Our love is worth more than an opinion poll

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses the marriage equality plebiscite, which refers to homophobia and hate speech

I daresay the bulk of Australian voters have heard of the impending glorified opinion poll that is the Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite. At this point, the liberal government has decided to spend a casual $122 million on this voluntary and non-binding postal vote.

As it stands, the ongoing push from the cave of LNP conservatism has made way for a damaging and hurtful ‘no’ campaign, which thinly veils hate speech and utter lies as concern for our children and our freedom of speech.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has kicked off this ‘respectful’ debate by imploring those who “…don’t like gay marriage…”, who “…are worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech…”, and who “…don’t like political correctness…” to “vote no”.

The general tone from the ‘no’ campaign has been ‘quick! Run for your lives! The gays are closing in!’ As if the legalisation of marriage equality would really impact their lives in any case. Other ‘no’ campaigners have attempted to play our emotions, and are beginning to sound like Helen Lovejoy yelling “WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

For all modern history, the conservative parties have fought to remain with their heads in the sand, ignoring the rights of many marginalised groups, including, but not limited to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Unfortunately, marriage equality is no different. The simple fact that freedom of speech is an argument for the ‘no’ campaign is baffling, as is the argument for the children – would it not be more damaging, hurtful and confusing to see your parents, your family, as illegitimate?

Penny Wong’s response to the LNP evoked an emotional response from many who watched her speech in the senate. She called out far-right groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby for referring to children of same-sex couples as “the stolen generation”. Not only is this wildly inaccurate, it also wilfully disregards Indigenous peoples of Australia who suffered and still suffer under forced removals policies.

The simple fact that myself and so many others, including my aunties and countless friends, are still denied the legal right to marry in 2017 is deeply hurtful and angering. The fact that the government, meant to act as a representative body for the citizens of this country, cannot do their job and hold a free vote in parliament is atrocious. It is very early in the campaign, and already I am feeling the hurt and utter disregard shown by the current Liberal government.

Since the resurgence of this ridiculous idea, there are a few options we have to avoid a plebiscite. The first being a High Court challenge, which seeks to have the High Court place an injunction on the call for the plebiscite; the second being a well orchestrated, nation-wide boycott and; the third being a campaign to ensure everyone is enrolled and everyone votes ‘yes’ queer people are people’.

Members of the legal community are concerned that the plebiscite is illegitimate, due to the fact that this is a vote and not a statistic-gathering exercise and so questioning the authority of the ABS to run it. Beyond this, does the government even have the right to fork $122 million without passing legislation first?

Michael Kirby, QC has come out against the plebiscite, saying he and his partner of FIFTY years (omg) would rather wait for a more just and ethical avenue than endure the campaign. If a mass boycott doesn’t ensue, then we run the risk of the government seeing glorified and expensive opinion polls, run by bodies without the authority, becoming the increasing norm in making and changing other legislation in the future.

Enrolling to vote and encouraging, and educating fence sitters to vote ‘yes gay people are people’ seems as though it may be the most likely, or the most realistic option. It will show the Liberal party and the far right that their views are backwards by proving that we can do what they cannot.

In the hopes that the plebiscite is slammed down by the High Court, $122 million could be spent on many other, more important, less wasteful, less hurtful and offensive things, including but not limited to: a safety net of support services for LGBT youth; assisting refugees and asylum seekers and ending the torture and torment caused by the off shore processing centres; assisting Indigenous Australians; housing-first models for homeless people; investing in renewables for the future and; considerably improved public mental health services.

While having marriage equality would be fantastic, because, hey we’d be equal to you all, do we really want the LNP to go down in history for legislating marriage equality?

One way or another, equal marriage will be won, eventually.

If this farce has caused you any distress and/or anxiety, below are some links for LGBTQIA+ youth

Twenty10

Q-life

Reachout

Headspace

Beyond Blue

Out & Online

Also: enrol to vote