If you have the time and the emotional capacity, please spare a thought for the ‘No’ campaigners. Despite getting nearly four times the amount of media coverage as the ‘Yes’ side, it seems very little consideration is being given to the injuries they’ve sustained from making dangerously long reaches to conjure up arguments against marriage equality that don’t solely amount to “I’m afraid a homosexual might be empowered to raise their glance from the footpath and accidentally make eye contact with me.

Self-aware enough to realise that saying that gay relationships aren’t real would make them sound like some kind of monster, the collection of oddballs fighting to keep marriage wholly ungayed have had to resort to other, even more batshit reasons that fall just short of saying exactly that. Much like the noble zebra, all of these dinguses look and sound almost identical but, truly, no two are exactly alike. In the efforts of helping you distinguish between these different flavours of turd, we thought we’d take a closer look at some of the loudest voices emanating from over their side of the fence.

Lyle Shelton

Photo: Channel 10.

I’m not sure what being director of the Australian Christian Lobby usually entails, but right now for Lyle Shelton it seemingly means appearing on TV every 20 minutes to talk about how he and his ilk are being rudely discriminated against and silenced just because they want gay people to be treated as second-class citizens. The silencing part is particularly interesting, especially when compared with analysis from The Guardian that found that he receives more media coverage than three leading ‘Yes’ campaigners combined.

Shelton seems to be hoping to win this debate by pointing out people are often rude to him because of his beliefs. What doesn’t seem to occur to him is that if your ‘beliefs’ are routinely insisting that a group of people are intrinsically flawed, morally stained, and unworthy of equal treatment in the eyes of the law (while simultaneously being given a massively disproportionate amount of airtime and legitimacy), that group is very likely to get a bit upset at you. But hey, it’s easy to see how someone who has never been discriminated against in their life could fail to consider that.

His other strategy is attempting to co-opt more progressive sounding terms and ham-fistedly bashing them into shape until he can use them to argue against a nightmarish future in which two women cut a cake at the same time in front of their friends. He argues that same-sex marriage is “trashing the human rights of children,” disingenuously suggesting that ‘human rights’ are being violated if a child isn’t raised by their biological parents. If those are his actual beliefs, he’s astonishingly silent on the issue of kids being raised by single parents and, more glaringly, the entire concept of adoption. Worse still, he has a penchant for describing children of same-sex couples as a new ‘Stolen Generation’, because he apparently doesn’t understand history. Or words. Or, well, much at all.

Fun trivia: his sister organised a rally in Toowoomba in which 200 men publicly swore off porn for good. Perfectly normal.

Miranda Devine

Photo: News Corp.

The best thing you can say about Miranda Devine is that she is very good at her job. Unfortunately, that job, in terms of its benefit to humankind, is about on par with ‘captain of one of those oil tankers that capsized and wiped out 100,000 seabirds in the resultant spill’. She is a Daily Telegraph columnist and a fiercely determined culture warrior who will argue just about any point if she has seen anyone even moderately progressive argue its opposite. You will be astonished to learn this has led to her espousing some fantastically insane opinions.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, she was excoriated by Media Watch (along with colleague Rowan Dean) for blaming the 80 estimated deaths on “green ideology“, without any evidence at the time to support the claim (no evidence to support the claim has since emerged, either). In another piece, she labelled the investigation into a culture of sexual harassment at USyd‘s St Paul’s College a triumph of the “feminist overlords” over the “one valiant holdout against the university’s bid to stamp out masculinity on campus.” Against all odds, she manages to do something this bad just about every week.

Her argument for why equality is just a step too far hinges on very spurious spooky stories about the terrible persecution that has happened to homophobes in countries that have legalised marriage equality and doing some very murky things with statistics. Take, for instance, this refutation of a decade of polling that says that a majority of Australians support marriage equality:

According to the poll of 2,500 people taken in December by Sexton Market Research for Marriage Alliance, just 33 per cent of Australians “strongly support” legalising same-sex marriage.

A further, softer, 19 per cent said they “somewhat support” it, making for a total of 52 per cent in favour. On the other side, 25 per cent were undecided, 20 per cent “strongly opposed” and three per cent “somewhat opposed”.

Here’s a short way to say that: 52% of people support it, 23% of people don’t, and 25% don’t know. Almost like a majority of Australians support marriage equality. Weird.

Like Lyle Shelton, she’s incensed at how unruly the ‘Yes’ side is getting, just because they’re being oppressed. This is something she has in common with her father, who was also upset about the uppity homosexuals in 1994 during Tasmania‘s decriminalisation debate, writing in The Australian: “As grotesque as the criminal sections are, however–and this is a king-sized however–one must deplore the arrogance and meretriciousness of the effort by homosexuals to have them rescinded.” How dare they indeed.

Mark Latham

The term ‘slippery slope’ comes up a lot in the marriage equality debate, but I’m pretty sure the only one that actually exists is the one Mark Latham’s life has been hurtling down. Formerly Opposition Leader and head of the Labor Party, formerly host of a TV show on Sky News, formerly a columnist for the Australian Financial Review, now a guy who does a show as a Facebook Live video on a network that has had associations with the white nationalist movement.

He also has made several appearances on an Australian alt-right podcast, the same one that MP George Christensen disavowed after having the startling realisation that the white nationalist podcast he was appearing on might be a bit racist. In Christensen’s words: “They are extremely anti-Semitic, regularly make racial based slurs, and they subscribe to white nationalism. If I had known that, there is no way I would have done that interview.

Since his departure from the Labor Party, Latham has quickly moved to the right, seemingly fleeing the people on the left and in the middle calling him a huge dumbass for being a huge dumbass all the time.

The fulcrum of Latham’s argument rests very firmly on his profound lack of knowledge on the thing he’s speaking on. Take, for instance, this excerpt from an article he wrote for the Tele about the hidden danger of the actual hypothetical bill itself (namely that it might expand beyond the ‘same-sex’ definition into ‘any sex’):

Left wing activists claim to have identified up to 250 gender and sexual categories. These include the well-known LGBTI designations — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex — plus a bewildering array of other ­terminology.

Apparently it is now possible to be genderqueer, demisexual, twospirit, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous, fluid, femme, gender-binary, gynephilic, SAAB, MSM/WSW, skoliosexual, agender, androsexual, bicurious, cisgender, demiromantic, down low, FtM/F2M and MtF/M2F.

First and foremost, the biggest rebuttal to this is: “Who cares?” Who cares how someone describes their gender? Outside of figuring out how they prefer to be referred to (literally, just ask), it impacts your life in zero ways. Why would I care about the respective genders of people getting married? As long as they are consenting adults, I could not give one single shit.

Less importantly, but still somewhat important, is his insane ignorance of the topics he’s speaking about. Femme describes appearance as it relates to gender coding. MSM/WSW are dating initialisms. Polyamorous describes relationship organisation. It’s a “bewildering array of other ­terminology” because he hasn’t put in the slightest amount of effort to look into it. Arguments like this are nebulous because they aren’t sincere, they exist solely because they can’t just let the progressives have what they want. (Equality.)

Eric Abetz

Photo: Getty Images / Graham Denholm.

Attacking someone’s personal appearance is not an argument and has absolutely no bearing on their character, so I just want to make it abundantly clear that I’m saying this as an aside: Eric Abetz looks and moves like a relatively fresh zombie. The skin tone is still there, but you can tell by the curiously askew fashion in which his jaw works that he has been recently exhumed and revived by dark magic.

The Tasmanian senator has been a very vocal opponent of gay marriage – pretty unsurprising in that he has been a very vocal opponent of gay people in general, fighting tooth and nail after he joined the Senate in 1994 to stop the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania. Knowing that, it makes it hard to believe he’s against marriage equality because people might marry the Sydney Harbour Bridge or because “Asian countries” haven’t legalised it or because Dolce and Gabbana haven’t married. Yes, all of those are real examples.

Tony Abbott

You might be familiar with this bloke – wiry, grins like a lizard, ate a raw onion on purpose on camera twice? Yeah, that guy. Tone distinguishes himself from a large chunk of this list by virtue of not being a News Corp employee. He is, in fact, a former News Corp employee. Hugely different.

Tony’s political success relies chiefly on his being staunchly in opposition to everything a conservative religious person could feasibly be afraid of and, like some sort of culture warrior octopus, he has firmly wrapped his reactionary tentacles around the issue of marriage equality as a symbol of all of those things.

You might think that saying “no” to marriage equality is saying “I don’t want to let gay people get married,” but, according to Tony, you’re actually saying no to political correctness. What does that mean, you might ask? Literally nothing. It is a completely meaningless series of words that act like catnip to the sort of people who are annoyed they can’t say their favourite slurs in public anymore.

His “voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks” line is based on his belief that it’ll mean you can’t go around saying that kids should be raised by a mother and father (the implication being that same-sex parents are depriving them of a proper upbringing). I’d probably be a little bit less worried about ‘political correctness’ than the fact that nearly every study has found that claim to be bullshit and that where they’ve found discrepancies, it’s because the parents and children face exactly this sort of discrimination.

Regardless of the evidence (who needs it?), he’s stuck to this point even when talking about the children of his sister and her partner, telling 2GB in August: “Chris has been a very good mother with her partner Virginia, they do a good job, but nevertheless I’m old fashioned enough to think kids do best with a mother and a father.” What a lovely brother.

Honourable mentions

There are quite a lot of other voices involved, all of them awful (and all of them either right-wing politicians or News Corp employees), but a few deserve special mention. Cory Bernardi, despite his fractional political influence, is given a staggering amount of airtime, probably because he can advance such articulate and thoughtful arguments as ‘people will start fucking animals’. Of course, there’s also staunch conservative MP George Christensen, who says you should vote no because of the butterfly effect.

We can’t forget about Andrew Bolt, who is effectively just Mark Latham if he was smug instead of resentful and had showered more recently. Bolt hasn’t argued too passionately against marriage equality, but is using a fair chunk of his bountiful Sky News airtime and Herald Sun column inches to, like Devine and Shelton, rue and lament the gays getting far too uppity about demanding rights.

Truly an amazing selection of people.

(Just a reminder, if you haven’t received your survey yet, get the fuck onto it.)

Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles