Unnecessary Complications


This Way to Equal Marriage.  Maze pic by R Crap Mariner

If you agree with me that we should not have a plebiscite at all, even if it means a few years delay, follow this link for Four Ways In Five Minutes to make your views known.

The arguments around a plebiscite on marriage equality – indeed the plebiscite itself – are all unnecessary complications of a very simple issue.

Should Australian marriage law be the same for everyone, or should heterosexual couples be permitted to retain their current special privileged status? Do we take opposite sex couples down off their pedestal and treat them the same as everyone else, or do we continue to treat some people and relationships as inferior human beings? This is not what voters will be asked. According to a kite-flying article in the Daily Telegraph, the question will be:

“Do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?”


Be very aware that same-sex marriage is not the same as equal marriage. This question does not ask about equal marriage: it does not ask if everyone should be treated equally. It does not ask if the Marriage Act should be amended simply to refer to any two adults of marriageable age.

Instead, it leaves the way open for an apartheid style Same Sex Marriage Act, which would maintain the special rights and privileges of opposite sex couples, create new and different one for same sex couples, and potentially throw non-binary identified trans people and intersex people under a bus (intersex people, being neither men nor women, but both and neither, cannot currently legally marry). It is a very bad question.

The article goes on to suggest that the plebiscite will be held February 27th (which can’t be right, since that’s a Monday), and that voting will be compulsory. It says nothing about the definition of a ‘win’, e.g., will a simple national majority suffice?

The government responded that nothing is decided yet, and it’s all up to the party room, which next meets on September 13, during the second week of parliamentary sittings. That means we should not be stampeded, or accept a plebiscite as inevitable, but continue to do all we can to derail it.


Shelley Argent of PFLAG recently met Attorney General George Brandis, and made clear their absolute opposition to holding a plebiscite at all.

‘Somebody said to me, “It’s better to wait than to be walking over bodies as you walk down the aisle,” and I think that’s very true’.


But if it must be held, she laid out a series of conditions for PFLAG’s support:

  • voting compulsory
  • no public funding for either side
  • 16-18 yr olds and overseas Australians should be 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 clergywristbands


Speaking on behalf on many of us, including myself, my friend William Brougham writes:

“I have huge issues with this. I have made my opposition to a plebiscite on marriage equality clear on many occasions. I do not believe a vote to make people equal under the law or any issue on human rights should be the subject of a public vote which will turn it into little more than a popularity contest. I do not like the rights of a minority being voted on by the majority. I also object to the use of the word “permit” in the supposed question. We do not want permission nor do we seek it. We do not have a public vote on other significant issues such as health care, education, crime or immigration and nor do I think we should. We vote at election time.

maddow“The plebiscite is also hugely expensive, very divisive and potentially dangerous. It is also non-binding. It also appears that we have the numbers in parliament to pass legislation. This plebiscite has nothing to do with democracy but everything to do with blocking and delaying tactics. My feelings on the above have not changed and I have stated them previously. I also stand by my belief that a plebiscite will not take place even though it now looks far more likely.

‘However, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has gone back on his election pledge to have a plebiscite by the end of the year. The Daily Telegraph reports that the question will be “Do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?” If this is the case then the question is very problematic. It asks if voters approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry. It does not ask if the existing marriage act should be amended. Does this mean a new and separate law? Separate but not equal.

“It also appears to exclude people who identify as trans, intersex or of non-binary gender. This is not acceptable yet it is also reported that it will be compulsory for Australians to vote on the issue. Again tactics designed to throw the whole issue into disarray. Any victory will be bitter sweet. I am critical not because I resent or dislike this country but because I love this country. Our nation and our people deserve better.”


If Labor leader Bill Shorten can convince enough Liberal MPs to stage a Rainbow Rebellion…

If Labor & Greens can persuade enough of the Senate cross-bench…

If our newly elected gay Liberals grow a pair…

If one or two Coalition MPs cross the floor, or are forced to resign, or die…

…then the plebiscite will not get up. We might even get really lucky and bring down this hapless dithering government.


We can still derail the plebiscite. Please click through for details of who is doing what (and a taste of the horrors waiting to blossom forth if the plebiscite goes ahead), and to lend a hand. Or at least your name. Four Ways To Help In Five Minutes.


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)