26,000 Voices Silenced


pic Suzette Franck

Why is the AME trying to hide evidence of opposition to a plebiscite on marriage equality?

Tomorrow we should have the results of the just.equal survey of the LGBTI community on what we want in relation to the  proposed marriage equality plebiscite. The survey was funded by Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays. Australian Marriage Equality will be hoping they can drown them out by making some noise of their own in the public square.

“On Monday, Australian Marriage Equality will launch a petition and media blitz asking that no public funding be given to either side of the [plebiscite] campaign. By contrast, the Australian Christian Lobby is demanding $15 million in taxpayers’ money.” Michael Koziol in The Age.


But there is already a dormant AME petition on GetUp, calling on Malcolm Turnbull to abandon a plebiscite. It has collected more than 26,000 signatures. Yet Australian Marriage Equality has deactivated it without explanation and never presented it to the Prime Minister. You can still find the petition online, but you cannot add any signatures to it.

AME petition 26k

It doesn’t show up on the GetUp front page under “Campaigns – Marriage Equality”, because AME stopped collecting signatures shortly before the last election, around the time wealthy Liberal businessman Tom Snow and his money came on board.

Alex Greenwich has gone on record as denying that Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has received a large donation (rumoured to be $1m, since considerably augmented by more donations from wealthy individuals) from Mr Snow. In this he is technically correct: the stirrer understands that the money went to Australians 4 Equality (A4E), a separate body set up by Tom Snow to fight for a yes vote in any plebiscite, should one eventuate. AME has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with A4E to run the Yes campaign on their behalf. Michael Koizol again, reports:

“Sydney-based outfit Australians 4 Equality has quietly engaged the corporate sector, unions and community groups such as the Country Women’s Association. Australians 4 Equality is co-chaired by prominent Canberra businessman Tom Snow, and employs about five full-time staff in Sydney and has a network of volunteers. One staff member is Tiernan Brady, who steered Ireland’s “yes” campaign and has been brought in to replicate that success.”

Some of those staff, as I have previously reported, are also AME staff, and one is a former NSW Liberal Party staffer.

The only petition you’ll find now on the GetUp site is an old one dating back to the time of the annulment of the ACT marriage act.GetUp Petition AME ACT

the stirrer has heard from many marriage equality campaigners dismayed by this situation, who have been pleading with AME to reactivate the anti-plebiscite petition, so far to no avail. They are convinced that if AME had continued to vigorously promote the petition through the election, while vigorously and loudly campaigning against the plebiscite, the election outcome might have been different.


Many well-informed people are desperately concerned to prevent the plebiscite from going ahead, fearful of the trail of destruction it is likely to wreak on the gay community. These include experts in community mental health with special knowledge and experience of the LGTBTIQ community.

As the stirrer has noted on many occasions, it is ludicrous to imagine that anything resembling a ‘respectful debate’ can be had, given the nature and beliefs of our opponents. We already seeing a rise in the numbers of LGBTIQ young people seeking help, and a growing wave of anti-LGBTIQ violence and vilification, before the campaign proper even begins.

Dr Liz Short researches and teaches in clinical and community psychology. She focuses on contemporary theories and practices, the social determinants of mental health, family psychology, gender and sexuality. Dr Sharon Dane works at the University of Queensland School of Psychology. Together they penned a piece arguing against the plebiscite, which was featured in the Fairfax press.

“Despite the happy media coverage of the win for marriage equality in Ireland (a country which constitutionally needed to have a popular vote, unlike Australia), prior to the vote LGBTIQ people and their families were exposed to negative media, and false and belittling commentary. A psychologist from Ireland reported this “ranged from being spat at, threatened, name-called, called sinners, evil, spawn of the devil – you name it, it gave permission for hatred”.”

The Australian Psychological Society told a Senate Enquiry:

“A public vote is likely to present significant risks to the psychological health and wellbeing of those most affected… a suite of studies confirms that the process of putting marriage equality to a public vote can be harmful to the psychological health of gender and sexual minorities” who “not only have to contend  with  the possibility of having rights to marriage denied through a public vote but also the stress associated with the campaign itself”.

The daughter of a same sex couple, Georgia Weymouth-Large, wrote an open letter to the PM, appeared on Q&A, and in the press, pleading for the plebiscite to be abandoned:

“I have no doubt that the months and weeks leading up to the plebiscite will destroy lives. Not only those who feel personally attacked but also their loved ones who will be left with the bitter reminder that the leaders of their beloved nation let such a brutal debate cause harm to so many.”


Tom Snow

If the AME anti-plebiscite petition were reactivated in the present climate, the stirrer has no doubt it would gain thousands more signatures. Yet it is being suppressed. I wonder why? It’s time AME brought their anti-plebiscite petition back to life and strenuously promoted it.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)