I am one of your Fairfax constituents. Your recent vote against same-sex marriage was no surprise. You were, after all, a member of the Lyons Forum – a group known for its mission to impose the religious prejudices of its members upon the Australian population. I am, however, delighted to see that your narrow minded bigotry has been recorded for posterity on the website “The 98 Against“.
As a Federal representative with a less than stellar career, you have, until now, done little to cement your place in Australian political history. Now, at least, you have written the Somlyay name indelibly into our nation’s chronicles. Now, future generations will be able to look back on the “98 Against” list, see your name, and wonder how politicians like you could have been so blind, so bigoted, and so misinformed that they could stand in the way of an important vote for social progress and full equality for all Australians.
One day, Mr Somlyay, your grandchildren and great grandchildren will find this information and be shocked and ashamed.
Imagine researching your family history only to find that an ancestor voted against women’s suffrage, racial integration, or citizenship for Aborigines. Imagine finding a great-grandfather who voted against the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, or who actively participated in the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany or Hungary. You have joined this proud political tradition, Mr Somlyay.
When I think of politicians like you, I think of a young, gay, Christian man called Bobby Griffith. Griffith, 20, left a note in his diary before he threw himself off an overpass into the path of a tractor-trailer:
“I can’t ever let anyone find out that I’m not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I’ve overheard them….They’ve said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad people to hell. It really scares me when they talk that way because now they are talking about me.”
As he fell 25 feet to his death, had his clothes torn from his body and died instantly from the terrible impact, do you really think homosexuality was Bobby’s ‘lifestyle choice’, Mr Somlyay?
Somewhere in Fairfax, Mr Somlyay, there is another ‘Bobby Griffith’ who has noted your disdain for his right to equality. Your vote against his right to marry the person he loves and raise a family – a right accorded to all other Australians, regardless of their character – has inflicted yet another cut in his ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’. You have made him feel sick to the stomach as he realises that the person who is meant to represent him in parliament has sold him out. And, as one small indignity is piled upon another, one day the Bobby Griffith who lives in Fairfax will not be able to stand it any more and he will commit suicide. And you, Mr Somlyay, will be complicit. You, the person elected to represent him, will have blood on your hands.
Suicide accounted for approximately 23 per cent of all deaths for young people aged 15 to 24 years in Australia in 2010. I do not want to engage in hyperbole, Mr Somlyay – it is true that statistics on the suicide rates of gay teens in Australia are sketchy. In practice, it is impossible to assess accurately; young people who feel they will be persecuted for their sexuality may not even come out before taking their lives. But, it is now widely acknowledged in the academic and medical literature that a link between an increased risk of suicide and discrimination or bullying due to homosexuality is emerging.
Your vote against same-sex marriage, Mr Somlyay, has put a political imprimatur on that bullying. You and your party, in particular, have said plainly to the Australian people: “These people are not normal. These people are not acceptable. These people are not worthy of equal treatment in our society.” That is the message which rationalises and ‘normalises’ the continued discrimination, bullying and persecution of gay people in Australian society. Your message, Mr Somlyay.
As Gregory Storer, one of my many gay friends who are in stable, loving, same-sex relationships, wrote:
“It’s been one hell of a week … The impact on my well-being is quite astounding. I can certainly see how it could have a huge negative impact on a young gay person who may not have built up a life-time of resilience.”
Mr Somlyay, I doubt whether you will have the decency to consider a video response to your vote from my friend, Troy Simpson but I challenge you to watch it.
Like Gregory, Troy is not a vulnerable gay teenager. He is a mature, well-educated, accomplished, successful gay man in a stable same-sex relationship. He is a survivor of the toxic environment you and your Lyons forum cronies have worked and prayed so hard to create. Consider this, Mr Somlyay, as you listen to the pain in Troy’s voice – the raw emotion – as he talks about the unfairness and false reasoning that led to your vote against same-sex marriage last week. If this is the affect on someone like Troy, Mr Somlyay, my eyes sting with tears at the thought of what your actions have done to younger, less stable, less resilient gay men and women – not only in Fairfax, but throughout Australia.
I am ashamed to have you as my political representative Mr Somlyay. I understand that you will retire at the next Federal election. I have no doubt you will be replaced with another homophobic bigot from the Liberal party. But, times will move on, and, despite your failure to shine on the political stage, you have ensured your name will go down in history. It is such a shame, don’t you think, that it’s a record that will bring disgrace on your family, your descendants, your party and you for as long as the records survive.
I want my representative, Luke Hartsukyer to read this and put his name where your representative’s name is. You speak beautifully and powerful for me, Chrys.
Your mentioning of what is recorded for history and looking into ancestry ( as I do) how you feel as a researcher when you find the ‘truth’ about the character of those who went before and who then ‘informs’ who you are and where you have come from.
It is powerful and palpable and makes a mark on your understanding of how things got to be how they were.
My gay brother in law had many years of turmoil and angst, secrecy and shame and when he finally emerged he had but a few years to live before being taken too early by HIV/AIDS related illnesses. If he had have been allowed to be out and proud early then education on keeping healthy during the 1970’s and 1980’s would have meant he would still be here with us.
Thank you Chrys for your amazing open letter. I hope it gives many pause for thought as it pings across the cybersphere.
There’s a noteworthy paragraph in Mr Somlyay’s First Speech to Parliament on September 18, 1990, twenty-two years and one week ago to the day.
I put it to Mr Somlyay that he is not this Senior Citizen as described. If he can’t adapt to change, evolve and move with the times, then he is going to find himself just a useless artifact of a time gone by, one that people look at with odd amusement and then move on as they find something more interesting to occupy their time.
Could this be distributed to each of the 98?
I suggest attaching the names to another suitably amended blog and asking people to forward it to their federal member.
I’m happy for people to use it, and amend it, with appropriate attribution (e.g. based on a letter by Chrys Stevenson to Alex Somlyay – https://thatsmyphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/an-open-letter-to-alex-somlyay-mp-fairfax-queensland/)
Thank you. I’ve got someone in mind.
Someone whose first speech to Parliament devoted paragraphs to complaints about aircraft noise in Sydney, and managed only the briefest hat-tip to the notions of equality and fairness in his final sentence.
Their names will go down in history among those who supported other kinds of discrimination and bigotry. This is the Internet; these records will survive a very long time.
Fantastic! We are Fairfax constituents as well. We have faith that karma will take it’s course.
Thank you Carmen but really, sitting around waiting for karma to hit is hardly a practical solution to the problem. The constituents of Fairfax have let this do-nothing Liberal keep a Federal seat warm for 22 years! Fairfax deserves better and the Liberals will not deliver it. Voter apathy has kept Somlyay in Fairfax voting against the interests of his constituents for all this time. It’s time to fight for a better candidate, not wait for karma!
I wish the SunshineCoast Daily would print things like this. After all Alex is not the only dim bulb up there. A lot of voters need a slap in the face as well.
I sent a copy to a SCD journo.
That is amazing Chrys, I wish I express myself so well on paper. Thanks you for fighting for Nathan and his friends who are the people that this could have the biggest effect on.
I’m in awe Chrys. You said everything I feel about so many politicians who have let down the constituents they are meant to represent. In a secular country this bowing to conservatism from the religious right, is totally unacceptable.
The choice by these many MP’s and Senators to affirm discrimination and a 2 class society, will further the psychological damage, mental health problems,and suicides of LGBT youth struggling to adjust to living as an LGBT person in a sometimes hostile society. The descendants of these politicians and many in society will forever be ashamed of their actions.
A couple of Liberal party members (Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Sue Boyce) will be remembered for at least speaking out strongly in support of allowing equal relationship recognition of love in the Marriage Act. The remainder of the Liberal party and ALP members who failed to speak out for equal rights of all citizens, will indeed have blood on their hands, and many have also broken their previous promises to represent all their constituents in Parliament.
A disgraceful and disgusting time in our history.
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It’s sad that because of out of touch pollies like this, that we need advocacy groups like Australian Marriage Equality.
If you support same sex marriage, then make sure to join them here http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/subscribe-to-our-supporter-database/