According to some in the anti-marriage equality camp, calling someone a bigot is offensive, even if they precisely fit the Macquarie Dictionary definition: “someone who is intolerantly convinced of the rightness of a particular creed, opinion, practice, etc”.
Yet, while calling for a “respectful” debate on the marriage equality plebiscite, by day two of the campaign, the No team had stated that the children of LGBT parents are “a lost generation” (The Australian Christian Lobby), that marriage equality would lead to polygamy, bestiality and the euthanasia of children who are born disabled (Bronwyn Bishop), and that marriage equality is an attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and nothing more than political correctness (Tony Abbott).
We know why the plebiscite is a terrible idea: it’s a $122 million survey to find out what dozens of polls have been telling us for years, the government is not bound to the survey results, it will unleash a wave of tax payer-funded hate that will damage vulnerable people in the LGBT community, it’s being carried out by the Bureau Of Statistic rather than the Electoral Commission so it has no electoral legitimacy. And, most profoundly, it is unjust to resolve a question of civil rights with a popularity contest.
Day two and we’re already at bestiality and killing off disabled kiddies. The No team have an unusual idea of “respectful”, and how quickly they’ve lunged to scrape the bottom of the barrel. It prompts two questions: how much lower are they prepared to go before November 7 and why exactly are they doing it?
We expect politicians to represent community views, but the parliamentary core of the No campaign, the far-righters in the Liberal and National coalition, don’t represent the views of most Australians. They don’t, according to polling, represent the views of their own electorates on the marriage equality question, and they don’t even represent the majority opinion in the churches they belong to.
So, who exactly are they fighting for? They aren’t fighting for anyone. They’re fighting against other people having the same marriage rights as them. They’re fighting against LGBTs being equal. Dictionary definition bigotry.
Perhaps they imagine themselves nobly battling to preserve a sacred cause; that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Most Australians and 23 nations around the world don’t agree.
These devoted warriors are in for a big shock. Let’s imagine that the postal plebiscite goes ahead and that the No vote wins, which is entirely possible as it is tilted in their favour. Do they think that will be the end of the matter? Do they think Australians will decide that marriage equality isn’t for us after all and forget about it? That won’t happen. The marriage equality movement will continue until marriage equality is achieved. The desire for this social reform has been unbottled.
There is another possible outcome – one that will be even more shocking to the No team: marriage equality is achieved and the sky does not fall in. The earth does not open. The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse don’t appear on the horizon and disabled children aren’t killed at birth. In fact, nothing much will happen at all except that a very few people who currently can’t get married, will. Marriage equality will result in so very little actual change these warriors will not notice. Although, Tony Abbott may be invited to his gay sister’s wedding.
Of course, it will be hugely significant for the LGBT community and our families. Most people’s lives, however, will not change – and at that point Abbott, Cormann, Abetz, Bishop, Bernardi, Sheldon and the rest will have to answer some embarrassing questions. Why did you stand in the way of this for so long? Why did you fight so hard to prevent something so harmless? Why did you force the country to spend millions of dollars on a survey we didn’t need to have? Why did you put young LGBT people through the hell of the No campaign? Why did you deliberately misrepresent LGBT people? History will not remember them as valiant defenders of the faith, but with scorn, as troglodytes: “a person who is regarded as being deliberately ignorant or old-fashioned,” – thank you, again, Macquarie Dictionary.
Tony Abbott’s legacy will be that of a political corpse who rose from the dead to terrorise the living. Malcolm Turnbull’s legacy will be the man who could’ve stopped him, but didn’t.
We in the Yes team cannot afford to be complacent. The postal plebiscite sucks, but we must fight bigotry and we must fight cynicism. Make sure you are registered to vote with the Australian Electoral Commission by August 24. Vote Yes and return your ballot before November 7. Talk to friends, family and colleagues and ask them to support you. Lodge complaints with commercial media outlets if you see offensive advertising or editorials. Keep your debates respectful, factual and sane. The No team will sink low in their campaign – we must not. It’s a bad fight but it is better we win it with dignity.
Andrew Creagh, Founding Editor