Marrying For Money

Regardless of efforts to jolly us all along, it can’t be denied that as far as marriage equality is concerned, we lost. We lost in federal parliament, and we lost in Tasmania, our best bet for a state-based marriage law. There’s no doubt this has been massively disappointing.

Losing can get to be a habit. So far, out of 32  popular votes in the USA, we’ve lost 32. Hopefully, that may be about to change. Maine has a referendum on equal marriage, while Washington and Maryland are voting on whether to let already legislated measures stand.  Minnesota will vote in the other direction, on whether to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

There is one huge difference between these US campaigns and our own, however, and it can be summed up in one word. Money. The Human Rights Campaign donated $225,000 to Mainers United for Marriage as part of $1 million in contributions to gay marriage campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

In Washington a raft of corporate sponsors are tipping money to campaigners for equal marriage: Amazon, Expedia, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Nordstrum, REI, Starbucks, T-Mobile and many more. This enables Washington United for Marriage to deploy an army of 4,000 volunteers backed by an $8.9 million campaign fund. In Maryland, billionaire New York Mayor Bloomberg has handed over a cool $250,000 to help pass the pro-gay marraige referendum there, while the Maine campaign landed a $50,000 donation from the former head of the National Football League.

Can you imagine Australia’s equivalent, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou, happily handing over $50,000 of his own money to Australian Marriage Equality? Or Robert Doyle kicking across a cool quarter-mill?

Now I’m not saying money is everything. Clearly the other side has squazillions to spend, too. At least these donations help even up the playing field.

Where are the big Australian corporate donors to Equal Marriage? Companies like Telstra, whose head of diversity I recently interviewed on my show, or IBM, a massive multinational: both have great pro-active pro-gay programs throughout their entire businesses, and could well afford to kick in a mill or so apiece without really noticing it. What about the Packers and Crown? They stand to make a killing from stylish same-sex weddings – but are they opening their vaults for us? Ditto David Jones and Meyer?  They’re already major employers of gay people – how about some moolah for marriage, guys?

More to the point, are WE chasing THEM? The NSW rights lobby has put out the begging bowl, asking for regular tithes on your credit card (like Hillsong and Margaret Court do), but are they hammering on the doors of Coles and Woolies for a special promotion? Activate this special offer now, and all your rewards points for the next month will go to Equal Love Melbourne!

What about individuals? Jeannie Pratt, probably Melbourne’s number one philanthropist, gives away thousands every year: has anyone asked for a sight of her checkbook? Alan Jones may be a bit short at the moment, but I’ll bet he has a pile socked away somewhere. And who knows, he may still cherish fantasies of tripping down the aisle with a rugger player. Has he been asked? Has anyone called his mates Gina, Clive and Twiggy? Why not? Have any of them rung up and offered?

There’s only so much a small community like ours can provide out of our own pockets. It’s a small pot and it has to feed a lot of mouths. We can’t rely on governments for ongoing funding. There’s nothing wrong with expecting rich individuals and major corporates to lend a generous hand. Employ fundraisers on a generous commission to wine ’em and dine ’em and prise open the vaults!

Now is not the time to cower in dark corners likcing our wounds. It’s time get serious about fundraising and campaigning. We need regular ads on commercial TV in prime time spots, full pages in national and regional papers, even sponsor major events like a Marriage Equality Cup at the Racing Carnival.

Gai Waterhouse could put up the dosh for that one.

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)