Marriage Equality
The Marriage Equality plebiscite takes place in November. Graphic: Alec Smart

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BY ALEC SMART

A rally to promote the Yes vote for the plebiscite on marriage equality is planned in Sydney for this Sunday, 10 September. The rally comes at a time when each side is stepping up their campaigns, with increasing acrimony between various factions, amidst accusations that the No vote is underpinned by homophobia and the Yes vote by bullies.

Although the No vote lobbying is primarily targeted at conservative Christians, and the subtext of their campaign is the erosion of supposedly ‘traditional’ family values, most have been careful not to criticize homosexuality, only homosexuals legally cohabiting.

A television advert promoting the No cause, funded by the Coalition for Marriage and backed by the Australian Christian Lobby, was widely lambasted and ridiculed. In it mother Celia White is featured complaining that her son was told at the end of 2015 that he could wear a dress to his school – Frankston High in Melbourne – for the following year.
However, the principal of Frankston High School, John Albiston, told The Age newspaper this week, “We checked with all the teachers – it never happened. I have never had any complaints that we advised the boys they could wear dresses. We didn’t offer the option.”

Unrepentant, the Coalition for Marriage stated, “This ad will play an important role in helping Australians understand that saying ‘yes’ to gay marriage would mean saying ‘yes’ to radical gay sex education in schools.”

“The people behind this ad know that Australians believe everyone should have the same opportunity to marry,” said Tiernan Brady, Executive Director of The Equality Campaign that promotes the Yes argument, “so they are deliberately resorting to misleading people.”

Doctor Pansy Lai, a Sydney GP and founder of the Australian Chinese for Families Association (ACF), also appears in the Coalition For Marriage advert claiming, “Kids in year 7 are being asked to role-play being in a same-sex relationship.”
The ACF’s website states: “Our concerns surround issues that are a threat to families and our next generations, including the Safe Schools Coalition program and same-sex marriage.”
When it was revealed the ACF provided links to a newsletter promoting treatment for homosexuals who wanted to undergo conversion therapy to become heterosexual, Dr. Lai claimed, “Some people have undergone these treatments and it has the results [and] there is no harm or distress.”

Angry Yes campaigners launched an online petition on CommunityRun.org demanding the Australian Medical Association deregister Dr. Lai. “She willfully spread misinformation and non-scientific evidence in order to promote the discrimination of LGBTIQ people in Australia,” it declared.

Conservative columnist Andrew Bolt retaliated in Rupert Murdoch’s Herald-Sun newspaper, accusing Yes campaigners of ‘fascism’ and insisting the Coalition for Marriage advert is accurate.
“Frankston High is part of the controversial Safe Schools program, which indeed has produced material telling boys they should be able to wear dresses.
“The women in the ad were right. So why were many in the media so quick to brand them ‘dishonest’?”

Using the ‘slippery slope’ argument, Bolt simultaneously argued that allowing abortion leads to babies being murdered after death, “for reasons as trivial as the expense of raising them”, and legalising euthanasia results in healthy elderly people being put down like unwanted dogs.
The Yes campaigners point out that the ‘slippery slope’ argument is commonly used by reactionaries and bigots who claim that once homosexuals are allowed to marry, it’s only a matter of time before bestiality and pedophilia are tolerated, with people marrying family pets, and children routinely sexually molested.

Over the past month Australian Traditional Nationalist, aka Austranati, a white supremacist organization with a cross logo not unlike the Ku Klux Klan, fly-posted walls in Melbourne and Brisbane with several different posters condemning non ‘traditional’ marriages.
One claimed, “92% of children raised by gay parents are abused, and 51% have depression, 72% are obese.”

In March this year Bolt launched himself into the equal marriage debate when he condemned licensed venues that were boycotting Coopers Brewery. Coopers allowed one of their beers to feature in an advert sponsored by the Bible Society, which devoutly opposes gay marriage.
“I hate to break it to the rainbow fascists, but the cause of diversity is poorly served by quashing dissent and publicly humiliating anyone who dares to stand in your way,” Bolt said at the time.
The advert, called ‘Keeping It Light’ and promoting a limited edition batch of Coopers Premium Light beer, featured two Liberal Party politicians in debate, Andrew Hastie, a conservative heterosexual that opposes same-sex marriage and Tim Wilson, a homosexual supporter of equal marriage rights. 10,000 cases of the beer were printed with a Happy Birthday message from Coopers to the Bible Society to commemorate its 200th birthday, plus 20 different verses from the Bible.

When the boycott gained momentum, Coopers hastily cancelled its new range of commemorative cans just three days after the video provoked controversy, and issued an apology, stating, “Our company supports marriage equality.
“Offence has been taken by our recent involvement, for which we are deeply sorry…
“We have consequently cancelled the release of our Bible Society commemorative cans and will be taking steps to show further support for our community, including joining Australian Marriage Equality.”

Former tennis champion Margaret Court, 74, also caused controversy in May this year when she wrote a letter to the West Australian newspaper excoriating Qantas Airlines for its stance on gay marriage.
“I am disappointed that Qantas has become an active promoter for same sex marriage,” she wrote. “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling.”
Amidst calls led by former world tennis number one Martina Navratilova, herself in a same-sex relationship, to rename Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena tennis stadium, Court remained unrepentant.
Court, now a Christian pastor at the Victory Life Centre in Perth, claimed homosexuality was an ungodly ‘lust for flesh’ led by the Devil.
Reacting to polls suggesting 65 per cent of Australians support gay marriage, Court argued: “We know the statistics are very, very wrong. They’re after our young ones, that’s what they’re after.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will run the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage, which will be sent to every Australian enrolled to vote from next month, to be returned by 7 November.
A result is expected on 25 November.