Plan B Arrives wrote yesterday that no-one appears to have a Plan B for marriage equality. It appears I was wrong. Plan B is peeking out from under the covers, and it looks just a little bit concerning. Actually, quite a lot.

Late yesterday a kite-flying article appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald site, suggesting that a new kind of “self executing” plebiscite bill might be in the offing, and Labor might support it.

“A plebiscite on same-sex marriage could be “self-executing”, without the need for a subsequent parliamentary conscience vote, under a compromise proposal to win Labor’s backing.

Fairfax Media understands Labor has a number of demands, chief among them that a successful plebiscite would automatically lead to marriage equality becoming law, rather than depending on another vote in the Parliament.” [SMH]

This would dovetail neatly with rumours emanating from the flotilla of LGBTI campaigners in Canberra, that a new consensus among them has been forged, with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.

This is a model I have written about before, under which opposition to a plebiscite might be softened. Shelley Argent laid out the conditions PFLAG – which asked LGBTI people about a plebiscite and 85% said no – might be prepared to accept:

  • voting compulsory
  • no public funding for either side
  • 16-18 yr olds and overseas Australians eligible to vote
  • extra resources for LGBTI support services
  • Lifeline number on all campaign materials
  • must be federal anti-vilification laws on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status in place before the vote
  • a “yes” vote must be automatically implemented, without a further vote of parliament
  • there must no anti-discrimination exemptions except for clergy

I would add a few more, including a fair and neutral form of question, which makes sure trans and intersex people are included, and, to avoid dangerous and damaging misinformation, lies and hatred being spread, a complete ban on media coverage, all public actions and discussion, campaigning, leafleting, door-knocking, polling, rallying, sermonizing, online petitions, pages etc. (other than strictly factual information, such as the date of the vote, the question, and the polling places), from the moment the bill passes parliament till the moment the polls close.

Some hopes! But it’s the only way, short of not having a plebiscite at all, to ensure we do so as safely as possible. Best of all would be no plebiscite at all. Which, may I remind you, is what the overwhelming majority of people want!


So before AME and the rest of them rush to sell us out (not that I’m suggesting they would ever do anything of the kind), please, if you’re not one of the 41,383 who have already signed the largest and most successful petition ever run by AME, sign it, share it, repost it. This, along with the PFLAG research showing that 85% of LGBTI people do not want a plebiscite under ANY circumstances, is the strongest weapon we have to derail the shift towards a public vote.

As Rainbow Families head to Canberra (details at the link) to lobby against a plebiscite, it’s essential that as many people as possible sign, demanding that AME stop hiding this petition, and deliver it to the PM. Rainbow Families co-chair Ashley Scott told QNEWS:

“Do not hold a plebiscite on marriage equality.”

“Rainbow Families oppose a plebiscite because we know what the impacts will be, both for our families and for vulnerable people in our community,”

“We elect our politicians to be decisive and to act in the interests of all Australians a plebiscite is a political fix that will do harm and put lives at risk.

“Some opponents of marriage equality will have no problem saying our families and kids are unnatural or wrong and that’s not something we as a society should accept.”

Rainbow Families will host a morning tea with federal MPs on September 13, before visiting undecided politicians and speaking at a media conference on the issue in the afternoon.


Encourage Labor to stand firm and not compromise on a “self-actuating” plebiscite, as recently suggested in the press. NO PLEBISCITE EVER is our clear message, along with end the delay and LEGISLATE EQUALITY NOW! As AME used to say:

The Government wants to hear from you on #MarriageEquality but some MPs have said they won’t listen. Let’s save ourselves $160M and let them know NOW:


AME say they are busy lobbying in Canberra but they have still not delivered their most powerful tool, this petition. They took it down in May and have not promoted it since. So in whose name are they now working now? Not the 41,382 signatories, or the 85% of LGBT people who oppose a plebiscite unconditionally, it appears.

Alex Greenwich recently sent round an AME email in which he failed to address the issue of this embarrassing petition, saying:

“Right now, marriage equality has been derailed by a debate about process — and all this achieves is confusion and delay. In all the to-ing and fro-ing about how we get there, the conversation is making all of us, including our politicians, lose sight of why this reform is important and who it is about: You and I. Our friends, family, neighbours and workmates.”

No-one is losing sight of anything. In their rush to claim the prize AME is in danger of forgetting their supporters wishes. The debate about process – in other words, stopping the plebiscite – is essential to ensure this reform is achieved without further damaging what is already a community under increasing and painful pressure from extremists who would deny our proper respect and out full humanity.

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)