While we expect the Marriage Equality plebiscite debate to become heated, I think we are perhaps overlooking already the insidious creep from the extreme sides of the arguments. All major players are building their resources both financial and human and we have had the government agree to public funding for both sides of the debate. Giving an open invitation for significant public debate.
While my main focus remains on how bad it will become once the decision is made for a plebiscite. Obviously the plebiscite remains one of a few options right now in Australia. While our government is continuing to push the plebiscite I am writing as it will be the outcome. I don’t necessarily believe it will.
Our most recent example to draw on, from a similar campaign, is the Irish Referendum. Just a side note the requirements in Ireland was very different politically to what the case is in Australia. Ireland had to have a referendum as their marriage laws were covered in their constitution and therefore could only be changed via a referendum. This is not the case in Australia. The law can be changed via a vote in parliament.
Grainne Healy who was the co-director of the Yes Equality campaign in the 2015 Irish marriage equality campaign has given a clear warning to Australia. There was significant counselling required for the volunteers of the ‘yes’ campaign after they were faced with hate speech and abuse while campaigning. The nature of a referendum or plebiscite allows strong negative campaigning through all forms of media.
My concern right now though is that the argument has already begun, the harm is already occurring and what can we do to address it? Are you talking to your children, your friends, your family to check in that they are going OK. To check how they are coping with the endless chatter about the plebiscite and marriage equality?
Sure the debate is not at the level which will occur once the campaign starts in full however it has started and it is impacting on well being of the LGBTIQ community. Daily discussions in the media about the plebiscite itself are being heard by our children and vulnerable members of the LGBTIQ community. Just imagine, day by day, like a dripping tap hearing whether your parents are worthy enough to be considered for marriage and the rhetoric that goes along with that. Or if you are in a relationship or hope to be that Australia is spending day after day using your love, your right to marry, as a political football.
Aside from the direct politics a book released this week sends an equally disturbing message to children who have same-sex parents. “President of the Australian Marriage Forum, Dr van Gend’s book “Stealing From A Child – the injustice of ‘marriage equality'” claims “to lay bare the subversive ‘genderless agenda’ that comes with genderless ‘marriage’.””
Even the less vulnerable members of the LGBTIQ community, when asked, say they are already feeling the pressure occurring around this topic. Please take care and look after each other.