They Call It Mellow Yellow

pic Daniel Lobo

If it’s yellow, let it mellow
If it’s brown, flush it down

This handy little water-saving mantra came to mind as I contemplated the latest twist in the long and tortured saga of marriage equality in Australia.

Just when it seems we have all decided to let the Smith Bill mellow, Malcolm Turnbull drops one into the pan, announcing he will vote for an unspecified selection of amendments “protecting religious freedoms” next week.

Amendments rejected by the Senate last week, that will be revived in the House. Our celebrations were a tad premature.


I was reminded of this mantra because it’s a perfect metaphor for the situation around the Not Quite Right bill crafted by Dean Smith.

His bill contains clauses that I (and the Greens – see their amendments here) would like to see gone. In fact, I have gone so far as to suggest that if they stay in the bill, we ought to flush the whole thing down.

The community as a whole seems to have forgotten what it said only a short while ago in a rush to embrace “equality by Christmas.”

The Smith bill, unamended, does not deliver that.

WHAT DO WE WANT – just.equal

Before the euphoria of the Senate victory took hold, a survey conducted by just.equal and PFLAG suggested that most LGBTI people agreed with me. We do not like the discriminatory “religious” provisions already in the Smith Bill. The survey found:

63% opposition to civil celebrants nominating themselves to have the right to refuse their services for religious reasons

87% opposition to businesses with religious links also being able to discriminate.

71% believe exemptions allowing discrimination against any couple would be used to disproportionately discriminate against same-sex couples.

54% said they would be willing to wait until marriage equality can be achieved without such exemptions. 28% were not willing to wait and 18% were neutral.”


That survey was of LGBTI people only. GetUp conducted a similar survey of all their supporters, straight and gay. In an email to members, they said:

“The Smith bill is the most likely to pass parliament… This legislation will deliver marriage equality, with a few religious exemptions, and will not grant new license to discriminate against LGBTIQ people…

“But opponents of marriage equality are already seeking to decimate this bill and delay the reform…

“To ensure that GetUp can campaign strategically – both for marriage equality and against the conservatives’ bill – we need to establish our position on the Smith bill.

Can you fill in this quick survey to inform GetUp’s position on marriage equality legislation? It will only take a few minutes, and your input is really important. ”

Their survey asked, among other things:

  • if any of the exemptions – for ministers, civil celebrants, and religious-related facilities – were “substantial enough” for GetUp to oppose the Smith Bill
  • if we should wait for a more ‘perfect’ bill, rather than accept one containing any religious exemptions

Or to put it another way, respondents were asked if they were prepared to let it mellow, or did they want to flush it down?

It would be very useful to compare the results with PLAGs findings. If anyone has received the results of this survey, can they please send it along? Or point me to where they can be found?


Now is not the time to be celebrating. Especially not now the Prime Minister has left a floater in the pan.

We are losing sight of our goal in the euphoria over the Senate victory. We cannot afford to relax or drop our guard.

This is not the time to let it mellow. This is the time to redouble our efforts. And bitter though it may be, this is the time to face the fact that next week we may not be celebrating at all. If any more “religious protections” get into the bill, it will be time to recognise for what it is.

And flush it down.

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)