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2017-SEP/OCT.
Australia. Same-sex marriage (SSM):
Mail survey and public opinion polls.

Part 28:

Same-sex-marriage 1

According to many public opinion surveys, most adults in Australia
favor making both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages available.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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The response of the public to the mail survey was higher than expected:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said:

"I think it's going to be a very high turnout, particularly for a voluntary postal vote. It’s now in the hands of the Australian people, but I think that while there have been a few ugly incidents, overall the debate has been very respectful and that’s been good."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced that it will publish estimates of the number of ballots received on a weekly basis, starting on OCT-03 and continuing until NOV-07 when the survey is closed. NOV-07 is the final deadline to mail survey forms back. However, results will not be announced until NOV-15 at 11:30 AM Australian time -- just in time to ruin the appetite for lunch among those on the losing side. 2

OCT-03: With a little more than one month to go before the mailing deadline, the ABS reported that about 57.5% of registered Australian adults had already returned their survey forms, marked with their vote for or against marriage equality. That demonstrates a high level of interest among the public. It also shows that the final vote will involve a large percentage of potential voters, thus guaranteeing the legitimacy of the results as a valid estimate of the actual voter opinion. 3 Whatever result is finally obtained on NOV-07, data from other countries would indicate that support in Australia will probably increase gradually in the future.

OCT-10: The Bureau reported 62.5% of the survey forms have been received. This is equal to the final percentage turnout in Ireland last year where a referendum was held that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.

If 50% or more of the ballots favor marriage equality, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to introduce an equality bill in Parliament. If fewer than 50% are positive, then it would still be theoretically possible for a private members' bill to be introduced to legalize same-sex marriage -- but it would be a long shot. The Labor party has promised that if they win at the next election, marriage equality will be attained within 100 days of them forming the new government.

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2017-OCT: Positive and negative messages about same-sex marriage:

  • At the end of his performance at the ANZ Stadium, in Sydney, New South Wales, US rapper Hackamore sang "Same Love." The stadium screens displayed: "We stand for diversity," "We stand for inclusiveness." and "We stand for equality." He ended his performance with a simple message to Australians: "Equality for all." The audience responded with enthusiastic cheers. 4

    Former prime minister, Tony Abbott, objected, writing that sports:

    "... fans shouldn't be subjected to a politicized grand final. Sport is sport."

  • Sixteen of Australia's highest profile athletes have shown their support for same-sex marriage in a short video by 20Four. 5

  • However, fullback Israel Olla spoke against marriage equality, saying:

    "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. But personally, I will not support gay marriage." 5

  • Sporting organizations including the National Rugby League, Australian Football League, Australian Rugby Union, Cricket Australia, and the Football Federation Australia have stated their support for the "Yes" campaign. The AFL changed its headquarters' signs to say 'YES.' 5

  • The Sydney Anglican Diocese donated AU $1 million to the "No" campaign. This is equivalent to about $780,000 in U.S. funds. Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, announced the donation at the 51st Synod of the Diocese on OCT-09. The Diocese is a founding member of the Coalition for Marriage, which opposes marriage equality. Other groups in the Coalition are the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Marriage Alliance, and the Australian Christian Lobby.

    Davies noted that the campaign to exclude same-sex couples from marriage is expensive. He said:

    "The stakes are high and the cost is high".

    "Yet the cause is just and it is a consequence of our discipleship to uphold the gift of marriage as God has designed it -- a creation ordinance for all people. By so doing, the wisdom of God is made manifest. ..."

    "I believe that a change in the definition of marriage is unwarranted, not just because it is in opposition to the teaching of scripture and our Lord himself in Matthew 19, but because I believe marriage, traditionally understood as a union of one man and one woman, is a positive good for our society, where marriage and the procreation of children are bound together as the foundational fabric of our society, notwithstanding the sad reality that not all married couples are able to conceive." 3

    He appears to be referring to Jesus' discussion of divorce from Matthew 19, verses 3 to 10, where he talks about opposite-sex marriage and divorce. Many religious conservatives note that he only talks about the marriage of one man and one woman, and assume that this is the only valid type of marriage about which he approves. Many religious liberals note that opposite-sex marriage was the only type allowed by Jewish law at the time. That was at least partly because of the need to have a high birth rate in order to support a strong army for national defense. For some reason, Jesus is not recorded as discussing marriages between one man and multiple women which were legal at the time.

    The Bible's six "clobber passages" are often used to oppose same-gender sexual behavior. The Sydney Diocese apparently interpret them from a conservative perspective which prohibits such behavior. Others interpret the same passages differently. In his statement, Archbishop Davies may not have considered artificial insemination or adoption as options for both same-sex and infertile opposite-couples.

  • ABC News discussed "hate speech, vandalism, and bullying" associated with the marriage equality campaign. 6 Examples are:
    • "I'm voting yes" signs were defaced with the number "666."
    • "YES" signs in the office of Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad were defaced with swastikas.
    • A cafe worker in Tamworth, NSW was allegedly punched and pushed on the floor by a "NO" campaigner.
    • A Catholic priest, Fr. Morgan Batt, was spat at while walking through town.
    • A large NO message was written in the sky by an airplane in Melborne. Unfortunately for the pilot, strong winds quickly dispersed the letters, making the message unreadable.

  • LifeSiteNews.com, a conservative Christian web site in the U.S., reported on the vandalizing of churches in Australia by unknown persons, apparently from among "Yes" supporters. The building exteriors were spray painted with messages like: "Crucify 'No' voters," "Bash Bigots," "Christians are Nazis," and "Vote Yes." One innovative painter drew a cross symbol and a swastika with an equal sign between them. 7 David O’Brien, pastor of the Waverly Baptist Church in Melbourne said:

    "It’s disappointing to see these things and it was a shock to all of us."

    Senator Cory Bernardi said:

    "Our way of life, our culture, our values, and our freedoms are under imminent threat. Same-sex ‘marriage’ and the indoctrination of our children ... under the guise of an anti-bullying program are just the front line battles of a bigger war to secure control of Australia."

    Monica Doumit, of Coalition for Marriage -- an Australian group that opposes marriage equality -- said:

    "One thing that this process has revealed is that, despite the rhetoric, ‘Yes’ campaigners do not actually believe in a tolerant society, where people are allowed to 'live and let live.' Rather, they will target those who disagree for abuse, for boycott, or for some other type of punishment."

    One or more persons promoting marriage equality apparently painted messages on subway trains like "Vote 'No' to Fags" and "Faggots not welcome." Rainbow flags symbolizing equality have also been vandalized.

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2017-OCT: Public opinion polling results:

  • OCT-02: A ReachTell poll by Sky News sampled the opinion of almost 5,000 people. This is an unusually high number for a national poll, and produced a small margin of error equal to ±1.4 percentage points. They found that:
    • 79% had already mailed in their vote in the postal survey.

      • 64% had voted "yes" in favor of marriage equality.

      • 15.5% had returned a "no" vote. 8

      • Presumably, about 20% declined to answer.

  • OCT-03: As noted above, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had already received survey forms returned by 58% of the registered Australian adults who were eligible to vote. The Bureau has issued a statement saying that it was:

    "... carrying out the Australian Marriage Law Postal survey with a high level of transparency and integrity to provide assurance in the accuracy of the data.

An ABS spokesperson said that the Bureau:

"... has engaged Protiviti to provide external assurance for the Survey. Protiviti will monitor a number of processes such as the survey preparation, dispatch of survey forms, survey receipt and counting, and the later destruction of forms." 9

  • OCT-04: The Guardian Essential poll conducted a survey of 1,841 voters which produced a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. They found that:
    • 47% had already voted in the postal survey. Of them:

      • 64% said that they had returned a "yes" vote in favor of marriage equality.

      • 30% had returned a "no" vote.

      • Presumably, 6% declined to answer. 10

Webmaster's comment:

We cannot account for the great disparity between the percentages in the two surveys who said that they had actually voted and the percentage who said they had voted "no."

We predict that the final vote count by the ABS will be slightly greater than 64% -- on the order of two-thirds of the votes in favor. We base this on the assumptions that:

  • Those opposed to marriage quality are probably more highly motivated to vote and thus would have tended to have already voted.

  • Those favoring marriage equality are probably almost 90% heterosexual. The vote likely does not impact them or a member of their family personally. They would probably be more likely to vote later if at all.
Tiernan Brady, executive director of the Equality Campaign was apparently influenced by the result of recent opinion polls. He said that there was:

"... no room for complacency. The rest of this campaign we will not give up any single day, making sure that everybody out there knows how important this is. This is a vote about the lives and dignity of real people." 10

The Guardian Essential poll also asked about the trustworthiness of various information sources. They found that religious organizations, trade unions, and political parties were the least trusted by the public.

  • OCT-10: ABC News has placed an informative discussion between a father and his gay son concerning marriage equality. They hold opposing opinions, but are able to discuss their differences. 11

  • OCT-14: A poll was conducted by Newspoll for The Australian. 12 The poll interviewed 1,583 adult respondents and the margin of error is ±2.5 percentage points.

The Guardian reported that:

  • Of the persons interviewed during the poll who had actually voted, 59% said they had voted "Yes" while 38% voted "No."

  • All of the polls to date have indicated between 55% to 61% in favor and 32% to 39% opposed.

  • Sadly, the results will not be an accurate measure of the actual wishes of Australian adults. The poll found that 74% of persons over 65 -- but only 57% of adults under 35 -- actually voted. Since younger voters are more likely to vote "Yes" when compared to older voters, the expected "Yes" majority will to be less that it would be if everyone had voted.

  • A bill in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriages has been written by Senator Dean Smith (Liberal - Western Australia). The Labor caucus voted to promote this bill in the event that the mail survey produces a majority "Yes" vote.

  • Former Prime Minister John Howard, who opposes marriage equality, expressed the belief that the Labor caucus' decision was an "added reason" to vote "No," because if Smith's bill is passed, then it would be unlikely that additional provisions would be added to the bill that would guarantee the religious freedom to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

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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. Image of a same-sex marriage, by "BhaktiCreative." CC0 Creative Commons Downloaded from https://pixabay.com/
  2. 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/
  3. Lane Sainty, The Sydney Anglican Diocese Gave $1 Million To The "No" Campaign," BuzzFeed News, 2017-OCT-09, at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/
  4. " 'Equality for all': Macklemore's final message to Australia," SBS News, 2017-OCT-01, at: http://www.sbs.com.au/
  5. "Same-sex marriage: Australia's top athletes band together for 'Yes' video," SBS News, 2017-OCT-09, at: http://www.sbs.com.au/
  6. Christen Tilley & Nathan Hoad, "A respectful debate," ABC News, 2017-OCT-09, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  7. Fr. Mark Hodges, " 'Christians are Nazis': Australian churches vandalized as same-sex 'marriage' vote nears," Life Site News, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  8. "Poll shows strong turnout for marriage vote," Sky News, 2017-OCT-02, at: http://www.skynews.com.au/
  9. "Same-sex marriage survey: count watchers bound by lifetime secrecy," The Guardian, 2017-OCT-07, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  10. "Support for marriage equality rises in Guardian Essential poll," The Guardian, 2017-OCT-04, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  11. Margaret Burin & Matt Liddy, "What happens when a dad and his gay son talk same-sex marriage?," ABC News, 2017-OCT-10, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  12. "Yes leads on votes cast as No closes gap: Newspoll," The Australian, 2017-OCT-17, at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au Unfortunately, The Australian has installed a paywall that prevented us from finding the exact URL for this report.
  13. Emma Reynolds, "Poll shows Australians have overwhelmingly voted yes," News.com.au, 2017-OCT-28, at: http://www.news.com.au/
  14. "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," United Nations, 1966-DEC, downloadable at: https://www.google.com/
  15. Louise Yaxley, "SSM survey: Malcolm Turnbull says churches free to marry who they want, despite John Howard criticism," ABC News, 2017-SEP-15, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  16. Aneeta Bhole, "'Gay sex' will be taught in school if SSM vote passes, minister warns," ABC News, 2017-SEP-14, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  17. David Marr, "In the same-sex marriage vote, the bishops have soft-pedaled on sin, "The Guardian, 2017-OCT-20, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  18. , "Most Christians in Australia support marriage equality and want a free vote," The Guardian, 2017-JUL-21, at: https://www.theguardian.com/

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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