NEWS

Marriage Equality: Australia Is Leaning Yes, But 'No' Is Pushing Back

With just weeks to go, neither side is giving in.

21/10/2017 6:31 AM AEDT
Getty Images
People display their support at a Marriage Equality rally in Sydney's Taylor Square

Almost there.

It's just over three weeks until LGBTQ Australians who want to marry the people they love are due to find out if their neighbours want the same thing for them.

But the signs are looking positive for the 'yes' side, with more and more opinion polls showing the country leaning heavily towards same-sex marriage.

Newcastle Herald/Fairfax
Drag Queen Glenda Jackson attends Yes Fest supporting marriage equality at King Edward Park in Newcastle.

While both sides of the debate in Australia expect the yes side to win, prominent 'no' campaigner Tony Abbott has declared the fight isn't over.

The former Prime Minister is taking off to the U.S. later this month to once again address the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group which once supported the re-criminalisation of homosexuality and defended the sterilisation of trans people abroad.

It's a hate group, listed by the U.S. based Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Andrew Meares/Fairfax
Tony Abbott arrives for question time at Parliament House Canberra on Thursday 19 October 2017.

Abbott declared in response the the Australian Financial Review story about his trip that he was in pursuit of the five million voters who haven't yet participated in the federal government's $122 million postal ballot to decide if people who love each other should marry.

The debate has taken all sides to strange places, with Abbott's sister Christine Forster starring alongside other high profile LGBTQ Australians in a startling and confronting music video.

In the video -- set jarringly to George Michael's Freedom -- Forster's real-life partner, Virginia Edwards, is killed in a fall and Forster is later confronted with a death certificate which fails to list her as spouse.

While about five million people have yet to vote, the 11 million who have seem to be leaning heavily toward 'yes.'

According to the YouGov-Fifty Acres poll released earlier this week, 61 percent said they voted yes, while 35 percent said no.

The yes vote is higher among Labor voters at 76 percent, compared to Coalition voters at just 51 percent.

(A Newspoll published in The Australian on Wednesday shows roughly the same headline result, with 59 percent of eligible Australians having already voted yes, and 38 percent voting no.)

But for some the damage the debate is causing is still sinking in.

Earlier this week Sydney LGBTQ woman Lara Boyle told the HuffPost the scale of ill will experienced by LGBTQ people had forced her and her friends to adjust their behaviour in public.

"The platform this negative rhetoric has at the moment is astronomical, all these false claims being thrown around now are hard to hear," she said.

"This discrimination is real and it's having an impact on people."

The tone of the debate is having touching other parts of society as well, with two churches in Melbourne sprayed with with anti-Christian graffiti with the words "bash bigots" and "Crucify 'no' voters".

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said this week 67 percent of ballot papers have been returned, prompting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hail a potential turnout of 70 percent in the voluntary poll as "extraordinary".

"That will prove that we were right. Australians did want to have their say and they're having their say," he said.

Illawarra Mercury
Executive Director of the Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady, with Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba at Belmore Basin in early October, 2017.

But the final word should go to marriage Equality Campaigner Tiernan Brady, who told the HuffPost this week the campaign had been successful in empowering people.

"Getting people to understand that they are the real ambassadors in their own communities, and there's nothing a national campaign can do that will be as effective as when people tell their own stories," he said.

"Because then people in Bendigo, Ballarat and Carnarvon are able to see marriage equality isn't a what, marriage equality is a who.

When you realise marriage equality is a who, you realise allowing Margaret get married doesn't do anything to me. But it does something wonderful for Margaret.Tiernan Brady

Ballots must be received at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by 6pm on November 7 to be included in the count, and the results will be published on November 15.

There's an expectation that if the yes vote gets up, laws facilitating same sex marriage could pass the parliament by December.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

More On This Topic