2017-NOV-11: Our prediction for the 2017 postal survey:
It appears that the postal survey will show that a majority of Australian voters approve of marriage equality. That survey will not generate an accurate estimate of the level of support and opposition to same-sex marriage among adults in the country because such a survey depends largely upon the motivation of the individual Australian adult to fill out and return the ballot. Consider:
The LGBT community has been be heavily motivated to vote "YES" and return their ballot because their future happiness and the happiness of others in their community may depend upon it.
The conservative religious communities would be heavily motivated to vote "NO" and return their ballot because many, perhaps most, believe that God disapproves of all same-gender sexual behavior. Also they fear the negative effects that they are convinced marriage equality would have on society and on the children on families led by same-sex parents.
The majority of Australian adults have no direct personal interest in marriage equality. They are not lesbian, homosexual, bisexual or transgender and nobody in their immediate family is. In spite of this, most adults appear to be sufficiently motivated to vote.
One additional problem with a survey is that the "NO" side created fear-based ads to change people's opinion about marriage equality. If these ads are as effective as similar ones were in the UI.S., they will temporarily turn some citizens against same-sex marriage.
A better way to measure the opinion of Australian adults would be by a large public opinion poll of, say, 5,000 randomly selected adults. That would give a margin of error of about ~+mn~1.4 percentage points. Thus, for example, if the result was 65% in favor, that survey size would predict that if 20 identical surveys were conducted in quick succession using different randomly selected individual adults, that 19 of the 20 surveys would return an estimate of between 63.6% and 66.4%. That is close enough to give an accurate measurement and to be certain that a sizeable majority of the adult population does indeed favor of marriage equality.
Using a survey in place of a postal vote would have saved almost all of the estimated cost of the vote which is AU$122 million. This is equivalent to about $97 million U.S. dollars or £75 million. There are probably a lot of poor people in the country who could have benefited from a slice of that money. But it was not to be.
2015-NOV-15: The Federal Government announced the results of the Postal Survey:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that:
61.6% of the votes filed were in favor of marriage equality.
38.4% of the votes favored continuing the prohibition of same-sex marriage.
The Bureau mailed out 16.0 million cards. 12.7 million (79.5 %) were returned with a vote. That is an impressive percentage response for a voluntary survey! A majority of citizens in all seven states and the one territory voted in favor of marriage equality. 2 The votes were, in order of decreasing percentage in favor:
Australian Capital Territory: 74% in favor
Western Australia: 64%
South Australia: 63%
Northern Territory: 61%
New South Wales: 58% in favor
The most favorable votes, 84%, were logged in electoral districts within the inner city areas of Melbourne and Sydney. Blaxland in New South Wales (NSW) returned the highest "NO" vote of any electoral district: 74%. The state of New South Wales had the highest "NO" vote of any states: 42%. A majority of voters in 17 electoral districts in the country were opposed to marriage equality. 12 of the 17 were located in western Sydney, NSW.
Analysis of the votes across the country indicated that those electoral districts with large immigrant populations were much less supportive of marriage equality. However the Guardian reported that:
" The factor that correlated most strongly with a no vote was religious affiliation, not overseas birth. It had a correlation of -0.8, implying a close to 1:1 relationship."
That is, religiously-affiliated voters tended to vote against marriage equality. 3
An article in the BBC web site said:
"Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing." 4
Prime Minister Turnbull said that Australians:
"... have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality. They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love." 4
David Kalisch, the country's chief statistician, said:
"This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world. It shows how important this issue is to many Australians." 4
Bill Shorten, the leader of the Labor Party said that the postal vote should never have been conducted. Referring to the negative ads of the "NO" campaign, he said:
"I feel for young people who had their relationships questioned in a way I wouldn't have thought we would see ever again, but nevertheless what this marriage equality survey shows is that unconditional love always has the last word." 4
Unfortunately, the controversy and anti-LGBT hatred generated by the "NO" campaign will probably ncrease the rate of depression, suicidal ideation, attempted suicides, and completed suicides among the LGBT community in Australia during 2017. On a positive note, if the marriage equality bill becomes law soon, then these rates will be significantly reduced during 2018 and beyond. It has been shown that there was a significant drop in suicide attempts by the LGBT community in the United States after the legalization of same-sex marriages there by the U.S. Supreme Court on 2015-JUN-26. The same effect is certain to apply in Australia.
2015-NOV-15: A marriage equality bill is introduced in the Senate:
Since the postal survey found that a majority of voters favored marriage equality, the government is now committed to holding a vote in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. A bill to do this was introduced to the Senate on NOV-15 by Senator Dean Smith (Liberal). It was co-sponsored by Linda Reynolds and Jane Hume (Liberal), Penny Wong and Louise Pratt (Labor), Richard Di Natale and Janet Rice (Greens), and crossbenchers Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Derryn Hinch. 5 ("Crossbencher" is a term referring to members of a legislature who are either independent or belong to a minor party.)
Debate on the bill was scheduled to begin on the morning of NOV-16. 5
As introduced, the bill would confirm that clergy can discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. Clergy have always had the freedom to deny any couple for any reason. Attorney General George Brandis favors an amendment to the bill that would:'
Allow civil celebrants to also be able to discriminate and refuse to marry same-sex couples, and
Guarantee of freedom of speech for members of the public who oppose marriage equality. 5
Mathias Cormann, the leader of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party said that the bill needs to be amended with "additional religious protections." 5 These are presumably amendments to guarantee people the religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples.
Senator James Paterson (Liberal) has introduced a competing bill that would guaranteed much greater religious freedoms for public accommodations -- companies that supply goods and services to the general public, like bakers and florists, -- to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to serve them. The religious freedom to discriminate has been a very active conflict in the U.S. and has been used primarily against the LGBT community in recent years.
Two Liberal senators from Western Australia, Andrew Hastie and Rick Wilson, are well known for strongly opposing marriage equality. Both acknowledge that their constituents favor allowing same-sex couples to marry. However, rather than vote NO based on their conscience, they plan to abstain. Senator Hastie issued a statement saying:
"Out of respect for the Australian people, I will not be voting against the legislation to change the Marriage Act. ... The outcome of the legislative change is assured: my abstention will not obstruct the passage of same-sex marriage." 6
Emma Teitel, national columnist for the Toronto Star newspaper in Canada criticized the Australian postal vote, saying that it compromises gay rights worldwide. She implies that it is not constructive to hold a vote to decide whether a minority should have the same rights as the majority. That is, fundamental human rights should not be voted upon by the general public. She wrote:
"... is a popular vote the most ethical way to shift policy on a civil rights issue? The answer is no. ..."
"By holding such a vote in a traditionally homophobic country ... you could reasonably argue in the face of a nation like Australia or Ireland: 'We did exactly what you did. We held a vote and our people spoke, too. But what they had to say was very different than what yours said. What my people had to say is that they don’t want that kind of thing here. And that’s their prerogative.'
When a nation holds a popular vote or referendum on a minority right, it loses the moral high ground required to argue on the world stage that such a right is fundamental -- even if the result of that vote is the correct, progressive one. All in all, the outcome of this week’s postal vote is a major win for marriage equality in Australia, and for thousands of gay Australian couples who will soon be able to say 'I do' on home soil. But it’s a compromised win for gay rights worldwide."
Margaret Court, 75, was referred to by News.com.au as an Australian "tennis legend." She is now a Perth-based pastor of a Pentecostal church. She expressed her displeasure at the results of the mail survey. She has long opposed marriage equality, and recently refused to fly Quantas airline after its CEO Alan Joyse indicated his support for same-sex marriage. Now she is threatening to leave the Liberal Party after a half century of membership. When interviewed on a Christian radio station, she said:
"... tennis is full of lesbians."
She also said that transgender children are influenced by Satan. 7 Many people might regard a reference to demonic posession as a belief abandoned by Christians many generations ago, but Pentecostal Christians strongly believe that such attacks are real.
Martina Navratilova, described by the same web site as "tennis royalty" reacted to Court's comments, saying:
"So Margaret Court now says there will be no more Christmas or Easter, nor Mother’s and Father’s Day in Australia, all because of Same Sex Marriage. Au contraire Margaret -- us gays love parties, especially the boys, ... and we just might have 2 Mother’s days and 2 Father’s days."
"It is now clear exactly who [Margaret] Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights. (Note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere." 3
She also said that the major political parties are presiding over the moral decline of the country.
The electoral district in which Rev. Court's church is located voted 72% in favor of marriage equality. It was the highest level of support in the state of Western Australia. 3
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that the Coalition is aiming to pass the bill by Christmas. Since the prime directive of Members of Parliament is to be re-elected, most will probably be heavily motivated to follow the public's wishes and vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
That would leave Northern Ireland as the only remaining large English-speaking developed country in the world were a ban on same-sex marriage continues.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that the postal survey had cost under AU$100 million. This is far less than the $120 million budgeted. Senator Rachel Siewert of the Greens asked the government to direct the money not spent to mental health services for the LGBT community. We assume that she believes that the "NO" vote campaign's attacks on marriage equality caused anxiety, depression, and some suicidal ideation within that community. 8
Senator Cory Bernardi is leader of the Australian Conservatives and represents South Australia. He has actively argued against same-sex marriage. Speaking on a TV program, he said:
"I accept that this bill is going to pass through and that there are going to be many thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people that will be very happy at the transition from marriage being what it is today to being open to same sex couples."
Bernardi also referred to the:
"... great transgression on our traditional freedoms. ... I acknowledge that the numbers are against us. You guys have the numbers to do whatever you want with this bill to go forward. I would only ask that you consider some of our concerns. ... We don't want to rain on your parade ... and there was a pretty big parade last night ... but we do want to protect religious liberty in this place." 10
During the week of NOV-19, Jacqui Lambie, an Independent, was surprised to find out that she had dual citizenship. She resigned her post. On the same TV program, she referred to those Australians who voted "NO" to marriage equality in the postal survey:
"You know what bothers me with Parliament, they always put in great stuff, but they don’t fill in the gaps. There is still 30 per cent of those Australians that lost out on that vote and they are feeling the hurt from that. I don’t hear anyone talking about that which I find quite disturbing. ... Congratulations, you won. I was part of that 37 per cent that said ‘NO’ because of my religious beliefs. I’ve made it very clear to Tasmanians when I was a senator if the majority voted for that, I would vote with them. That was part of my job and I have no problem with that."
"You still have nearly 40 per cent of Australians out there hurting right now. What they’re worried about -- people that have been ringing me that have garden weddings, they’re making cakes. I had a bloke ring me about two weeks ago saying:
'I want to know what my rights are right now because I only want to marry a man and wife in my garden.'
I said: 'Mate, I’m sorry, I can’t help you out with that. He’s going to be in limbo for months. He has a freedom in this country and a right to say, 'because of my religious beliefs, I cannot marry you in my backyard'."
"This is what you’re doing to people because you’re going out there, bull at a bloody gate as politicians do and yet they haven’t filled in the gaps. How long are these people going to have to go through more pain? They’ve lost. They’re feeling the pain. How much longer do they have to feel more pain?" 11
Labor MP Brendan O’Connor was on the same TV program. He spoke in favor of the religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community:
"It’s critical that we do not go backwards when it comes to anti-discrimination laws.
It would be absurd, offensive and ironic that we would find ourselves going backwards in discriminating against same-sex couples in order to reintroduce and qualify anti-discrimination laws that exist already in this country. So I don’t accept the proposition that religious pastors or religious preachers or others who choose to marry only heterosexual couples are discriminated against.
We have covered the topic to death to be honest. If you do not want to marry those people, don’t want to bake a cake for the other side, then you should have that right to do so. I’d like that done as quickly as possible. I don’t see that happening at the end of the year, I’ll be honest with you." 11