Good LGBTI Political Parenting

It’s Parenting 101: set firm boundaries. And be consistent.
Above all, children must understand that NO means NO.

LGBTI advocates are now having to teach this to the wayward children of the Australian Christian Lobby, Tony Abbott, Erica Betz, the feral right of the LNP, and sundry others. This message is for these naughty boys and girls.

You set up a survey to ask the Australian public whether Australians were OK with marriage equality. It looks as if they have said YES.

You did NOT ask them if they wanted the Dean Smith Marriage (Amendments and Religious Protections) Bill. So you don’t have a mandate for that.

You did NOT ask if Australians were OK with sort-of-but-not-quite marriage equality, with new added discrimination and reinforcing existing discrimination. So you don’t have a mandate for that, either.

ALL you have is a mandate to change the existing Marriage Act so that it, and all other dependent legislation, says “two people”, not “a man and a woman”.

That’s it. Nothing else.

I don’t want to count chickens before they are hatched, but by all credible accounts:-





  • YOU were the ones who insisted on this survey.
  • YOU insisted that if it returned a YES vote it would legitimise equal marriage.
  • YOU do not now get to turn around and say, “But…” and change the result to whatever suits your prejudices.

Right. Now that the children have been sent to bed without supper, I can talk to the adults.


GetUp and Australian Marriage Equality are surveying all their members, LGBTI and straight, for guidance on how to react to the Smith Bill.  The survey is heavily slanted to produce a result supporting Smiths Bill, even to the extent of telling some little LNP white lies about “no new discrimination”. Check it out for yourself and you’ll see.

Shelley Argent of PFLAG, Ivan Hinton-Teoh and Rodney Croome, operating as just.equal, have also launched a survey, for LGBTI only, asking less slanted versions of the same questions. Find that here.


This survey/Smith bill process is not designed to produce equal marriage, and it never was. If the Yes vote gets up, the government merely promised to ‘facilitate’ a private members bill on the subject.

  • It did NOT promise to legislate, as a government, for marriage equality.
  • It refused to tell us what bill we might be voting for before they launched their survey
  • It hasn’t said which bill it will ‘facilitate’’ now that it’s over.
  • It did not promise to put up a bill of its own.
  • It refused, and is still refusing, to endorse the Smith Bill, or any other.

So, Dean Smith has put up one private members bill ( ); Erica Betz and his Holy 100 are putting up another, with even more religious privileges enshrined within it. Numerous other bills have been floated in the past by the Greens, David Leyonhjelm and Labor.


In reality, the government is getting behind the Smith Bill, though they are open to seeing it amended with further religious and conscience privileges. They have made it plain to me that they will not countenance any amendments to REMOVE the religious and conscience privileges currently in the bill. They will try to get it through as it stands, but could go to water at any time if Abbott and friends cut up rough.

So far, Labor have said they will support the Smith Bill as it stands. AME and GetUp are busily positioning themselves to support the Smith Bill too.


I think that the government should stick narrowly to what we seem to have voted for: making marriage law the same for everyone. No exceptions, exemptions or special privileges were mentioned in the survey we just took part in, and appear to have won handily (though let’s not count chickens). They have no mandate to include these ‘optional extras’.

I was told by a Brandis staffer that I can’t argue that they have no mandate, as it was ‘only a survey’, not a binding vote! And because I had done my best to prevent happening in the first place, I could could not now turn around and use it to bolster my argument! The hypocrisy of this is astounding.

The government, in the person of George Brandis, can’t see anything wrong with the Smith Bill and is convinced LGBTI opposition stems from

  1. a wish to prevent the LNP getting the credit for same sex marriage (they refuse to call it marriage equality)
  2. delaying tactics to make sure it’s a Labor government that eventually brings it in.
  3. an attempt to maintain relevance: once it passes, people like me will cease to have any further influence or relevance. We’re just trying to extend our moment in the spotlight

The AG’s office, AME and Get/Up regard the compromises on civil celebrants and religious businesses as trivial. They downplay their discriminatory nature when they talk to LGBTI, while telling waverers on the other side the exact opposite.

They insist that these compromises will have no practical effect and do no harm to anyone, so they ask, why not let the religious types have a little sop to their sensibilities? I would ask, equally, if they’re useless, why put them in there? The answer is: to get the bill through the senate.

They regard arguments that equality cannot be compromised as “naive, impractical and emotive”. Arguments that the exemptions set bad precedents for anti-discrimination law are dismissed as slippery slope arguments without merit.

And of course they come up with the discredited old cliche everyone uses to try to marshall support for bad legislation: “Don’t let the perfect drive out the good.” But what if the “good” on offer isn’t “good enough?”


Their stance boils down to a threat and a promise.

  • If we all get behind the Smith Bill, we can get this done, and done quickly.
  • If we fracture support for the Smith Bill we’ll prevent it passing, and will have to wear community hatred for delaying marriage for another three years.
  • And if we want to write our own bill, first, “go win an election”.

I said, “In effect, we just did.” But apparently winning the ‘purely advisory’ survey doesn’t count.

There is a middle way, excising the religious flim-flam, which Smith bill supporters claim is 99% cosmetic anyway, so as not to create dangerous precedents.

Whatever your thoughts, please fill out the surveys above so that our representatives can plan where to go next.

In the meantime, David Marr, Brenda Appleton and Rodney Croome will address a public forum What Happens After Yes on Monday 13 November

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)