2017-MAR: Australian Federal Parliament Rejects A Plebiscite On Gay Marriage. Current Status Of Gay Marriages.

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2017-SEP: Australia:
Surveys on, and current status of, same-sex
marriage. Anti-equality protest. Spending.

Part 27:

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According to multiple public opinion surveys, most adults in
Australia favor both of the above forms of love and commitment.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2017-SEP: Results of current and previous past federal government surveys:

The federal government's Department of Social Services works with Melbourne Institute's Applied Economic & Social Research group to produce an annual survey called Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA). One of the many factor that they measure is the support for and opposition to same-sex marriage.

  • Back in 2005, they sampled the opinion of 12,408 persons and found that a only a minority of 43% of women and 32% of men supported marriage equality. The margin of error is ~+mn~0.88% That means that if the survey were replicated 20 times while asking different randomly selected adults, 19 out of 20 answers would be within 0.88% of the above values. That is, the HILDA survey is very accurate. In comparison, many public opinion surveys in the U.S. only involve slightly more than 1,000 persons and their margin of error is about ~+mn~3%.

  • The 2016 survey, found that support of marriage equality had greatly increased to 67% among women and 59% among men. 13,753 persons were sampled. The margin of error is ~+mn~ 0.84%

These represent an increase of about 25 percentage points in support over the 12 years between the two surveys. This is about 2 percentage points a year. That is roughly the rate of increase observed in other countries where marriage equality has been attained. During the postal vote, support by women should be approaching 70% and support by men should be in the low 60's.

Webmaster's comment:

The HILDA surveys monitor these values on a yearly basis, A very precise knowledge of the level of support for same-sex marriage in Australia has been determined. Also, relatively accurate estimates of the trend over the next five years in the future can be estimated from recent years' data. It is a pity that the government and many adults are not trained in statistical matters or they would also realize that:

  • The postal survey is redundant,

  • It is a waste of $122 million Australian dollars -- money which could be used to benefit other government programs, the poor and sick.

  • It is expected to be inaccurate because:
    • it will be unduly influenced by the "NO" campaign's expected fear-based advertising, which started before the postal ballots were distributed.

    • Only those Australian adults who are are motivated to read, fill out, and mail their answers will be counted. Those opposed to marriage equality on religious grounds will probably be highly motivated to respond. Those in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry will probably be less motivated because the decision will probably not personally impact them or their family directly.

    • Young people around the world have been most supportive of marriage equality, but their turnout is often poor. One survey showed that only 58% in the age range of 18 to 34 plan to mail in their ballot. 2

The HILDA survey has already produced much more accurate results than the 2017-SEP postal survey can possible accomplish. In my opinion, the postal survey should have been scrapped and the existing HILDA data used instead, with an immense saving in tax money.

The BBC website displayed a photograph of a mostly male group of demonstrations in front of what might be the Australian Parliament buildings. They carried a large banner reading "We support Traditional Marriage" -- that is marriage in which persons of the same sex are excluded. Demonstrators carried signs reading:


The first sign seems to be an argument involving transgender persons of all ages, not adults with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. This might be another indication of the "NO" campaign's intentional confusing of sexual orientation with gender identity.

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2017-SEP-07: The Australian High Court delivers their verdict on the government postal survey:

In a last-minute effort to cancel the postal vote, the High Court was asked to ban it. By an unanimous 7 to 0 decision, the High Court gave the green light to the survey.

Member of Parliament Warren Entsch said:

"A decision has been made and I'm encouraging everybody that has a mind or has the right to have a vote and believes in same-sex marriage to mark it yes. It makes it so much easier if we get a yes vote in November. I'm looking forward to being one of those that introduces a bill at the invitation of Government in the last couple of sittings of Parliament in December. [I want] to get this matter resolved on the floor of the Parliament once and for all, as I have been attempting to do now for a number of years.

Andrew Probyn, the political letter of the Australian Broadcast Corporation, said:

"... given the postal survey is non-compulsory it will now be as much a competition about participation as it will be the substantive question. May it be conducted civilly." 3

Tiernan Brady, who heads the Equality Campaign,explained why some of those in favor of same-sex marriage were opposed to a plebiscite:

"Australia's parliament is where decisions about laws are taken and if we take one group of people and say your rights have to go through a tougher process before you get to Parliament that's an unfair process.

We're in it to win it. We know that the Australian people are for [same-sex marriage] and we'll do everything we can to ensure those values are reflected in the result." 4

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2017-SEP-10: Developments just prior to the start of the distribution of mail-in ballots on SEP-12:

  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed more than 20,000 people at a public meeting in Sydney, and gave his support to same-sex marriage. He said:

    "Throughout my public life I've sought to ensure same-sex couples are not discriminated against and their entitlements, be it in respect of medical benefits, taxation, superannuation or employment, are no different to those afforded to heterosexual couples. Why then shouldn't those same rights now be extended to marriage?..."

  • He mentioned that 23 countries in the world have attained marriage equality and asked:

    "In any one of those nations, has the sky fallen in? Has life as we know it come to a halt? Has traditional marriage as we know it been undermined? The answer is no. ..."

  • At the same meeting, Bill Shorton, head of the Labor Party, said that he expects the postal survey to result in majority support for marriage equality. He said:

    "We've got one last mountain to climb before we make marriage equality a reality. Let's climb it together, today." 5

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2017-SEP: Current status of same-sex marriage in Australia:

Australia already has many hundreds of married same-sex couples. However, their status is not recognized by the Government. If one or both partners is a British citizen, then they have been able to be married in UK diplomatic posts in the country and elsewhere in the world. Over 400 same-sex couples have done so in Australia. The diplomatic posts of Spain and Uruguay have similar arrangements. There are also same-sex couples who have legally married in another country -- like Hawaii or New Zealand -- and then moved or returned to Australia. 6

Gerard Henderson, writing for "The Weekend Australian" newspaper, commented on the position about marriage held by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Parramatta -- Vincent Long -- and his church. Bishop Long stresses that the postal survey is only related to the legal definition of civil marriage. The Catholic Church's definition and understanding of sacramental marriage will continue unchanged even if the "Yes" case obtains a majority of votes. Bishop Long has said that:

"... the church will continue to hold [that marriage] is a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union -- [only] between one man and one woman." 7

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2015-SEP: Would Churches retain their right to discriminate against the LGBT community?

Former Prime Minister John Howard expressed his concern that the legalization of same-sex marriage would reduce the freedom of individuals, churches, and schools to discriminate freely on religious grounds.

Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assured the country that any bill that legalized marriage equality would contain:

"... strong protections for religious freedoms. I just want to reassure Australians that as strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, even more strongly, if you like, do I believe in religious freedom."

Under existing legislation, clergy who are authorized to perform marriages can refuse to solemnize any marriage for any reason. A recent controversy arose when Steven North, the minister at Ebenezer St John’s Presbyterian Church in Ballarat, Victoria refused to marry an opposite-sex couple. North explained in a letter to the couple that he would not marry them because the bride-to-be had posted a note on Facebook indicating that she supports marriage equality. He wrote:

"After the premarital counseling that you attended and the sermons delivered at Ebenezer on this subject, you must surely appreciate that your commitment to same-sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus and the scriptural position practiced by the Presbyterian church of Australia and by me.

By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct.

Also, if the wedding proceeded in the Ebenezer St John’s church buildings, the same inferences could be drawn about the Presbyterian denomination. Such inferences would be wrong." 15

Premier Daniel Andrews of the State of Victoria said he thought:

"We would have moved beyond that sort of prejudice."

Prime Minister Turnbull defended the minister's position, saying:

"Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please. That is part of religious freedom. My own church, the Catholic church, will not marry someone who has married before." 15

Webmaster's note:

Actually, the Prime Minister is wrong. The Catholic Church will allow a person to remarry as long as they have first received a Church "Declaration of Nullity" which states that the previous marriage(s) lacked one of the essential elements required for a binding union. For example, one or both participants may have felt at the time that their marriage wasn't necessarily permanent, and that they could divorce sometime in the future if it didn't work out.

John Wilson, moderator general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, earlier had urged its followers to vote "No" on the postal survey. He said:

"There’s no doubt that the postal vote can be won in favour of the current definition [of marriage]. There is a large number of Australians, many of whom have not had their say, who affirm the common view of marriage as God-given and God-blessed.

Your participation will make a difference, but we need you to be earnest, active and in prayer about it. There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this. While we speak up and have our say, we do so with a gracious engagement and with respect for those with whom we disagree." 14

Turnbull said that all parties in Parliament agree that if same-sex marriages become available, that clergy will continue to have this freedom; they will be able to refuse to solemnize some or all same-sex marriages, and marriages of other couples for any reason. However, Howard and many other persons opposed to marriage equality also want assurance that religious school will be able to continue to teach that marriage can only be between one woman and one man. 14

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2017-SEP-23: "Straight Lives Matter" anti-equality protest held in Sydney:

The "Party for Freedom" organized a "Straight Lives Matter" rally on Oxford Street, Sydney to protest the possibility of marriage equality coming to Australia. Their web site displays the heading: "Make Australia Great Again."

Their rally posters said: "Straight Lives Matter: Vote No,"-- an obvious adaptation of the U.S. "Black Lives Matter" posters. A second poster said: "Free Speech is a Human Right." Police counted fewer than 15 attendees at the rally.

However, Nick Folkes, the head of Party for Freedom, counted over 30 supporters of banning same-sex marriage present. He said that the number was:

"Disappointing. ... to see we weren’t well supported on the day. The pro-marriage supporters can get thousands on the street and we can barely get any. We’re the silent majority which is a real shame.

We don’t have a history of our side of politics being very vocal. The left wing are very vocal. There’s a big fear of violence among our supporters which I think is why we were so poorly supported today.

We were definitely worried about left wing people attacking us. People didn’t turn up because of possible violence ... There has been violence coming from the no side but overall the intimidation, name calling, violence -- it has all come from the yes camp. ..."

"We’ll still be out and about handing out our flyers and putting up posters. I believe the NO case will win despite the very vocal supporters for the YES campaign. If it does lose, I think the consequences that will follow will be devastating to Australia."

The New South Wales Police issued a statement saying that there were:

"No issues at all"

at the rally. 8

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2017-SEP-25: Groups promoting marriage inequality have outspent the "Yes" vote by a factor of two:

The campaign for and against marriage equality entered its eighth week following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement of the postal survey. There have been reports of "Vote No" graffiti and swastikas defacing public transport in New South Wales. Also, rocks have been thrown at some houses displaying LGBT/rainbow flags.

According to a marketing analysis firm, Ebiquity reported that:

  • The Equality Campaign and the Australian Marriage Equality groups have spent about AU$849,000 in print, TV and radio ads.

  • The Coalition for Marriage which is trying to continue having the LGBT community excluded from marriage have spent about AU $994,000 on TV ads. 9

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Symbol of two same-sex marriages, by "succo". CC0 Creative Commons Downloaded from https://pixabay.com/
  2. Malcolm Farr & Benedict Brook, "Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten await same-sex marriage postal vote decision," 2017-SEP-07, at: http://www.news.com.au/
  3. Andrew Probyn, "Same-sex marriage: What happens now the High Court has given the go-ahead to the postal survey?," ABC News, 2017-SEP-07, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  4. "Thousands rally in support of Australia gay marriage as polls narrow," Agence France-Presse, 2017-SEP-10, at: https://www.rappler.com/
  5. "Australia same-sex marriage vote: PM comes out for Yes," BBC News, 2017-SEP-10, at: http://www.bbc.com/
  6. Tré Goins-Phillips, "Ben & Jerry’s announces bizarre new policy as part of a pro-gay marriage protest in Australia," The Blaze, 2017-MAY-25, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  7. Gerard Henderson, "Same-sex marriage: Yes vote a plunge into the great unknown," The Australian, 2017-SEP-30, at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/
  8. Natalie Wolfe, "Straight Lives Matter rally in Sydney outnumbered by police, same sex marriage advocates as leader blames ‘violence’," The Courier Mail
  9. Claire Bickers, "Yes side outspent in gay marriage postal vote campaign, advertising analysis shows," The Courier-Mail, 2017-SEP-25, at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/
  10. Matthew Killoran, "Australian Bureau of Statistics announces higher than predicted turnout for same-sex marriage postal survey," The Courier-Mail, 2017-SEP-28, at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/
  11. Lane Sainty, The Sydney Anglican Diocese Gave $1 Million To The "No" Campaign," BuzzFeed News, 2017-OCT-09, at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/
  12. " 'Equality for all': Macklemore's final message to Australia," SBS News, 2017-OCT-01, at: http://www.sbs.com.au/
  13. "Same-sex marriage: Australia's top athletes band together for 'Yes' video," SBS News, 2017-OCT-09, at: http://www.sbs.com.au/
  14. Louise Yaxley, "SSM survey: Malcolm Turnbull says churches free to marry who they want, despite John Howard criticism," ABC News, 2017-SEP-5, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  15. Helen Davidson, "Turnbull defends church that refused to marry couple backing same-sex marriage," The Guardian, 2017-SEP-15, at: https://www.theguardian.com/

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2017-SEP-01
Latest update: 2017-OCT-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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