It’s one thing to win equality. The real fight will be holding on to it.
As the interminable postal survey drags on, many are noticing a change in tone.
“Walking round the city in my YES shirt, I used to get the odd sneer or angry look, but now I’m getting actual verbal insults. Sometimes it’s just an angry “no!” Sometimes it’s worse. Has anyone else noticed this?” [Facebook post]
Yes. Not surprising, then, that many are aching for this ghastly survey to be over. And therein lies the danger. Because the end of the survey is not the end, whatever the result.
We must not make the mistake of our US brothers and sisters, who lowered their guard, and now find their gains being aggressively eroded. If we win, we will immediately be in a fight to hold onto that win, as well as tackling our other pressing issues.
But first, are we going to win at all? What are the possibilities?
The Doomsday Scenario
NO wins. The issue goes off the agenda for the next x years. This seems very unlikely.
The Slightly Less Pessimistic Scenario
Political circumstances change. The Turnbull government falls before it can pass the legislation. A general election produces a very narrow Labour win. The issue goes to the backburner for a short while, until Labour can get some runs on the board, and goes back to the polls for a bigger majority.
The Pessimistic Scenario
The increasingly shrill NO campaign spooks the unsure and the soft NO sympathisers, leading to a very close result. Reluctant supporters in Parliament claim the issue is ‘too divisive’ and threaten to withdraw their support. The pressure is on to “compromise”, to water down Dean Smith’s bill by expanding its range of exemptions beyond their current scope. At the same time, pressure also mounts for a bill to protect “religious freedom”.
If such efforts succeed (optimists insist they won’t), then instead of Marriage Equality, we shall have Marriage Apartheid, with two sets of laws for two sets of people, just as we have now. But worse, because the right to discriminate against people you don’t like, in accordance with your conscience, will now be written into law..
But enough doom and gloom. It may all work out for the best and we shall get…
The Golden Scenario
We record a handy majority, large enough to silence opposition, at least for a time. Although a number of MPs say they won’t vote for equal marriage, regardless of the outcome, they are too few to have any impact. The Dean Smith bill passes, more or less exactly as it stands. The leaderships applies maximum pressure to push most into line. Attempts to modify the bill are shot down by the Senate.
Result: the bill passes before Christmas, everyone declares the issue done and dusted and finally off the agenda.
The ACL graciously accept defeat, marking the beginning of the end of their influence. Lyle Shelton disappears from our television screens and talkback shows for ever. (Well, I can dream, can’t I?)
Even If We ‘Win’, The War Will Continue.
No, I don’t mean the one where The Donald drops a Fat Boy on The Fat Boy, derailing everything. I mean our LGBTI war for dignity and respect, honour, embrace, and celebration.
Our opponents are already gearing up for a post-equality world, to fight us through the courts at every turn as we try top exercise our rights. The LGBTI community must set up its own legal gorilla to fight them though the coming years. The Australian Christian Lobby is already building their war machine.
“The Human Rights Law Alliance is partly based on the US’s Alliance Defending Freedom, a far-right, evangelical Christian organisation established in 1994 to fight legal matters. It is often described as a “gay-hate group”.
The ADF has defended laws criminalising gay sex in several countries. Its top attorney, Jeffrey Ventrella, spoke at an ACL conference earlier this year, while former prime minister Tony Abbott controversially addressed the group in New York in January.”
They have the money
No, the ACL will not, of course, shut up and die out if they lose. They have God and the USA on their side, remember? Their public influence may wane for a time, but they have deep pockets and rich backers.
The ADF, with declared revenue of almost US$50m last year, is the richest anti-LGBTI organisation in the world. It funds, mentors and staffs anti-LGBTI initiatives, including blocking marriage equality around the world. ACL is their local proxy: click the link and you’ll see where much of the ACL anti-LGBTI propaganda is drawn from.
UPDATE: US connection of NO campaign confirmed
Australian Marriage Equality just sent round an email including the following:
We’ve known for a while now that the ‘no’ campaign has some big backers from the right in the USA. But last week we had it confirmed.
The ‘no’ campaign have launched their ‘Freedom Team’ app. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the app was developed for them by “American company Political Social Media LLC, trading as uCampaign, which built apps for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Brexit’s “Vote Leave” and the powerful National Rifle Association.”  The app prompts ‘no’ supporters to visit the homes of undecided voters.
The ‘no’ campaign have already received help from right wing sources in the USA. Republican-linked US pollster WPA Intelligence has been targeting households with robocalls which the Australian Market and Social Research Society described as “push polling” for the ‘no’ campaign.
All of this can’t have been cheap.
Let me level with you. We don’t have this kind of backing. We never expected to – but we also didn’t think the ‘no’ side would be linked so heavily to the American right.
The ACL hides the identities of its donors, however, making it impossible to identify who amongst the rich and influential Christian businessmen in Australia donate. But some have clear pro-ACL sympathies. Frank Seeley AM, founder, owner and chairman of Seeley International (Breezair, Conair, Braemar, Coolerado and more), Australia’s largest manufacturer of heating and cooling systems, is on record as donating to Family Voice (an ACL front organisation), and is often seen on the Christian speaking and mentoring circuits, along with Bob Beaumont, of Beaumont Tiles.
An Ongoing Role for Australian Marriage Equality
If my very limited exposure to A-list Gays is any guide, we have among our number many well-heeled and well-connected lawyers and financiers. Many of them, openly and not-so-openly, are backing Australian Marriage Equality. Once marriage equality is won, AME, their time, talent, connections and cash must not fade away: they will be needed to take the fight up to the ACL and their allies.
We only have to look to the States to see what will happen if they do.They must not go back to sleep.
We must not allow the opposition any more breathing space. Indeed, this is the role that AME could and should adopt, defending and guarding marriage equality for years to come, once the initial battle is won. Gains, if taken for granted and not defended, are easily lost. Perpetual vigilance is required.