This is not the first time the topic of marriage equality has been brought up on my blog but this time round it's more pressing than ever. If you don't already know, the Australian government commissioned the Australian Bureau of Statistics against the wishes of the people to conduct a plebiscite to ask the people whether Australian marriage laws should be changed to include same-sex marriage with the ballot forms to be sent and returned via snail mail. Before you think this is like a referendum let me tell you now it's far from being that. Here are the main things I think are wrong about this postal plebiscite.
1. This plebiscite is non-binding meaning if the result is "yes" the government is not legally bound to change the marriage laws.
2. This exercise costs 122 million dollars to achieve something that we already know i.e. the majority of the Australian people is in favour of same-sex marriage. The money can surely be better spent elsewhere.
3. This is an unrepresentative opinion poll because the younger more progressive people are not of voting age and hence can't participate in this plebiscite. For those young votes who are eligible to vote, this postal mechanism is sure to discourage many of them from placing their ballots simply because snail mail is no longer a valid form of modern day communication.
4. Under the banner of free speech this plebiscite gives the "no" camp reason to express homophobic views that normally wouldn't be aired in a developed and civilised country like Australia. This hurtful abuse has caused much anguish to the LGBTI community and the cases of vulnerable people seeking mental help as a result has surged despite the government repeatedly lying and saying that everything is fine.
5. Speaking about the government, this is merely their delay tactic to appease their conservative base till the next federal election. They had no choice but to conduct this survey because there are a lot of people within the ruling party that want same-sex marriage legalised. This plebiscite is at the end of the day just an internal political tool used by the government to safeguard its position.
6. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been known to bungle things (like the 2016 census - read more about it here) and cannot be trusted to run a plebiscite of this scale correctly. Also a lot of cases of ballot papers being sold on eBay or sent to the wrong addresses have surfaced which cast doubt on the accuracy of this survey.
We have what we call defacto relationships in Australia and couples (same sex or otherwise) who have stayed together under one roof for a period of time are recognised as domestic partners and as a result enjoy a lot of the rights married couples enjoy. Now before you think that's already enough for us it's most definitely not. For one, defacto relationships can be challenged and a full-fledged marriage can never be. This article summarises the issue perfectly and is very useful for someone trying to argue for the "yes" camp.
We all know what will happen come tomorrow at 10am when the plebiscite result is announced. The "yes" camp will win and the government is then supposed to hold a conscience vote within the party which is yet another opinion poll to determine if the majority of the party wants same-sex marriage legalised. This is where things will get inevitably delayed again which is the government's plan. The conservative voices will use the need to protect religious freedoms and opposing views to assert that the law makers are not in the position yet to draft something to ensure the "no" camp can continue living in their ever-shrinking echo chamber to vent their homophobic and discriminatory sentiments. The naysayers will also conflate issues again by bringing other topics like the curbing of free speech and protection of children into the picture and use age-old slippery slope arguments that will only make them look even more stupid and out-of-touch with the rest of the population. The current government will most likely succeed in delaying same-sex marriage till the next federal election when they will be voted out (based on every single poll done in the past few months) and the incoming party will legislate it within 100 days of being in the office (like they promised). However politicians are still politicians and until I see the same-sex marriage actually legalised with my own eyes I will never believe any of them. Yes I know this prediction is filled with pessimism but I'm a huge skeptic and I'm darn proud of it.
I'm not an Australian citizen (by choice) and so I can't vote in this plebiscite but I did witness my husband vote and that's the closest I got to participating in this pointless (yet crucial) exercise. It's times like this that I'm glad I'm not Australian. 24 counties in the world have legalised same-sex marriage to date and among them are far-less advanced countries like Colombia and South Africa. Talk about being backward! Why can Australia's closest neighbour New Zealand (a country with similar values and population demographics) do it without having the sky fall on them? The only explanation I can think of is because unlike the New Zealand's politicians the Australian ones are spineless individuals who put their careers ahead of the welfare of the people.
Same-sex marriage will happen eventually no matter how loud the "no" camp shouts or how rich and powerful they are. Even the conservative politicians conceded to that. I just hope that when it truly becomes legal it will be relatively painless to convert my marriage under British law to one that's recognised in Australia. We all know governments like to use red tape to charge exorbitant fees to make the simplest things happen so I do hope this conversion comes cheap too.
Lastly in the name of campaigning for same-sex marriage I've put in my bit to give more exposure to the cause (and myself - hehe). Below are self-made posters that have been my Facebook profile and cover photos since the ballot papers were sent out. Do you like them?
Let's see what happens tomorrow. Fingers and toes all tightly crossed.