OPINION: Social conservatives and religious leaders have made it clear, the government’s postal plebiscite into changing marriage laws is not about marriage at all. No, it is now clear that religious freedoms, freedom of speech and conscience is what Australian’s are really having their say about. With this misdirection and deployment of red-herrings the writing is on the wall that, even with a Yes vote, more delays can be expected to follow.


From the moment the postal plebiscite was adopted as the government’s ‘plan B’ policy for deciding the question of marriage equality, former Prime Minister and lead ‘No’ campaigner Tony Abbott set the tone.

(photo: ABC News)“


“If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote ‘No’, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote ‘No’ because voting ‘No’ will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”




What followed on from these comments was a chorus of conservative commentators and national advertising campaigns that shifted the focus from marriage to gender equality and personal freedoms.


Former Prime Minister John Howard entered the debate also taking the approach of shifting the discussion to unrelated topics in an interview with The Weekend Australian in early September.


(Photo: SBS)

“I respect the Yes campaign ­arguments, but this is not about a single right and there are conflicting rights, I believe there is a conflict here between those seeking the right for same-sex marriage and the rights of the child, and I ­believe the right of the child to have a mother and father should be preserved,” the Liberal Party’s longest serving Prime Minister said.


And the list goes on…

(Lyle Shelton appearing on The Project. Network 10)

Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton told Sky News in September, “I think you would have to say that (a Yes result) would represent an endorsement of (Safe Schools).”


In an article published on the Australian Christian Lobby website Mr Shelton also stated that “there is no greater threat to freedom of conscience and freedom of speech than same-sex marriage.”


West Australian backbencher and former Australian Army officer Andrew Hastie has said that protections for religious ideology must be adopted to give sanctuary for those who disagree with the change to marriage laws, not just those associated with providing wedding services.


“The protections offered in those bills extended only to the wedding and the wedding participants themselves, they need to be expanded to whole-of-life protections. I will be fighting very hard to make sure it (a same-sex marriage bill) includes religious protections.”


The intention of these campaign tactics is to deceive voters into thinking that by allowing any two people to marry, would result in their kids would be forced to dress as the opposite sex, taught in schools how to be gay and that being encouraged to express their own identity was ok (oh the horror, happy children).

(“School told my son he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it,” Ms White states on the Australian Christian Lobby advertisement. Photo: ACL)

All this misdirection and misconceived understanding comes despite Senator George Brandis attempts to set the record straight about what effect the law change will have on everyday life.


“What I am not going to do is be tricked by Tony Abbott and others who are trying to turn a debate about one issue, that is about whether same-sex couples should be able to marry, into a broader debate about religious freedom because that is not what this is about,” the Attorney-General told Sky News in August.


I will join the many thousands of people who call this deception for what it is, ignorant and hurtful. However, it is part of a bigger plan for the ‘No’ camp that stretches far beyond the results of the survey due to be released on 15 November.


Coalition MP and ‘No’ campaigner Alex Hawke made some interesting comments this week after polling was released showing that over 60% of those who have returned their voting papers have voted in support of marriage equality.


“I would like to see more protections. I would like to make sure that we don’t see a series of people getting sued for not participating in a same-sex wedding, if that was to occur, but I think it’s important to realise that it hasn’t been decided yet,” said the liberal frontbencher.


The comment “hasn’t been decided yet,” illustrates the next debate that will be had in this country.


When the prime minister takes the proposed private members bill, written by Senator Dean Smith, to the party room there will be the same faces in Tony Abbott, Alex Hawke, Peter Dutton and a high number from the Nationals party room taking steps to delay the bill being bought to a vote in the house.


While I do feel that comments from Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott about supporting change in the event of a yes vote are not entirely disingenuous, I do feel that their support after the fact will be dependent on the protects offered in the bill.


The fact that the final bill has not been released, whether publicly or privately, shows that there is potential for further issues being raised down the track. It will ultimately become a case of even further protections being given to religious organisations enshrining their blatant homophobia and discriminatory ideology in legalisation.

I will end this article by strongly urging all Australian’s yet to return their ballot paper to tick ‘Yes’ in support of marriage equality. Doing so will at least give change a hard start. I don’t know, however, if that means the end of the issue. It appears that the never-ending debate for same-sex marriage will continue to be a focal point for the national agenda for some time yet.


Written by Joshua Mathieson

Follow me on Twitter @themathiesoned

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