Resounding NO to Brandis

george-brandisThe Attorney General will today make a last ditch plea to LGBTI community organisations to back plans for a plebiscite, but with opposition now total his chances are zero

At a video conference facilitated by Australians 4 Equality (the Australian Marriage Equality offshoot with links to the Liberal party), George Brandis hopes that community organisations will suggest conditions under which they might support a plebiscite. He will almost certainly repeat his previous threat that there is no alternative, such as a free vote of LNP members.

But after a certain amount of wobbling in recent weeks, everyone now appears to be on the same page. The answer will be NO to any plebiscite, on any terms.

VGLRL

The Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, which earlier had appeared to leave itself some wriggle room on the issue, has now firmed up its opposition. VGLRL Co-convenor Rachael Hambleton said there was “no compelling argument” for supporting a plebiscite and “no foreseeable circumstances” in which the organization would back a public vote, “unless community sentiment changes”.

“Our LGBTI community survey showed there was strong opposition to this plebiscite, and that opposition has only strengthened over time. Unless community sentiment changes, there is no compelling reason to support a plebiscite. To be very clear – the VGLRL is accountable to and elected by the LGBTI people of Victoria, and the only reason we would support a plebiscite is if community sentiment were to change on this issue.”

Rainbow Families

Rainbow Families Victoria and Rainbow Families NSW will participate in the roundtable phone-link up with Attorney General George Brandis.

“We will proudly share our reasons for not supporting a plebiscite under any circumstances because

  • a matter of equality & human rights should never be decided by a public opinion poll
  • a plebiscite will have a detrimental and enduring impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our children and our families, on trans & gender diverse children and LGBTIQ young people
  • our children and our families will be at the forefront of the anti-marriage equality campaign and a plebiscite will only amplify the hate towards, and misrepresentation, of our rainbow families
  • no government can ever guarantee that a public debate will be civil or respectful

and finally because it is time for real, honest leadership on marriage equality, and a free vote in parliament is the best, the fairest, the quickest and least harmful option.”

GetUp

Sally Rugg of GetUp, (which, despite not being a specifically LGBTI organization, campaigns strongly against the plebiscite) said she would tell both Brandis and his Labor counterpart, Mark Dreyfus, to work for a free vote instead.

“I’ll be delivering the results of the GetUp member survey to Senator Brandis, showing that 83% of GetUp members oppose a plebiscite – no matter the terms – and that we urgently call on him to push for a free vote in parliament.

“Then on Friday, the same group will meet with Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus. I’ll use that meeting to echo the thousands GetUp members who have emailed their Labor representative urging them to block the plebiscite legislation next week.”

 PFLAG

Shelley Argent of PFLAG said:

“PFLAG will be sending a very clear message to George Brandis and the Liberal Govt that we will NOT BE SUPPORTING a Plebiscite under any circumstances.

“We did the survey of 5,500 LGBTI people where 85% said NO and 65% sent a very clear message “no plebiscite under any circumstances”.

“We are listening and we support you.”

just.equal

The newest LGBTI campaigning organization said their opposition to a plebiscite was “not negotiable”

“We’re attending the meeting… and we’ll be letting the Attorney General know that we look forward to working with him on achieving a free vote in parliament without an unnecessary, costly and divisive plebiscite.

“Our position against a plebiscite, any plebiscite, is not negotiable.

“The research we conducted with PFLAG Australia showed 85% of LGBTI Australians are opposed to a plebiscite. Nearly 2/3rds remained opposed even if it was (falsely) suggested as the only way to achieve reform. 78% wanted LGBTI advocacy groups to “work towards stopping a plebiscite”.

Labor

The same organisations will also be meeting with Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus on Friday to urge Labor to block the plebiscite. It seems pretty certain they will do so, with Dreyfus coming out increasingly strongly against the idea. He said:

 “If Mr Turnbull gave his party a free vote in Parliament, we’d have marriage equality within weeks, without the $200 million price tag.”

He also expressed concerns over any tinkering with anti-discrimination law should equal marriage become law. In response to Sen Corey Bernardi’s suggestion that anyone should be free to discriminate against anyone else in the provision of goods and services, he said:

“We know that the hard right wing of the Liberal party is dictating the terms of the marriage equality plebiscite. How do we know they won’t give in to Senator Bernardi’s demands to rip up anti-discrimination law as well?”

The baton will now pass to the small-l and LGBTI Liberals to stand up to their right wing, cross the floor and vote against the plebiscite, and demand a free vote from the PM.


The VGLRL statement

“The VGLRL has a long standing position of opposing a plebiscite. This position has been communicated in every meeting we have had with all sides of politics and will continue to be our position at the upcoming meetings.

“In August 2015 the NSW GLRL and VGLRL partnered in developing a survey to gain the views of the LGBTI community on whether there should be a public vote on marriage equality. More than 650 people completed the joint survey, which found that 70% did not support a public vote of any kind on marriage equality. In addition to this, the VGLRL conducted a community survey during this year’s Midsumma Carnival, which has influenced our lobbying efforts across a range of issues.

“We continue to advocate for this matter to be resolved sooner rather than later via a Parliamentary process where all members are entitled to a free vote, in line with the results of our community survey. We have yet to hear a compelling argument as to why we should support the Governments plebiscite and there are currently no foreseeable circumstances in which we would support a plebiscite.

“Our LGBTI community survey showed there was strong opposition to this plebiscite, and that opposition has only strengthened over time. Unless community sentiment changes, there is no compelling reason to support a plebiscite. To be very clear – the VGLRL is accountable to and elected by the LGBTI people of Victoria, and the only reason we would support a plebiscite is if community sentiment were to change on this issue.”


The GetUp Statement

“GetUp will join a small group of LGBTQIA+ organisations and community leaders to meet with Attorney General George Brandis.

“Senator Brandis has called the meeting to discuss the plebiscite, and to consult with the LGBTQIA+ sector about the way forward for marriage equality.

“On your behalf, I’ll be delivering the results of the GetUp member survey to Senator Brandis, showing that 83% of GetUp members oppose a plebiscite – no matter the terms – and that we urgently call on him to push for a free vote in parliament.

“Then on Friday, the same group will meet with Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus. I’ll use that meeting to echo the thousands GetUp members who have emailed their Labor representative urging them to block the plebiscite legislation next week.

“In a survey in August, GetUp members stated clearly their biggest concerns with the plebiscite: that it would be harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community, and that it’s an unnecessary procedure in our democratic system

“No iteration of a plebiscite would alleviate either concern. For those reasons, GetUp members have resolutely opposed a plebiscite in any shape it may come.

“This week, leading mental health expert Patrick McGorry implored parliament to abandon the plebiscite, saying the popular vote would create unacceptable danger for people already at greater risk of distress, harm and suicide.1

“Mr McGorry’s fears were then confirmed, when leaked information from the National Suicide Hotline showed that the organisation had already been forced to create a “2016 marriage equality plebiscite” category on their internal systems, in order to record the influx of calls to their service with the plebiscite as the main reason for calling.2

“Once the plebiscite is put to bed, we can focus on securing a free vote in parliament.

“GetUp members have been fighting the plebiscite for months – you’ve built a petition signed by more than 60,000 people, contacted your representatives and shared persuasive content online to get the word out about how damaging the plebiscite would be. Thank you.

“Parliament resumes next week, and it’s expected the plebiscite legislation will be on the agenda.

“We’ll be back in touch next week to let you know what happened in the meetings with Senator Brandis and Mr Dreyfus.

“Thanks again for being part of the campaign.”

Sally, for the GetUp team

“PS – News broke this week that anti-equality group the Marriage Alliance has released an App that makes a game out of recruiting people to oppose marriage equality. It’s another glimpse into the bizarre lengths opponents of marriage equality will go to in order to deny people the right to marry the person they love, and another reason that a popular vote on marriage equality is a terrible idea.”

 

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)