1 Subsection 5(1)
marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
As Garth Jones noted in his Crosslight feature Unexpected Rainbow in Outback Australia, the 2004 marriage act amendment was legislated without any call for a referendum.
It was an assertion by John Howard’s government, of what was held to be a norm, now enshrined in civil law.
Labor’s announcement that they will not back the plebiscite proposed by Tony Abbott’s administration has already been condemned by government ministers. As Barnaby Joyce said in an interview with Andrew Bolt, it was a plebiscite or nothing.
Opposition to the plebiscite is not, as Joyce would have Bolt Report viewers believe, a rejection of equal marriage. The reality is more nuanced.
The proposed plebiscite was a political compromise that would have necessitated campaigning against the legitimacy of same sex relationships, without any guarantee of legislative change. This is the heart of the matter.
Bill Shorten has been accused of playing politics with LGBTQI voters, that equal marriage is now off the cards entirely.
It seems strange to call out the Opposition for being cynical, when the plebiscite was designed to shore up support among the Coalition’s conservative base. Familiar terms such as ‘traditional values’ and ‘the protection of children’ already feature in communications from powerful conservative lobby groups.
Essentially this messaging is founded on religious principles, skewed of course by the view that non-heteronormative relationships should be excluded, even though the matter is a legislative one that effects the lives of citizens.
The government of Australia is voiding its own responsibility to the citizens of this country in order to placate vocal lobby groups.
On a personal note, as I wrote about the Irish referendum for Crosslight following a visit home, I am more than aware of how negative campaigning – under the guise of “respectful debate” – can have an impact on those who are being targeted.
A recent survey from the University of Queensland, titled ‘Swimming with sharks: The negative social and psychological impacts of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum ‘NO’ campaign’ outlined the personal cost of the referendum campaign.
Participants from urban and rural areas, young and old, were surveyed. Testimonies feature in the report, such as this one:
“Seeing No posters being erected all over the place you call home is like seeing posters that say you are not welcome. No to your life. No to relationships. No to your future. No to your happiness. No to you.”
One prominently displayed post with the slogan ‘CHILDREN DESERVE A MOTHER AND A FATHER – VOTE NO’ explicitly located parental rights for same-sex couples as harmful. Ironically for the NO campaign, the models used for the poster – a husband and wife kissing an infant child on the cheeks – were revealed by comedian Adam Hills to be an English couple who strongly objected to the stock photography image of them being used.
Yet it was posters like these, displayed along roads and streets across the country, purporting to represent the protection of children and preservation of decency that left individuals across Ireland feeling targeted, excluded and denied their rights as citizens of a republic hard fought-for.
As another testimonial noted, “I didn’t like having to ask fellow citizens for rights. I thought it should have been done at government level without exposing people to the negative campaigning of the No side.”
Government should act on behalf of its citizenry. Crosslight urges its readers to consider the impact discussions surrounding the plebiscite may have on fellow members of our society.