Resist, Reject, Refuse

by Martin Abegglen

This post was first published on The Vue as Resist & Reject The Marriage Equality Plebiscite!

My same-sex partner and I have been together for 18 years, and we are determined to finally get married on our 20th anniversary.

We kind of already have eight years ago, in a private affair* in Sydney on our 10th anniversary. Of course that ceremony wasn’t ‘legal’.

If we wish to celebrate our 20th anniversary with a legal wedding ceremony, it increasingly looks like we will have to do so overseas. Admittedly, it still won’t be recognised once we return home.

For all intents and purposes I have given up on marriage equality in Australia within the next few years, but that doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to be coerced, conned, forced, harangued, intimidated, or sweet-talked into a potentially near-fatal strategic error – a plebiscite.

After 10-15 years of:

  • writing submissions to endless Parliamentary and Senate inquiries that went nowhere;
  • having the same circular, senseless, intellectually bankrupt ‘arguments’ with bigots and homophobes while our fellow Australians sit on the sidelines like it’s a spectator sport to watch us being humiliated and dehumanised time and time again; and
  • ample opportunities by a succession of governments and politicians to do the right thing, and their jobs, and pass a legislation that recognises our right to civil marriage,

James BaldwinI Will Not Beg

I will certainly not dignify an invitation to go door-to-door, hat in hand, begging our fellow Australians to accept me and my partner as equal human beings, entitled to enjoy the same basic human rights.

Submitting to a plebiscite on the issue would be a tacit acceptance of ‘submitting to the will of the people’ on what’s essentially a civil and human rights, and social justice issue.

I graciously appreciate public support for being considered an equal human being, and for being afforded corresponding equal rights and protections under the law, but I unequivocally reject the idea of the public’s ‘entitlement’ for a vote on the issue of marriage equality.

We live in a progressive, liberal, and secular democracy. That means my unalienable basic civil and human rights are just that – unalienable. Consequently, they are not up for a public debate, or a popularity contest.

I Do Not Trust

My opposition is not a question of ‘trusting the judgment’ of my fellow Australians, but a question of the misuse and abuse of both our Parliamentary democracy, and the plebiscite process, and a significant lack of trust in the Coalition.

The Constitution does not require to be changed to enact marriage equality in Australia – all we need to do is amend the Marriage Act. Parliament has the constitutional power, the High Court of Australia already made that clear, and arguably the duty and responsibility, to do so. They could do it tomorrow. If they had conviction, common decency, and a spine. So don’t hold your breath.

For me, it’s either a swift, civilised Parliamentary vote to approve marriage equality, or nothing. If John Howard’s Coalition government was able to change the Marriage Act in 2004 without a plebiscite, Parliament can do so again.

LGBT RightsIn any event, this is no longer a debate or a ‘conversation’ – this is a war of attrition fought by a religious conservative minority, with an inexplicably disproportionate influence over our political class, using:

And while talking politics, if you trust the Coalition with running a marriage equality plebiscite, I have some great value magic beans for you, plus a fabulous fox who will make the best guard for your chicken coop …

When it comes to marriage equality, the Coalition has no real conviction, no proper plan, no tangible commitment – the whole marriage equality plebiscite concept is a ridiculous fiasco, because it is an ill-considered and unnecessary mess of their own creation.

This is a political quagmire of the Coalition’s own making – they made their bed, let them lie in it. The LGBTI community owes nothing to the Coalition.

Utter Chaos

The utter government chaos that characterised the plebiscite idea from the moment it emerged is further exemplified by the fact that now it’s being pushed back to ‘sometime in 2017,’ despite repeated assurances during the election campaign that it would most likely take place before the end of this year. And then there is the endless emergence of conflicting details about the proposed mechanics for the plebiscite, from the parameters of the campaign leading up to it, to the critical questions surrounding the voting and the interpretation and implementation of the result itself.

Now they are looking at everyone else to bend over backwards, including the LGBTI community by submitting to their harebrained plan, and even their own nutty conservatives by eventually submitting to the people’s will (if the plebiscite is successful), as they try to salvage this whole stupid idea somehow.

Contemptible Coercion

The coordinated attempt by members of the Coalition, affiliated pundits, and sympathisers, currently underway to coerce the LGBTI community into accepting the Coalition’s plebiscite as a given, asserting it is the LGBTI community’s ‘responsibility’ to work with them, and the only way forward, is contemptible:

I am not having any of that tripe.

Stop Selling Us Out

First, the responsibility is on some conservative LGBTI players to stop selling out their community for crumbs from the table. Not all conservative gays fall into this category, but the ones who do need to check themselves.

Second, the responsibility for equal marriage rights for LGBTI people no longer rests with the LGBTI community, and its supporters. We have made our case. Amply and repeatedly.

The rest of the world’s leading progressive, secular democracies have made our case, by having legislated marriage equality, some as far back as almost 20 years ago.

We are done, because that’s all we can do.

NeutralityThe responsibility now lies, where the failure also rests: with Australia’s spineless politicians, and the public.

If Australians wish to acquiesce to the few who are maliciously and stubbornly blocking marriage equality, and remain the only major English-speaking progressive, liberal, secular democracy in the world without marriage equality, the full civil legal recognition of the loving, long-term relationships of LGBTI people, well that’s their ‘democratic’ right, but now it had also became their shame.

A stain on their conscience that will never wash away.

They will just have to explain that to their incredulous grandkids 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, and good luck to them.

And don’t come apologising then, because you know now that what is being done to the LGBTI community over marriage equality in Australia is wrong, just wrong. Yet no one is doing anything of substance to end this ridiculous, largely religiously agitated, political stalemate once and for all.


In any event, in my view we better be patient and wait until the next Labor government comes into power in about 3 to 6 years, unless a successful Parliamentary vote can occur sooner. I have reasonable faith now, given their increasingly evolved stance on the issue, that Labor will stand up to opponents and get marriage equality done once they are returned to government.

Alternatively, we can allow a largely hostile Coalition to ride over us with their plebiscite. However, if we lose that, and chances are a marriage equality plebiscite would be a re-run of the ‘un-losable’ Australian republic referendum fiasco, don’t expect marriage equality to be on the political agenda again potentially for a decade or more.

ReferendumAnd let’s not forget the source of the plebiscite idea: Tony Abbott, in conjunction with the most notorious religious, right-wing conservatives of Australia. They didn’t introduce the plebiscite idea because they support marriage equality – they introduced it to delay, obfuscate, and prevent. A plebiscite on the issue is ridiculous, unnecessary and divisive, and they know it. They are counting on it.

If you thought the recent Federal election campaign was too long, the Australian Electoral Commission already indicated it would need up to 29 weeks to prepare for a ‘free-standing’ plebiscite. That could mean a bigoted, hateful, soul-destroying anti-LGBTI, anti-marriage equality plebiscite campaign running for over seven months! All that for $160 million, which is likely to blow out to a larger amount.

Please Explain Abstain

And the result of the plebiscite won’t even be binding on Parliament! The best solution Tim Wilson came up for that plebiscite showstopper? To wonder the corridors of Parliament begging his homophobic Coalition colleagues who oppose marriage equality to ‘abstain’ from voting on the issue! Seriously?! That’s his big ‘plan’?!

No wonder public support for a plebiscite has plummeted as people realise what an unmitigated disaster it’s shaping up to be.



So much for the ‘it’s what the Australian public wants’ argument by desperate Coalition politicians trying to legitimise the plebiscite process as some ‘sacred exercise in democracy.’ If we are going to rely on public polling for determining government policy, let Parliament legislate marriage equality tomorrow, since the issue had consistent and overwhelming support in those same polls for years now.

We would have to be insane to trust this significant social justice issue to the outcome of a game created by the most homophobic members of the Coalition, under rules they will concoct (such as counting the results of the ‘national’ plebiscite on an electorate-by-electorate basis), and a result they will likely simply ignore, if after all that effort to prevent marriage equality from happening, the process still fails to go their way.

There is far too much at stake here to trust the party of Cory Bernardi, George Christensen, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, and their ilk, with the future of marriage equality, and our civil and human rights generally.

If the plebiscite does eventually go ahead, and I am realistic enough to accept that this government will do everything in its power to drag us down that path because doing so had become a political imperative for them, I sincerely hope I will be proven completely wrong. On this occasion I would be more than happy to wear that humiliation. However, the general character of this government, and their historic track-record when it comes to the treatment and the rights of the LGBTI community, makes that highly unlikely. Just look at the recent Safe Schools debacle …

In the meantime, passive resistance to the oppressor’s game is a time-honoured historical, cultural and political tradition of the oppressed.

So, if any of the above strikes a chord with you, please resists and reject the plebiscite!