americana (1984), The Levine Comedy (1986), Safe House (1989), Esterhaz (1990), Impropriety (1993), Choice (1994), Unknown Soldier (1996), The Goldberg Variations (2000), A Tree, Falling (2003), Ladies & Gentlemen (2004), Wrongful Life (2005), Controlled Crying (2006), Renaissance (2006), The Schelling Point (2010), Carbon Dating (2011), Stainless Steel Rat (2011, produced in London in 2012 under the title Man In The Middle), The Crown Versus Winslow (2011), Love Field (2013), The Soul Of Wittgenstein (2016), Certificate Of Life (2017) and Window (2017). He has also written a telemovie, Death Duties (1991), two children’s books, Pigtales (1994) and Too Big (1997), and hundreds of feature articles and stories in a variety of magazines, newspapers and journals. 

His plays have been produced throughout Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Israel and France, and have won a number of awards, including four Australian Writers’ Guild Awards, the Mitch Matthews Award (2006) and the Houston International Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay.

His new play, Window, opened in London in August 2017, The Soul Of Wittgenstein is due for a revival season in London in February 2018, another new play – Electric Church – is due for its world premiere in London in 2018, and Certificate Of Life had its world premiere in Tel Aviv in April 2017.