How A ‘No’ Vote On SSM Would Irrevocably Damage Australian Society

As we reach the end of the mail-out period of the Australian Government’s postal survey on same-sex marriage, the landscape the ‘Yes’ side finds itself in is an increasingly dangerous and scary setting.

I’m not just talking about the heightened demonstrations of homophobia and bigotry in our public spheres, which in the past week alone has seen a trans teen choked, and a ‘Yes’ voter’s house vandalised, but in the sense that losing this survey is still a possibility, with polls continuing to slide back and forth.

The thought of the specific repercussions of a ‘No’ result has until now been something the ‘Yes’ camp has mostly refused to engage with, and with good reason.

Having to confront the serious, long-lasting effects of possibly losing this fight scares the ever loving shit out of me, and like most of my fellow queers at the moment I’m mentally exhausted and emotionally distressed enough as it is.

But with nearly two months to go before a result and new stats showing that two-thirds of voters are still yet to submit their surveys, I fear complacency and the insidious, yet effective approaches of the ‘No’ camp will see all our energies be for nought.

So maybe we should borrow from same-sex marriage opponents in one way.

They’ve spread panic and unease about a future with marriage equality, preying on people’s innate fear of otherness and change whilst capitalising on the deep-seated homophobia that lurks in elements of our society.

I’m not advocating in the slightest to alter our campaign’s core message of love, kindness and personal conversations, but it’s time the ‘Yes’ side starts talking (shouting, even) about what’s truthfully, realistically at stake by logically looking at a future without a successful ‘Yes’ vote.

Same-sex marriage will not be legalised until late 2018 at the earliest. 

The first outcome is the most obvious. As Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed, a ‘No’ result effectively shelves marriage equality law for the extent of his government, which at the very earliest could end late in 2018 with a Labor election win.

To be more specific, what this means for LGBTIQ Australians who are long-term partnered or engaged, is the potential of facing years of their relationships continuing to exist in legal and social purgatory.

Same-sex couples married overseas will also continue to be demoted to secondary status on arriving here, with situations like the gay man who was stricken from his UK-married husband’s death certificate after a tragic accident in South Australia likely to be repeated.

Most heartbreaking of all is the almost certain chance that elderly same-sex partners, holding out hope for their country to allow them the human right of marrying one another, will die before they get the chance. Other gay couples will see their grandparents and parents pass away, never allowing them to experience the joy of seeing their children legally wed.

For many, waiting a few more years is simply not an option.

Homophobic ideology, already emboldened by this survey, will be further validated.

This postal survey has not only given a platform, but tacit approval to the latent homophobia present in Australia.

Given governmental approval, the disgust and hatred of our kind, rightfully subdued over years of progress, has been gifted a flag to fly in order to raise an army. Bigotry is currently being considered an equal response to the mere existence of gay people, via a question that comes down to the flagrantly unjust division between ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

The uptick in not only homophobic commentary but IRL violence and abuse towards queers during this postal survey is disturbing, and it’s an uncomfortable reality that a ‘No’ win would see these acts increase in number and severity.

The fact that leaders of the ‘No’ side rarely, if ever, come out to publicly condemn the more extreme examples of the hatred and violence their campaigning has enabled, speaks volumes on how they see these acts as acceptable behaviour.

A win has the potential for these acts and comments to be seen as elements of success for the ‘No’ campaign, motivating further hate speech and its ilk, which has immediate, dangerous consequences for queer health and safety.

With this survey, the table has already been turned, and underneath it is the accrued used gum of decades-long homophobia, once surreptitiously placed when no one was looking but now bared for all to see. A successful ‘No’ vote would see it lacquered in hard film lest it be picked away and discarded as it should.

Families Australia-wide will suffer.

The impact of a ‘No’ outcome on rainbow families is an oft-discussed consequence with children of same-sex partners set to suffer possibly the worst of all: their parents inability to access the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts unavoidably filtering down to the next generation.

But it’s “traditional” families that will fracture as well.

As we’ve seen after the Trump and Brexit results overseas, families from all walks of life will be forced to deal with the inevitable divisions caused by the loss of a fight so important to so many.

Whilst same-sex marriage opponents would lose absolutely nothing in a ‘Yes’ outcome, those fighting for their own (or their loved ones) chance at equality before having it snatched away in a ‘No’ result will be forced to reckon and co-exist with those who enabled it.

Realising that large swathes of your own country actively voted to ingrain discrimination will be a hard pill for many to swallow, with fractures between families and communities only set to widen in a post-‘No’ Australia.

LGBTIQ progress will be staunched and its communities most vulnerable exposed.

One of the more unforeseen revelations of this stage of a government decreeing that our existence is a two-sided debate, is the divisions already made inside the ‘Yes’ camp itself.

Having been forced into a zero sum game of policing ourselves and passing down judgment on whether an individual or a group’s approach to the ‘Yes’ campaign is “correct”, queers have accused each other of “doing more harm than good” or “forcing people from the fence to the ‘No’ side”.

I don’t for a second judge any of these people. I too have ridden the insanity rollercoaster that is the process of deciding how to fight and participate in this unjust public airing of our rights.

A ‘No’ outcome would deepen divisions within the LGBTIQ even further and as we pick up the shattered pieces of our campaign, we’ll falter in our progress to push forward, with the minorities within our minority most likely to suffer from it.

Gay and questioning youth and trans people for example, already at hugely disproportionate levels of poor mental health and high suicide rates, will continue to be endangered as the majority of LGBTIQ energies focus on rebuilding towards marriage equality.

We know that same-sex marriage law correlates with a 7% drop in suicide attempts in countries it is enshrined, with a report last week stating there could be up to 3000 less suicide attempts per year in Australia post-marriage equality.

To say that queer kids will die, as horrifying a statement as it is, is sadly not hyperbole.

This heinous scumbag will feel joy.

The Coalition government’s gutless same-sex marriage postal survey has already caused so much damage to the inclusive, caring community Australia likes to believe it is, but the societal harm of a ‘No’ win would be devastating.

Its effects will not be short-lived and the impacts of it will hurt individuals across the country as much as it will the trajectory of our common cause: The ability for all Australians to live freely, without contempt or discrimination.

The reality is scary, I know, and not for one second am I suggesting positive, love-filled strategies to achieving a ‘Yes’ win should be discarded. But if we don’t force ourselves and others to look at the frightening future that will result if our opponents win, our utopic sense of an inevitable win will lead us to ruin.

Love is powerful indeed, but I’m not going to pretend I’m not scared. I’m so fucking petrified of losing this thing, you guys.

But whilst the ‘No’ side uses fear to disseminate untruths and barely concealed hatred, I’m choosing to turn my sincere dread into action and ensure we don’t sit back in the end-stage of this battle.

If you have queer friends or family, or care for a more equal, inclusive, loving society, now is the time to ask around and make sure everyone you know has posted their ‘Yes’ vote.

Please. Do it for us all.