For LGBTIQ Australians, the election of Joe Biden in the US provides some valuable lessons from America.
1/ Moral panics ultimately don’t work.
Donald Trump tried and failed to win re-election. In part, his strategy relied on hyping fears that religious freedom is under threat and cruelly discriminating against trans folk.
In fact, the percentage of conservative evangelicals who voted for Trump declined in 2020.
The message to Scott Morrison and the Coalition couldn’t be clearer. Rolling back LGBTIQ discrimination protections under cover of religious freedom, taking aim at school inclusion, and beating up on trans people, will not guarantee the faith vote. Nor will it make the path to re-election easier.
In fact, constantly pressing the moral panic button will make you look whiney and distracted, and will ultimately backfire.
2/ Being a small target isn’t necessary.
The election of Joe Biden happened despite, and perhaps partly because, of his strong support for LGBTIQ equality.
He champions an LGBTIQ Equality Act that America’s bishops have condemned for infringing ‘religious freedom’. He supports removing anti-trans discrimination. Biden also wants a national ban on conversion practices and has said ‘yes’ to lifting the gay blood ban.
Critically, he was very public and unapologetic about this during the presidential campaign up to the point of citing LGBTIQ equality in his victory speech.
The message to Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party is obvious: you don’t have to be a quiet, mousey small target on LGBTIQ issues. You can win government with full-throated support for our equality.
In fact, strong public support for LGBTIQ inclusion may just show the kind of backbone voters admire.
3/ We can defeat resurgent prejudice.
Since marriage equality was achieved in the US and then Australia there has been a resurgence of anti-LGBTIQ prejudice.
It takes the forms already mentioned: attacks on anti-discrimination and hate speech laws under cover of freedom of speech and religion, attacks on trans dignity, inclusion and equality, and attacks on school inclusion programs like Safe Schools.
Some of our number have responded with a politics of appeasement and amelioration.
I refer to those who championed the dangerous caveats in our world’s-worst marriage equality law, those who tried to find a middle ground on the atrocious federal religious freedom bill, and those who push for second-rate trans equality and conversion practice legislation, all in an effort to avoid controversy.
The American election showed we need not fear resurgent prejudice. We can defeat it if, like so many of our American queer kin, we are bold, direct and honest.
In terms of goals, the Americans have refused to accept second-best on issues as diverse as blood donation and faith-schools and then gathered influential allies around their high standards.
In terms of methods, they increasingly promote practices like “deep canvassing”, which is a fancy way to say patient, honest, thoughtful face-to-face conversations with our fellow citizens.
We Australians have shown in the past that we can do all this. Let’s take heart from the American experience that we can see off resurgent prejudice by doing it again.
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