After what seems like a lifetime of nonsense, the day is almost upon us: tomorrow morning will see the release of the results of the postal survey on marriage equality.
Despite the fact that it is 100% non-binding, the results of the survey will have a huge impact on marriage equality in Australia. If it comes back with a majority ‘yes’ vote, it is expected that a private members bill will be very shortly introduced (hopefully Dean Smith‘s, not colleague James Paterson‘s), which Malcolm Turnbull anticipates will “sail through the parliament“. If it comes back with a ‘no’ result, the Liberal Party will refuse to take any further action on marriage equality and we will likely have to wait until Labor gets back in before we see any movement on the issue.
Regardless of how it turns out, we know one thing for sure: Turnbull is going to use the result for political gain. If it comes back ‘no’, he shores up his base with Australia’s conservatives by backing them on an issue they see as symbolic of their culture war with Australia’s progressives. If it comes back ‘yes’, he gets to claim that it was his government that gave the country marriage equality, while simultaneously shrugging at conservatives and telling them it was out of his hands because everyone else decided for him. For a brief, shining moment, he will get to pretend that he is championing a cause he has nominally supported well before he became prime minister. I suggest, instead, he can get fucked.
Yes, it’s true: if goodness prevails and it turns out the majority of Australians aren’t complete fuckwits, we will finally, finally have marriage equality. You know what would have been better? Just legislating marriage equality without all of us having to deal with this incredibly shitful, turdious process. That would have been fucking sick as. That would have been ecstatically dope.
Even if you disregard how awful it was in practice, the idea of the plebiscite-turned-postal-survey was deeply flawed in theory. Our government is a representative democracy, thus it is the responsibility of our elected politicians to submit and vote on legislation as it represents the needs and concerns of their constituents as filtered through the lens of their own knowledge and experience. If we canvassed the entire population for every piece of legislation, not only would it takes ages to bloody do anything, most of the things we did would likely be absolute dogshit.
It is a foregone conclusion that we will eventually have marriage equality in Australia. Australia has seen nearly a decade of polling that indicates overwhelming support for marriage equality. We have been very swiftly falling behind in the world community while our politicians fucked about twiddling their thumbs and plumbing the depths of their noses. John Howard didn’t need a plebiscite when he changed the Marriage Act in 2004 to specifically exclude same-sex couples and that was an equally significant, much shittier change. This easily could have been a free vote in parliament.
Even the plebiscite as originally planned was slightly less fucked than what we ended up with. Thanks to two (count ’em, folks) rejections in the Senate, Turnbull was forced to ditch the plebiscite in favour of a process that was legislatively the equivalent of the ‘there’s no rule that says a dog can’t play basketball‘ bit from ‘Air Bud‘ – except it was completely bereft of any dog-playing-sports-related mirth. Either by design or happy accident, the nature of a postal survey means it was only ever going to skew more in favour of ‘no’ voters, by virtue of that fact that it’s a) non-compulsory and b) postal. Non-compulsory votes always have a tendency to see much higher representation from the reactionary position and young people (who support marriage equality in higher numbers) are going to be much less likely to use the postal system.
Not only was forcing this degrading, humiliating, expensive exercise on Australians completely unnecessary, to no one’s great surprise, it turned out to be a complete shitshow. While Coalition politicians who live in a bubble completely removed from real people snivelled on camera about ‘respectful debate’, queer people in Australia had to deal with the actual consequences.
Noone is pretending that the postal survey magically created a bunch of homophobes from a vacuum, but it certainly gave our existing homophobes more confidence than ever to be huge pieces of shit in public. Framing the question of the legitimacy of gay relationships as an ‘it could go either way’ debate made them feel like their position (that gay relationships are illegitimate) was a reasonable, normal opinion to have, and they sure showed it.
Bronwyn Bishop comparing marriage equality to bestiality on TV. Swastikas spraypainted on marriage equality supporters’ houses. Rocks and slurs thrown through the window of another. This fuckhead kicking at a dog wearing a rather fetching marriage equality bandana. Kevin Rudd‘s godson allegedly punched for objecting to a man taking down rainbow flags. A Victorian woman punched for wearing a ‘Born Fabulous, Not Straight‘ shirt. Some shitcunt praising Hitler on ABC radio for putting gay people into concentration camps. That is not even close to being an exhaustive list.
It was a harrowing time for a lot of queer people and the Coalition just shrugged it off, with beady-eyed senator Matt Canavan telling people upset with what was happening to “grow a spine and grow up“. Not only did the postal survey try and force upon us the idea that queer people are second-class citizens, it made us feel unsafe and unwanted in our own country, a price that we alone had to pay for a process that we did not ask for and did not want.
Why did we have to go through an experience so terrible? Not because it was right, not because it was necessary, but because Turnbull hasn’t been doing very well in the polls. That’s it. The emotional and physical injuries people sustained as a result of the postal survey happened for no other reason than because Turnbull is a disappointment to both the far-right of the party and those who thought he would represent a more moderate voice. Instead of either sticking to his convictions and legislating marriage equality or completely cucking himself and refusing to legislate it, he decided to go with a solution that pleased no one and actually harmed people.
If that’s not horrific enough (it is), it keeps going. Even if we do win, the survey will still fuck shit up. Because the regular conservative brain is not capable of holding many ideas in its head at once, marriage equality represents to them every single progressive issue. Marriage equality is Safe Schools. Marriage equality is recognition for trans people. Marriage equality is the idea of queer people. For every percentage point of people that said ‘no’, conservative politicians and media figures will use it as an argument that that percentage of Australians don’t want gay people here and won’t accommodate them in the country. Whatever that percentage ends up being, you are going to hear it repeated by slimy convictionless snake oil salesmen like Lyle Shelton and Miranda Devine over and over and over again.
So, no, Malc, if this passes, you can’t take credit for marriage equality. We didn’t get equality in this country because of you, we got it in spite of you, you feckless invertebrate. Your legacy will reflect that.Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles