What is Australian Marriage Equality Up To?


Pic by dynamosquito

In SIlver Blaze, a Sherlock Holmes story, Gregory (Scotland Yard detective) asks “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

Supporters of marriage equality have been scratching their heads about the strange behaviour of lead lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality.

In spite of huge opposition to a plebiscite in the LGBTIQ+ community, and in spite of AME’s constant declarations that it opposes one too, AME, despite claiming to represent us, has:

Ø Failed to call on the Senate to block a plebiscite.

Ø Taken down a petition against a plebiscite with 50,000 signatories and then failed to promote it ahead of it being presented by Get Up!

Ø Kept calling on all political parties to work together without explaining what on.

Ø Has orchestrated a “community declaration” that it wants LGBTIQ+ community groups to sign and that it wants to promote to MPs, but which conspicuously fails to call on Parliament to block a plebiscite.

Ø This “community declaration” puts the onus on parties that oppose a plebiscite to find an alternate way forward, letting the government off the hook despite it being responsible for not allowing a free vote which is the obvious way forward.

Ø Praised Archbishop Freier’s statement in support of a plebiscite

Ø Has lost long-term staff members and experienced advocates because they want to campaign against a plebiscite.

Ø Is no longer working with PFLAG, which is unprecedented in any campaign for LGBTIQ+ rights.

Ø Has not involved other pro-marriage equality, anti-plebiscite groups in their lobbying with MPs.

Ø Is the subject of persistent rumours among MPs and Senators that it is covertly in support of a plebiscite going ahead if it meets certain “standards”.
Recent news reports raise the question, has AME been lobbying the Senate, and particularly Labor, to keep the door open on a plebiscite in the name of improving it?

This news story suggests that is what might just be happening:

If AME is secretly lobbying for “a better plebiscite”, it is in spite of research showing LGBTIQ+ people overwhelmingly don’t want a plebiscite under any circumstances, even if it’s fair and not gamed.

It’s a high risk strategy that could easily backfire, with the cross-bench competing with Labor over who will concede the most to the Government to look “reasonable”.

If AME is inexorably dragging the LGBTIQ+ community to a plebiscite against the community’s express wishes then it has completely lost touch with its base, is misreading the politics of the situation and is deluded if it thinks people haven’t noticed.

AME can get back on track in four simple steps:

  1. Call on the Senate to block a plebiscite.
  2. Publicly stand by the petition of 50,000 people opposing the plebiscite, and present it publicly to the Prime Minister.
  3. Publicly deny that it has lobbied any federal MPs or senators to support the plebiscite option, rather than block it.
  4. Invite PFLAG and Rainbow Family members to lobby with them jointly in Canberra.

The draft of the evasive statement being put together by AME as a lobbying document, and which conspicuously fails to call on the senate to block a plebiscite can be found here.

It also, bizarrely, puts the onus on Labor and Greens to move this issue forward if the plebiscite is blocked. That is, it does not place any responsibility on the *government*. This is totally at odds with AME’s mantra of “all parties should work together” and it lets the government off the hook. Is this what VGLRL is going to sign on behalf of all LGBTI’s in Victoria?

Let us have an end to all the secrecy and the sneaking around, and have an open public debate among all the groups working for marriage equality, instead of all this political game playing. It does no-one, least of the community it purports to serve, any favours.

The community has spoken loud and clear. No Plebiscite. And No More Delay. A joint bill from a grand coalition of all the opposition parties could achieve this: why are they instead dancing to the government pipers tune?

PS if you think the plebiscite is a quick fix, check out the facts.

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)