Australia’s Same Sex Marriage Survey

Saturday, 23 September 2017

It’s a standard piece of political advice that you should never hold a referendum or any other vote you don’t need to if you don’t already know the result. That advice certainly held true with the Brexit vote, not only did the unexpected result end Prime Minister David Cameron’s political career it’s also screwed up Britain for many years to come.

So why on earth is Australia holding a marriage law referendum? The answer is it isn’t, at vast cost (the current estimate is A$122 million) the government is holding an opinion poll and a not very scientific one at that. The choice is simple, tick yes if you think men should be allowed to marry men or women to marry women, no if you disagree. Nobody has to mail in their postal form so we could end up with an opinion which reflects only people who feel really strongly about it, yes or no.

When Ireland had a real vote on the same issue back in 2015 over 60% of registered voters turned out to vote and 62% of them agreed that ‘marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.’ That view was already supported by the government and by the major opposition parties, it’s now law in Ireland and by all reports the country has not suffered as a result.

In Australia our wishy washy government can’t make up their minds, the party Neanderthals are dead set against it and putting it out for an opinion poll is simply a way of putting off making a real decision. In an earlier generation that same group would probably have agreed that blacks shouldn’t be allowed to marry whites.

For years in the UK the church fought to preserve the 1835 marriage law that prohibited a man whose wife had died (or they had divorced for that matter) from marrying his ex-wife’s sister. For some reason the church thought this was something like incest although, of course, there’s no blood relationship (consanguinity). Despite repeated attempts to change the law it wasn’t until 1907 that the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act was passed and not until 1921 that the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act also allowed women to marry their deceased husband’s brother.

In Britain it’s suggested that potential new Tory party Prime Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is currently the ‘Minister for the 18th Century.’ Australia has several coalition party members who could aspire to that role and no doubt if John Howard or Tony Abbot, right wing ex-Prime Ministers campaigning for a no vote (or opinion), had been around in 1907 they would have been lined up with the church and campaigning against the new marriage law of that era.

Incidentally we shouldn’t be posting images of our voting form online in case somebody tries to copy the bar code and vote again … or something. Not a problem for me, you can’t see the barcode in the image above. We have the rest of September and all of October to get our survey forms in (we also need to allow Australia Post, the post office for the 18th Century, plenty of time to deliver them). Then it’s going to take another eight days from 7 November to 15 November to count the votes (or opinions) and then … and then nothing … even if 100% of the population decide ‘yes’ the government can still decide ‘no.