Homophobic lawmakers have used just about every tactic in the book to divert the conversation away from their bigotry, making this clip of a right-wing politician being confronted with his antigay past on live television all the more satisfying to watch.
Eric Abetz is part of Australia’s governing Liberal Party (a misnomer), and was at one point the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Over the years he’s been one of his country’s loudest voices opposing marriage equality.
Appearing on the debate show Q&A on Sunday, Abetz used the tired conservative argument that his positions on marriage equality do not mean he’s antigay. Cue the collective eye roll.
He fought back against “commentary that is directed at myself, that I’m a homophobe, that I’m a bigot, that I engage in hate speech, because I happen to believe that marriage is not about the adults as it is about the socialization of the next generation.”
“Won’t someone think of the children,” incidentally, is another tactic that should have been thoroughly put to rest by now.
But whereas these sorts of comments can often be enough to satisfy a false equivalency of two “rational” sides to the argument, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari saw Abetz’s playbook from a mile away.
And he even brought hard evidence.
“Eric, you can’t sit here and tell us about that we need to have more reasonable debate and the tone of the debate when you look at your own history of comments when it comes to this matter,” began Dastyari.
“Your own history of what you’ve said in these debates, going all the way back to when you were first elected in 1994.
“Eric, you argued against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania under the guise of some kind of states rights matters all the way back in 1994 and you have pursued an objection to LBGTI rights throughout.
“Some of the most hurtful comments that have been said in this debate over 20 years, over 20 years have come from you.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) August 14, 2017
After Dastyari produced the 1994 document from his coat pocket, Abetz was visibly shaken.
Still, Abetz tried to deflect:
“The federal parliament was seeking to override the state government… that was what I was objecting to very strongly,” he said “I think you know that sort of slur is completely wrong.”
Ah, and there’s another argumentative favorite — when your position has had the rug pulled out from underneath it, feign offense and accuse the other person of slandering you.
Dastyari followed up the incident by publishing the document on Twitter:
— Sam Dastyari (@samdastyari) August 14, 2017
“Federalism perverted to allow sodomy and incest,” it warns, equating same-sex relationships to incest. Now what was that he was saying about being the victim of “slurs”?
“Senator Abetz said the decriminalizing of certain sexual practices is just as arbitrary…as is the criminalization of those practices,” it later states.
This argument for allowing discrimination against gay people as long as the public chooses it is flawed at its core, and for once, the consistently antigay politician was unable to squirm out of the conversation by using his old tricks.