Friday 31st of October 2014

world congress of families .... (cancelled) *

world congress of families .... (cancelled) *

 

* from politicoz ….

Australia's minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, has withdrawn from tomorrow's World Congress of Families in Melbourne. He was to open the Congress and be presented with its “Natural Family Man of the Year” award. Announcing his withdrawal this morning, Andrews attacked the “intolerance” of those who had declared their intention to shut down the Congress – he described them as “the Greens and the left” – and then asserted that “tolerance is a critical value in a western liberal democracy like Australia”.

Its lack of tolerance is precisely the problem critics have with the Congress, a radically conservative group whose aim is to “affirm, defend and promote” a very narrow definition of “family”. That's also Andrews' aim as articulated in his 2012 book, Maybe “I Do”: Modern Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness. But it's an aim which necessarily marginalises, among others, same-sex couples, childless couples, mixed families and single parents, who make up the plural ideal and practice of family life in modern Australia. And the Congress doesn't limit itself to in-principle statements of support for a particular family type. It supports laws which criminalise homosexuality in Russia and Nigeria. It represents, in 2014, the antithesis of meaningful tolerance.

What Andrews wants is tolerance for his own intolerance of pluralism, which is problematic for a social services minister. Those who were trying to get section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act repealed wanted the same thing, George Brandis having implied that a “right” to be bigoted should trump any right to be free from the effects of bigotry. Thankfully a kind of democratic sanity ultimately seems to prevail in these things. Meanwhile the Congress will go ahead, now to be hosted by the ultra-right Catch the Fire Ministries at an as-yet-undisclosed location.