Barring any high court moves, marriage equality will head to a postal plebiscite very shortly. It’s a mean, nasty deliberately damaging move on the LNP’s part, and quite farcical, but it’s still something that I will vote on. Here’s why.
There’s already countless words on Marriage Equality out there, and I feel like I’ve been reading them for the best part of this week. There’s plenty of outrage, and more than a little bit of pain for folks who are already pretty substantially marginalised in all sorts of ways. I’ve already expressed my viewpoint on this before.
To put my cards plainly on the table, I’m a straight, white, married male in my mid 40s. I’m in one of the most privileged groups in society, and the granting of marriage equality to same sex couples won’t affect my marriage in any way whatsoever. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me that it’s even a topic of discussion, because it’s clear from the half-dozen or so LNP members threatening to cross the floor at the start of the week that this whole sorry mess could be over right now.
But no. Instead, we’re to have an entirely optional postal plebiscite to, in essence, decide LNP policy for them at a cost of $122 million or so. Given that numerous LNP types have already declared in public that they’ll vote “their” way (i.e no) even if the plebiscite is returned in the positive, it’s a deeply cynical and harmful measure. Not just a waste of time, but based on the rhetoric already appearing, one that will cause genuine harm to anyone grappling with their sexuality or gender identity. I’d like to think that this was a result of stupidity and ignorance, and not actually deliberate, but nothing’s impossible.
There’s still the issue of whether the government can even proceed (and even that’s perhaps deliberate, because a High Court challenge may take some time and thus delay the inevitable), but leaving that aside, while I do feel the whole thing is a farce, I still intend to vote, and vote yes. In case it wasn’t already clear, I support the idea of the government of a nation offering equal rights to all. How can that even be an issue?
I’ve seen plenty say that it should be boycotted, but that, I think (and this is just my opinion, from my viewpoint, you may disagree, etc, etc, blah, blah blah) that would be a mistake.
It’s worth examining the outcomes to see why I think it’s vital to vote, even though the result is as wonky as those “budget emergencies” we used to have. Somehow there’s $122 million left in the kitty, but anyway….
Outcome 1: “No” majority from a postal ballot
Undoubtedly this is what the LNP hard religious right is counting on, because then they’ll use it as an absolute justification to never allow such a bill to be introduced. Yes, it’ll be unrepresentative because it’s an optional postal ballot with a degree of difficulty, and whenever there’s a level of difficulty (not to mention the complete absence of #democracysausage, because postal), some folks won’t bother, or won’t be able to bother, or Australia Post will lose their ballots (and how would you know?).
Still, a hard No is the worst possible answer, and not just because it’ll feed the bigotry of that side of politics. A hard no would suggest to the general politicians of Canberra that this is the “will of the people” (it won’t be, see above), and while marriage equality is the stated policy of the other side of politics right now, many of them are career politicians. They’ll go where they see the wind blowing, and if enough blowhards vote no, their position may waver. This is, without a doubt, the worst result, and boycotting will only strengthen the No position.
Outcome 2: Somewhere in the middle — no clear majority from a postal ballot
A middle vote, whether it’s No or Yes still won’t deliver Marriage Equality.
I mean, the LNP’s made it pretty clear it’s not interested even if there’s a strong yes, but a middle stream outcome will still be used as a justification to not go forward, probably with a little rhetoric around how “the result wasn’t clear” and “we can’t make changes to the act without clear will of the people” and other such pussyfooting around. It’s not as bad as a no, but it’s not good.
Outcome 3: “Yes” majority from a postal ballot
To reiterate: I don’t personally think that a large scale yes will automatically lead to a free vote in parliament, even though it’s clear that a free vote today would see it handily passed. I also don’t see the sense in spending $122 million of public money to decide LNP policy in this respect. I bet they wouldn’t spend $122 million of their own money, but I digress.
Given that the LNP rebels were (apparently) brought back into line by having their preselection at the next election threatened if they opted to cross the floor, and the statements made by folks like Abetz, they’ll stymie it regardless, especially as the plebiscite is non-binding. If they actually cared about the outcome, it’d be a binding referendum, no doubt. But they won’t risk that, because it might (gasp!) hold them actually accountable to an outcome they might not personally like.
Still, a yes, and especially a resounding yes, could be the faster track to actual marriage equality in Australia. It’s shameful and stupid that it’s delayed this much, but if there’s a very clear yes outcome, again those same politicians who can clearly be tilted by threatening their preselections might just bend with the wind again in favour of it. Given the current composition of the LNP, does that mean they’re likely to introduce such a bill in this parliament? It’s not likely, to say the least. But clearly, they’re more fussed about their jobs than their principles, and if that seems threatened by their attitudes to marriage equality, then maybe, just maybe, we might be able to turn this thing around.
So what’s the practical takeaway? I think the plebiscite is an expensive and damaging fraud, but if it goes ahead, I’ll be voting as soon as I’m able, and I’d suggest you should do so as well. Remember, though, that you have to be properly registered to vote, and the AEC has to know where you currently live.