Explainer: What Is The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite All About?

Explainer: What Is The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite All About?

Until this week, the proposed plebiscite on whether Australia should legalise same-sex marriage had been light on detail. What would be the wording of the question? When would it take place? Would there be public funding for both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ campaign? Read on to find out more.

Adam Webster is a Lecturer at Adelaide Law School at the University of Adelaide

The government has now introduced a bill into the parliament that provides the details and mechanics of the plebiscite.

The date

During the election campaign Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was “ample time” for a plebiscite to be held this year.

However, parliament did not reconvene until August 30. And after the election Turnbull was less optimistic about the prospect of the plebiscite being held in 2016.

Cabinet has now agreed the plebiscite will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2017.

The question

The question to be put to voters will be:

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

There was some discussion about whether the question should include a reference to a “change” in the law (and whether the voter supports the “change”). The alternative was to word the question in terms of whether the voter supported same-sex marriage, rather than focusing on the “change” in the law.

The other concern about the wording was whether reference should be made to “allow same-sex couples to marry” as opposed to “marriage equality”.

While there might be some disagreement as to the question’s precise wording, it is essential that the question is clear and simple. The proposed wording arguably achieves this objective.

The funding

Funding will be provided to two committees to run a “yes” and “no” campaign. Each committee will be made up of ten members: five politicians (two government MPs, two opposition MPs and one crossbench MP) and five members of the public.

The committees will each be given A$7.5 million from the government to support their advertising campaigns in the four weeks leading up to the plebiscite. In addition, the committees will be able to accept donations, with contributions of up to $1,500 being tax-deductible.

All advertising as part of the “yes” and “no” campaigns will require approval from cabinet’s Service Delivery Co-ordination Committee. This committee oversees:

… the provision of public information by government departments and agencies.

While the advertising of the “yes” and “no” committees will be subject to the cabinet committee’s approval, there will be nothing preventing third parties from running their own advertising. These ads will not be subject to the committee’s approval.

The funding for the “yes” and “no” campaigns is a relatively small part of the overall expense of the plebiscite, which the government estimates will cost $170 million.

The problems with the current proposal

Attorney-General George Brandis has said the plebiscite’s result will be determined by a majority of votes.

If current opinion polls are any guide, a majority of Australians are in favour of same-sex marriage. If a majority of Australians vote in favour of same-sex marriage then the government has promised to put legislation before the parliament to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry.

However, the result in the plebiscite is not binding on MPs. If legislation amending the Marriage Act is ultimately put before the parliament, MPs are not bound by the result in the plebiscite.

The Australian Electoral Commission will also provide a breakdown of the plebiscite result based upon federal electorates and states. This might lead to MPs voting on the amending legislation based upon the result in their electorate or state.

Western Australian Liberal senator Chris Back has said the plebiscite result in his state will guide his vote. There is some logic in this approach: MPs would ensure their vote reflects the views of those they represent.

However, MPs could also use it as a means to “cherry-pick” whichever result best fits their personal views. This approach also ignores the fact that MPs (especially those of the major parties) rarely consult their constituents to ensure their vote reflects the views of those they represent.

If ensuring their vote reflects the view of their electorate is so important, why not take this approach for every vote – or at least explain the types of matters upon which the views of the electorate will trump everything else?

An alternative to the plebiscite mechanism would have been for parliament to pass the substantive amendments to the Marriage Act with a clause in the bill that the amendments automatically come into force if a majority vote in favour of the change in the plebiscite. There do no appear to be any legal impediments to this “self-executing” plebiscite.

The chances of the plebiscite going ahead

For the plebiscite to go ahead, the government needs to get the plebiscite legislation through the parliament.

The challenge will be whether the legislation can pass the Senate. Liberal senator Dean Smith has already said he will not vote for it.

For the legislation to pass the Senate the government will need either the support of Labor or of enough crossbench senators, given the Greens have announced their opposition. Labor this week introduced a bill into parliament that proposes to legalise same-sex marriage without the need for a plebiscite and reaffirmed its view that a plebiscite was unnecessary. If Labor retains this approach, it seems unlikely it will support the government’s plebiscite legislation in the Senate.

While Australians finally have some detail of the proposed plebiscite, there is still no guarantee that the question will even be put to the Australian people on February 11 next year.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


  • Why do they need a plebiscite for this?
    Surely they can just amend the law on the basis that its current form denies a basic human right?

    • This is a Tony Abbott era policy and Abbott and his ilk are against gay marriage. The issue suddenly reached a head where it couldn’t be ignored. They needed a policy and the plan was to try and delay marriage equality as long as possible.
      The plebiscite was scene as their only option. They look bad and could lose votes outwardly refusing gay marriage, but if they had a vote it would look bad to their right wing base.

      There’s some genius behind it, it’s washing their hands of the problem in a way to shift any upset at the outcome away from them.

      Each side, think their side will win it.

      They really want it to fail and people are ignoring the fact that it is a real issue.

      Bottom line is, the plebiscite is all about playing politics.

    • Marriage isn’t a “human right”, it’s a social institution which founds the basis of all social structure.

      The sole reason it is legally recognised is because it mutually benefits the government and it’s people through the encouragement of forming/preserving the nuclear family and uplifting it as a social ideal. There is nothing more important than family values for social stability and law / order, nor anything better than population growth for economic stability.

      Same sex couples are irrelevant to these aspects of marriage as a social institution. They do not create nuclear families, they do not contribute to population growth, no culture or values are passed from one generation to the next. They live on the fringe of this social structure.

      On this basis, marriage is the union of husband and wife, to the exclusion of all others, sanctioned by law and state, celebrated by society at large.

      Calling marriage a human right is like saying “having a red shirt is a human right”

      Everyone is allowed to have a red shirt, but you can’t have a blue shirt and call it a red shirt.
      Everyone is allowed to get married, but you can’t have a homosexual union and call it marriage.

      just becaue two things are very similar, doesn’t make them the same.

      Changing marriage to allow same sex couples to qualify is not an issue of human rights, it is an issue of social legitimacy, acceptance and recognition as being “the same”.

      The problem is that they are not the same.

      Naturally, it’s not up to politicians to determine society’s views by passing law.
      rather, it’s a politicians hobs to determine laws by passing social scrutiny.

      In a democratic nation, public opinion is determined via a plebiscite.

      So yes, this plebiscite needs to happen so the people can have their say, and have their views represented fairly and accurately..

      • So, I was about to refute many of your claims.
        Then I thought I should stop and check;
        Is it relevant to you whether your claims are factually true?
        If I demonstrate that some of your claims are factually untrue, will you continue making those claims?

        • Please, i wholeheartedly welcome facts. As long as you dont try to equate popular opinion with fact, that is.

          • So first, your argument that marriage should be denied to people who can’t form a nuclear family.

            I hope your intent with the word nuclear is roughly:
            “Two loving parents, raising one or more children, who they love.”
            (If your argument is that parents must be different genders to constitute a nuclear family, you have to justify that part of your definition on pain of begging the question.)

            This is refuted in two ways.
            1: By observing that queer couples often raise children, and seem to do a good job of it. They typically adopt, or use a donor, or retain a child from a previous heterosexual relationship.

            2: By observing that we don’t deny marriage to people who don’t intend to raise children, nor to the infertile, nor to the aged.

          • You’re strategically ignoring the fact that while a same sex couple can assume parental role, they cannot actually conceive children without the help of a heterosexual couple.

            Hence, the conti uation of society does not require same sex couples like it requires heterosexual couples.

            This isn’t bigotry, it’s biology.

            Yes, there are exceptions where heterosexual couples can’t/won’t comceive children.
            Yes, there are exceptions where homosexual couples will adopt or inherit children.

            But the exceptions only stand to prove the rule.
            The rule being that heterosexal relationships are the basis of functional organised society, while homosexual relations exist on the fringe as a neutral impact to society, neither contributing or impeding.

          • 1: I believe you’re smart enough to imagine at least three ways homosexual couples can (and do) conceive without the help of a heterosexual couple, so you have the mental faculties to know your claim is untrue. You should reflect deeply on the validity of whatever motivated you to make an obviously untrue claim.

            2: The phrase you quoted genuinely made me grin, because it means the exact opposite of what you think it means! 🙂
            The definition of “proves” in that phrase is “To subject to a test.”
            It means that given you just admitted that genuine exceptions exist, your rule is falsified!

            3: Marriage is a formal commitment, and thus a stabilizing influence on any relationship. What is the exact mechanism by which you think society gains by discouraging stability?

            4: Presumably you understand that some queer people would be happier if they could marry. What is the exact mechanism by which you think society would benefit from fewer happy people?

            5: It’s easier to adopt if you’re married. What is the exact mechanism by which you think more unloved orphans improves society?

          • 1) You’ve got me, i had a short break at work and should have chosen my words more carefully. My point remains that conceiving children requires genetic input from exactly one male and one female. This creates a biological distinction where heterosexuality is superior to it’s sterile counterparts. I consider this socially signifigant.

            2) You’re being pedantic. Yes, it is a colloquial phrase and we both know You knew exactly what it means in the context which it was said. Would you prefer i said “The apparent rarity of the exception shows the overwhelming trend towards the general rule to be well established and accepted, despite not being absolute”?

            3) Marriage is not required for same sex couples, or any other couples to have commitment and stability. Hence I am not discouraging stability.

            4) laws are meant to provide and protect basic civil liberties and human rights, not people’s feelings. Personally i think a lot of people would be pretty gosh darn happy if speeding fines were suddenly abolished but i can’t see that happening. Can you?

            5) I dont think you’re being serious now, i think you’ll find any candidates are considered appropriately and fairly when under scrutiny by adoption agencies. They base their suitability on merit rather than title and they are very particular about who they deem suitable. I have no problem whatsoever with homosexuals adopting. To qualify they must succeed through same screening process as anyone else would.

          • Hey @dazzler3622 and Realist, and anyone else continuing to comment, this discussion has gone on long enough. It’s obvious that no one is going to convince anyone else of their respective points, and all you’re doing here is going round in circles. Let’s agree to disagree and leave it here.

            I won’t be approving any further moderated comments on this article.

      • The nuclear family is a concept that began in the 1950’s. It’s literally refering to nuclear age. It’s hard to say it’s critical to Australia’s stability when the concept is that recent.

  • The elephant in the room people are not talking about is if the plebiscite does not pass. There seems to be an assumption that it will, but look at the poll you posted. 61% support gay marriage. That doesn’t actually indicate how they will vote and depending on the lies and misinformation put out in the lead up, enough people may not vote yes. It’s not a huge margin. I saw a guy involved with the Irish referendum on TV the other day say that people voted no in that case, even though they did support gay marriage.

    The campaign will be all sorts of scare mongering and fear, judging by how people vote in federal elections this works on the Australian public.

    Also worth noting, the polls in Ireland had same sex marriage approval at 76% before the referendum. The result of the Ref was 62%. Over there they also had the major parties supporting it. Here will will have government ministers campaigning against it.

    In none of the coverage is anyone focusing on what will happen if there’s a no vote. The only reason for the plebiscite to exist is for a no vote. All the talk of democracy is crap, that is not how we make laws on individual issues and voting for equal rights is undemocratic. Tyranny of the majority is not proper democracy, in a democracy people have the same rights.

  • i don’t understand why my right to equal opportunity is being put to vote to be discriminated against, i always thought the laws were there to enforce that no one is more equal than another. this plebiscite scares the bejesus out of me and the question doesn’t even address non gendered people of australia. Can i get married if my legal status is neither male nor female or do i still get discriminated against?

    • This is absolutely right. The wording of the question should be more along the lines of “do you support the removal of references to gender from the laws relating to marriage?”

    • Everyone currently has equal right to get married to a person of the opposite sex.
      That’s what marriage is.

      A social institution which unites man and woman to encourage the formation and preservation of the nuclear family.

      The reason it’s legally recognised is that it is mutually beneficial for a government and it’s people to marry and start families.

      Changing marriage to make same sex couples eligible is not mutually beneficial, in fact it’s not even a legal issue since they are eligible for a civil union.

      This is not an issue of rights or legal representation, this is an issue of minorities using politics to force social acceptance, inclusion and a social perception of legitimacy for same sex couples who desire to have their relationships publically viewed as “the same” as hetero relationships.

      Do you really think without this plebiscite, people are ever going to view gay marriage as equal to traditional marriage and the nuclear family?

        • Legally, male and female persons are equal.
          Legally, same homosexual and heterosexual persons are equal.

          You see, “women wanting to vote” is entirely about legal and democratic representation, They were already eligible to be taxed by the government, therefore they should have been eligible to be represented by the government in a democracy.

          There are no laws which prohibit any person from getting married based on gender, race, religion, hairstyle etc.

          Ths issue here is that marriage is an established social institution. but the LGBTQ community don’t want to get married, they want to change marriage to include something else. THEN they want to get married in that way instead of just conceiving their own social institution.

          If i wanted to have a bat mitzvah, but instead of having it on my 13th birthday i have it when i’m 45. and instead of making it a jewish celebration i give it a buddhist theme. is that still a bat bitzvah?

          What if i serve nothing but pork and bacon for the event? do you suppose that’s a little insensitive to people who hold bat mitzvah’s very serionsly?

          • A church wedding is a social institution, marriage is simply a legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them.

            You said “There are no laws which prohibit any person from getting married based on gender, race, religion, hairstyle etc” but what if there were? That would be terrible right?

            Discriminating based on the sexual identity you were born with is worse than discrimination based on religion or hairstyle because you have no choice in the former.

      • I can’t believe people still trot out this idiotic argument that “everyone has equal rights because everyone can marry someone of the opposite sex”.
        This is a profoundly stupid position, and honestly anyone countenancing it is either a halfwit or being disingenuous.

        The equality being sought is the equal right to enter marriage with the person you are in a relationship with. To say that all people have an equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex is true, but _it is not the framing of the right being discussed_.

        I’ll use an analogy of religion.
        Let’s say there are Catholics and Protestants. People are legally free to be catholic or protestant. However, people are only allowed to worship at a catholic church.
        Let’s imagine now that someone argues that this is equality because everyone has an equal right the worship at a catholic church. It’s true that everyone has an equal right to worship at a catholic church, but they _don’t_ have an equal right to worship at the church representing their own faith – and _that_ is the equality that is desired, not the sure-it’s-equal-but-noone-cares equal right has to worship at the catholic church.

        Seriously, I can’t stress enough how stupid the ‘equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex’ argument is. There are plenty of other possible analogies – everyone having the right to punch anyone called John in the face, and John has the same right because he too can punch someone called John in the face – etc.

        Moving to the next part: the encourage formation and preservation of nuclear family idea is totally bunk these days. People can and do have children and families in lifelong relationships without being married. People end marriages and break up families. People who can’t have children get married. Some couples even adopt.

        The reason it’s legally recognised…
        is a fiction. There is no evidence for that position. It’s a damn side more likely that it is legally recognised as part of long-standing property arrangements that changed over time into something a little more equal.

        With or without this plebiscite, a goodly proportion of the population already consider same sex marriage as equal in value to traditional marriage, and in a generation virtually everyone will shake their heads looking at the arse-backwards attitudes that ever led to such a question being asked. Meanwhile, a large number of us are already shaking our heads at it.

        • Your analogy is fundamentally flawed. A better example would be protestants dont want to be catholic but want to be as popular and socially validated like catholics are, so they complain about being abused and excluded by catholics and demand to be allowed to worship, preach and practice their protestant views inside the catholic church instead of creating their own place of worship.

          Then, as if thats not enough. It becomes necessary that the protestants be called catholics, demanding the relevant catholic authorities must remove all recognition of any differences between catholicism and protestantism. They have to be considered identical because Its not fair to have two different things with separate names after all. We have to pretend theyre the same because hurt feelings etc.

      • It doesnt matter what other people think, What two consenting adults do is none of their buisness, And its none of your god damn buisness. FYI, Gay couples can already adopt children. Gay marriage will not change that. You act like homosexuals not being able to marry will suddenly make them straight, It wont.

        So your whole argument about the “Nuclear Family” is moot. This is an issue of religious conservatives like yourself trying your best to Abuse homosexuals in any way you can since you cant lock them up and beat them anymore.

        People like you would have been against the Removal of slavery in the USA, Claiming that its the natural order and a part of American heritage to treat blacks like shit.

        History does not favour people like you.

        • How typical, you make assumptions about me and who I am based on my opinion.

          It’s a hame you couldn’t keep this civil and on-topic.

          Actually FYI I’m not religious whatsoever. I find it abhorrent that you also assume I would wish to abuse or beat anyone because i simply wish for marriage to remain in it’s traditional form.

          Seriously, that’s a big giant fucking offensive accusation. I have made zero derogatory statements towards gay people and passed no judgement on their way of life. You should actually be ashamed for being so quick to brush anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint as a gaybasher, abuser, slavery supporter etc. Just wow. shame.

          I’m not suggesting any person should change their way of life from gay to straight, and I agree that what two consenting adults do is none of anyone elses businesses.

          This is about changing marriage, And i disagree with that idea. simple as that.

          you’re really struggling now if you have to equate “calling our union a civil union instead of a traditional marriage” the same as “keeping us as property and beating/abusing us”

          • Let the state this simply to you.

            Two homosexuals getting married Does not effect you, And is none of your god damn business.

            Go back to the 1950;s where you belong.

            Its not an accusation, Its the truth. You dont own marriage.

          • True, i don’t own marriage, which is why i’m not trying to change marriage. The LGBTQ community don’t own marriage either and they ARE trying to change it.

            The Australian people should decide. Marriage belongs to them.

            Which is why i am in favour of the plebiscite, and will graciously accept any outcome Australia chooses.

            Ps. When you’re all done with trying to rewrite other people’s traditions without consulting them first, you can go back to whatever rainbow you fell from.

          • As society evolves and gets more sophisticated, traditions change.

            It used to be tradition for black people to sit at the back of a bus, or work as slaves, do you wish we were still in those days?

    • Everyone has the right to get married.

      You want the right to do something other than marriage.

      Nobody is stopping you doing what you want. but sorry, you can’t call it something which it isn’t.

      • Actually, what those of us who live in the present age want is for the legal definition of marriage to be modified to include same sex couples. Marriage will then, by definition, be possible for same sex couples.

        You, on the other hand, want to cling to the current legal definition of marriage (as set by John Howard in 2004) as if it were the one true definition. And you can cling to it, but you’ll be clinging to the past.

        • Yes, exactly. you want to change marriage to something which it isn’t.

          Instead of calling the thing which isn’t marriage something else. A new thing that doesnt already have a long standing definition based on tradition held sacred by countless generations to date like marriage does.

          I’m glad we agree that this is reinventing marriage. Even if we disagree about whether it’s necessary.

          • There is no reinvention needed, marriage is simply a legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them.

            In the advanced countries of the world where ssm is allowed, married is married. The gay people there are married.

  • It is classic divide and conquer. By dominating the national conversation with discussion about this issue, the self serving and corrupt actions of our elected representatives will go unnoticed.

    We never had a plebiscite when Howard amended the Marriage Act a decade ago, so I don’t see why we need one to change it back.

  • What is it? An attempt by the conservative right to delay something that should have been passed long ago.

    Much like the people who stood against slavery being abolished, Or giving women the right to vote.

  • 1857 – Divorce legalised – No plebiscite
    1975 – No-fault divorce legalised – No plebiscite
    2004 – Definition of marriage changed by Howard Government – No plebiscite
    2016 – Definition of marriage changed to include LGBTI people – God no! We must plebiscite the shit outta that!
    Oh, and here’s $7.5million to abuse LGBTI people.
    Idiots. Pathetic hypocritical idiots.

  • Please correct me if I’m wrong but from memory, a plebiscite is the worst way to go about it, voters haven’t voted yes to one since the first world war . There are more than enough pollies of all flavours to simply have a conscience vote. Sure the Libs will no doubt vote no, but they are outnumbered in this parliament, which is probably why they want a plebiscite.

    • Turnbull thought he’d have an election and win more power. So they expected to be bringing this policy forward in a different situation.

    • If the people typically vote no on something, it’s probably a good thing a plebiscite was issued.

      In all the cases where the people voted NO on plebiscites, Would you have preferred if the government had passed their legislation despite majority public opposition?

      Politicians notoriously avoid majorities and pander to vocal minorities. This is why the plebiscite is necessary.

      Let the people have their say, That way it puts the issue to rest. Either Australia wants same sex marriage or it doesn’t.

      • If the people typically vote no on something, it’s probably a good thing a plebiscite was issued.

        That’s absolute, unmitigated nonsense. Have you never heard of ‘tyranny of the majority’? Sometimes the role of government is to limit the majoritarian view because it is clearly unethical.

        • Given that the same-sex marriage issue is entirely about using law to amend a social institution for the purposes of uplifting (or perhaps reinforcing) the public esteem of same-sex couples. Given thar law is not intended to artificially influence culture Its obviously more fair to let the people’s social conscience choose whether to change it or not.

          Make no mistake, this is all about public validation of the LGBTQ identity.
          It’s no longer enough to simply accept their way of life as an alternative but now apparently we must adopt it within our existing cultural and social institutions and conventions too without having a say in the matter.

          We already have equality, this is just pure cultural appropriation.

          • Marriage is simply a legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them.

            The government could remove their archaic law that reduces the definition of marriage to discriminate, the same way that they removed the law that made Uber illegal.

      • Are you seriously saying that we should have a plebiscite, knowing full well the answer will be no? Sure, it seems like the majority are saying yes, but you are forgetting the silent majority. It would be far easier and far less costly for the pollies to just have a conscience vote. Let’s just keep the thirty million in the bank.

        • The person above was saying something to the effect of “no plebiscite coz the people might vote no”

          As if it’s somehow better to go against the people without consulting them.

          If i knew “full well” the answer would be “no” i wouldnt think a plebiscite to be necessary, as it stands i think it could go either way. I would appreciate having a say in the matter.

          Are you suggesting its better to railroad ssm through without a plebiscite knowing full well the answer would have been no?

  • I’m fine with the plebiscite, would rather them have the balls to bring it in themselves but if they need us to hold their hands with a vote fine.

    What I’m not fine with is $7.5M of tax payers money going to the “against” camp so they can advertise fear and hatred on TV.

    Just have a vote on it, TV campaigns do not give facts, have we learnt nothing from the Brexit disaster?

    • Sounds to me like you’re only willing to tolerate one side of the ssm discussion and would ignore the results of the plebiscite in the event of a “no” vote.

      You seem to think any “I think we should leave traditional marriage as it has always been” argument is automatically a position of attacking gay people and having ill will towards them.

      Im all for gay couples having inheritance rights, tax benefits, recognition of shared assets, dependants and any other civil or legal benefits that are part of any de facto relationship.

      marriage is marriage.
      De facto is de facto.

      The difference being that marriage is largely culturally celebrated while de facto is not.

      The same sex marriage debate is literally about passing law to appropriate the social esteem, cultural acceptance and celebrity which marriage has earned, but same sex couples arguably have not.

      • I am fine with a discussion, what I am not fine with is bigotry and hatred.

        Traditional marriage, as in, going to a place of worship to get married, could be left alone. This country gives an incredible amount of religious freedom so if the religions do not wish to allow it then that should be their choice.

        However a civil service (i.e. registry office) should be available to everyone. Marriage is not a ‘cultural thing’, it is a legal contract between two people. De facto is different to marriage. A de facto couple do not have the same inheritance rights etc as a married couple.

        Your last paragraph tells us you’re not married. Marriage is not about cultural acceptance or social esteem, it is about making a commitment to the person you love to spend the rest of your life with them.

  • It is purely a delaying tactic.

    We can have the plebiscite in about six months.
    Then they’ll need to analyse the results. Another 3 months.
    Then have an enquiry/consultation. 12 months.
    Then have a draft law circulated and debated. 6 months.
    Then it will be too close to the next election to enact the changes….but “we promise to move on this as soon as the election is over”. (Sound familiar?)

    The Libs are just hoping that at the next election, they’ll be able to control the senate…or won’t be in power.

  • Will start off by saying I am pro SSM.
    I am also pro Plebiscite.

    However, if you had asked me a few years ago, I’d have been anti SSM.
    While I was always against SSM, I never offended anyone, had many LGB friends, and kept my personal opinions to myself. My feelings were largely based on my religious beliefs. Like I said, I am now pro SSM.

    Times change, society changes. Conversation about complex things like this can only help.
    There is a very significant size of the population that is either undecided or in the “no” camp.
    There’s also a very significant amount of these people who don’t seek to offend anyone deliberately, but are still against SSM.

    Why can’t we at least have a conversation about it?

    If the NO campaigners see that Australia actually votes with a resounding YES, then you can’t really argue with that. It takes the politics out of it, and puts it back on the people.

    The reality is, Malcolm Turnbull is pro-SSM. Bill Shorten is pro-SSM.
    However, there are factions within both parties that are against it.
    The Church is a pretty strong lobby group too.
    The plebiscite will take things out of their hands. Will it take longer than going the John Howard way in the House of Reps? Yes. But is it more likely to be successful, resulting in more politicians keeping their jobs? Yes.

    Will any politician be willing to risk their political career going against the wishes of their own electorate?

    In terms of the scare campain of offensive political advertising, there will be a board setup to approve each political ad. Turnbull has invited 2 members of the Labour party to sit on that board. For each side to access that money, it needs to be approved by the board.

    Sounds pretty fair to me.

    Unless you get offended just because someone has a different opinion to you.

    • We are having a conversation about it, we have been for years, we don’t need to fund extremist lobby groups like the ACL with millions of tax payer dollars. Quite contrary to your idea of how this will work, the plebiscite will amplify the influence of these lobby groups.

      I’m all for open, rational, civilised debate. So often I get accused of wanting to censor the debate, but I am pro debate, most Australians are. In fact we are so much for civil, rational, inclusive debate that we have even set up a big forum for it, hundreds of well paid professionals attend and year round it is their job to debate important issues. They have the time to consult with the community, as well as research the facts and statistics and related to the area of debate (something your average person wouldn’t have time for). They then follow open, official procedures to debate these issues in a robust, civilised and rational way. Best of all these professionals are elected by the people. The forum is called PARLIAMENT, and the plebiscite is flying in the face of Australia’s long, successful tradition of solving the country’s issues with rational, civilised debate!

      Tell me the brexit vote was robust, rational and civilised.

      • You have to be joking?

        It’s literally gotten to the point where a person who disagrees with changing marriage to include same sex couples is immediately assumed to be an evil bigot hate-monger redneck uneducated blah blah blah.

        There hasn’t been any actual conversation for a long time, it’s been stifled by political correctness and a general victim/villain narrative.

        • Thats because people like yourself have no legitimate reason to be against Gay Marriage, Just ignorance and intolerance.

          • You’ll have to speak up, i can’t hear you over the violins.

            Marriage is already a thing, if you wanted to rename bacon to include salami do i need a reason to be against that too?

            Nope, most intelligent people would come up with separate names for separate things.

            Of course, the issue here is thst gay marriage isn’t really about gay marriage, but instead about public validation and social esteem.

            I have no problem with gays doing whatever, but marriage is marriage. There’s no reason to change it just to make a few people feel good because they’re different and want to feel more like everyone else.

            Seriously, if you think anyone who wants to keep marriage intact in it’s current form is a hateful intolerant gay-basher then you’re either morbidly unintelligent or being antagonistically dismissive or condescending towards all viewpoints other than your own.

            Btw, how would you feel about changing marriage to include polygamy or incest? What about “just-friends marriage”? These could all be the next changes if the people wanted them. What makes same-sex marriage any different?

          • Apparently in America polygamy might have as much as 16% support!

            Your argument of separate names for separate things is flawed. It’s based on your belief that everywhere on the planet the word marriage means a social wedding between man and woman, and is an unbreakable pillar of society that has stood for all time.

            It’s not. Marriage has changed much since its conception. There have been times when it used to be a way for a man to take ownership of a woman. There were times where in certain countries it HAD to be done in a Catholic church.

            Marriage is constantly changing, in the countries where ssm is legal, a married couple does not mean man and woman. In countries where polygamy is legal, it does not mean one man and one woman. If ssm becomes legal here, legally gay couples can be married couples in the same way that straight couples are.

    • I oppose same-sex marriage, but I support the plebiscite. and I am actually stunned at how quickly many (most?) people of the pro ssm camp immediately respond to any opposition with a villain/victim narrative.

      Some people aren’t religious zealots or homophobes. but still want to keep traditional marriage intact.

      These people SHOULD be regarded as having a valid position.
      Instead we are treated like rabid homophobes who foam at the mouth and can’t wait to get out our baseball bats and “hunt us some o’ dem same-sex couples for some tenderizing, hyuk hyuk”

      This is evasive and counter-productive.

      It seems the community which is trying to push SSM is also trying to make sure we can’t have an open discussion about it, anybody in opposition is invalidated by being compared to slavers, gaybashers, bible thumpers, nazis etc.

      Nobody is saying you can’t be gay or live any way you choose.

      But marriage is already a thing, if you don’t like it the way it is. it’s fair to suggest the answer to your issue is to create your own thing instead of changing someone elses.

      • You seem to believe that the word “marriage” means the same thing to all people – A union of man and woman. It’s really not.

        Gay people are married in basically every other English speaking country on the planet.

        Australia is not trailblazing some controversial new law, we are simply trying to catch up with what the rest of the English speaking world regards as normal.

        You are on the wrong side of history, just like people who believed the world was flat and that black people should be kept as slaves.

  • So here is what the plebiscite boils down to:

    15 million tax payer dollars being used to force ads on prime time television and radio – free from the usual test for truthfulness that normal ads undergo – that judge, criticise and belittle the loving relationships of a certain group of people, peaking in intensity 3 days before valentines day.

    It will be, at best, even to gays who aren’t fussed about marriage, horrendously patronising and alienating to the gay community.

    No matter how little you care about this issue, I guarantee when you start seeing these ads rolling across your TV and on the radio, you will feel embarrassed for this country.

    And this is letalone the fact that it is an unnecessary, near unconstitutional, waste of close to 200 million dollars. (think what could be done with that money).
    At very least we should be outraged that our politicians are shirting their responsibility to do the job we pay them to do, and in the process are wasting even more of our money.

  • thank you guys. Child of lesbians and this is the first place I have been where my mums were not abused and ridiculed by people who never knew them or cared to them as human beings. As you can imagine, 34 years of having your mums called the most foulest, filth on earth, weighs heavily every day. I am glad that my lifehacker ilk are not in the same vein as many other local media platforms. We are normal families but the world gets to speak to us like we are animals in a zoo and decide which parts of the laws we are allowed to have applied to our lives. Appreciate the support and respect I find here.

  • While the term “nuclear family” may be relatively new term, it definitely predeates the 1950s by a loooong shot and has nothing to do with “the nuclear age”. (which arguably has never actually happened)

    Like most of our language, It stems from latin, a nucleus is typically the innermost integral part of something, a core etc.
    as a social concept, when coining the term it was almost certainly intended to suggest that “this type of family is the fundamental basis of society”

    Regardless of the term itself, the concept of an independant family unit which consist of a mother and father who unite to procreate and stay united to raise their offspring under one residence has been practiced and found to be paramount to the formation and survival of virtually all progressive organised societal structure for several thousand years.

    Even the most primitive tribes have generally partnered up in exclusive heterosexual relationships and united to raise their offspring through to adulthood.

    I consider myself tolerant of same sex couples, but the truth is if we didn’t have the nuclear family we woudln’t have society at all.

    So yes, I think the distinction between these two partnerships should remain intact.

    I encourage all same sex couples to form any partnership they like or create any tradition which pleases them! But sorry, they can’t call it marriage because that’s already a thing.

    • You dont own marriage, You dont get to decide who does and doesnt get married. Gay marriage will not stop Straight people procreating. Gay marriage will just allow two people who love each other to get married.

      Gay people can already have children.

      All your points are false

      Do the world a favor, Shut up.

      • “Gay people” as you put it are the ones acting as if they own marriage by trying to change it for their own ideals.

        It’s honestly little more than a political circus act, one thing i agree on is that if ssm passes the social validation (or lack thereof) given to the LGBTQ community will not suddenly spike.

        If you are currently seen as different by a significant portion of the population, a railroaded “same sex marriage” bill will not magically change that. In fact, people who oppose ssm will only be reassured that they are the majority.

        A plebiscite on the other hand will let everyone know where their opinion stands in the big picture, which is ideal since this is a highly contentious matter of social validation.

        P.S. Yes, gay people can acquire other people’s children, but they cannot “have kids” in the biological sense.

    • It does indeed predate 1950… by one year.
      Nuclear family, originally a sociologists’ term, is first attested 1949 in “Social Structure,” by American anthropologist G.P. Murdock (1897-1985)
      From Online Etymology Dictionary
      Good job.

      Also, your ‘x several thousand years’ is nonsense: various social groups practiced a variety of structures including wife swapping, polygamy, and more.

      The fact that you consider yourself tolerant of same sex couples speaks volumes.

      • A quick check reveals a 1925 reference in oxfords dictionary. How much time would you like to waste arguing this triviality?

        Various societies have practiced many things. some prove beneficial, some do not. How many advanced societies do you know of which have typically promoted homosexuality, wife-swapping, polygamy etc as an ideal within the last thousand years or so?

    • @Realist I’m not sure if you’ll read my posts but after my reply to one of your comments it really got me thinking. I admit I disagree with your position on same sex marriage BUT I respect and will defend your right to your opinion and hope you respect mine. At the end of the day though, this is not an argument about whether gay folk are equal enough to share in the tradition of marriage, it’s ACTUALLY about liberal democracy as we know it. Bear with me here if you would be so kind: I CANNOT stand Andrew Bolt, I think he’s an arsehole who shouldn’t be allowed to spew his shit over the airways, I find him offensive to all the sensibilities I hold dear. But imagine I had the power to shut him up, deny his personal freedoms, get him thrown in jail for expressing opinions I find abhorrent and offensive. Then a club of us forms and we lock up others we disagree with, but a new group takes over and takes our powers. They don’t like what we stand for, maybe they don’t like jews, gypsies, gays and left wing academics too. But the public have started to get used to these changes, culturally changing new powers to “get the right things done” and become complicit in spreading these beliefs beyond our borders. I hope you’re getting the picture, a little heavy handed I know. So I decide to swallow my righteousness and force myself to truly believe that no matter how much I disagree with Andrew Bolt he is my equal and I will defend his right to enjoy the same freedoms and responsibilities I do because for me the liberal democracy I live in is far more important than my personal perspective. Nowadays I just don’t watch Andrew Bolt, no one’s making me. Like I said, this same sex marriage debate is really about liberal democracy for us everyday folk. No fundamental ethics or moralities are being transgressed. It’s consensual between private adults and no one is being persecuted or murdered and no Priests or Imams will be forced to marry anyone. You won’t be forced to attend every gay wedding for the rest of your life as a reminder. It comes down to whether we believe we have a right to decide for minorities their worth or do we believe everyone deserves the same rights and responsibilities we have no matter the difference of opinion so we can avoid tyranny for as long as possible and that our elected decision makers should pull their collective craniums out of their power hungry backsides and stop playing for power for a minute and remember what a liberal democracy is.

  • Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

    The question assumes marriage is soley a legal provision. I think we’re saying it is both legal and moral.

    Morally, marriage relates to love, trust, care, support, and is wholey individual. This definition of marriage is not affected by law, and already happens in hearts. And, morally, all people should have the same right.

    The legal provisions to support marriage relate to custody, income, support, etc; and are as such peripheral to the above definition of marriage. But, they exist. And so every marriage (individual, between two people regardless of sex), – as honest, loving, tender, and trustworthy, – should be legally supported as such.

    So the above odd question should be changed to should the law be changed to recognise same-sex married couples have the same legal status as different-sex couples.

    Marriage helps us grow. I don’t see how that relates to what sex you or your partner is.

  • @realist I like that you’re giving the ‘marriage is for a man and woman only’ argument your best go, especially throwing in the comparison to a bah mitzvah. There are some logical flaws to the above arguments though, at least in my humble analysis. I personally hold no moral stand point in the discussion but based purely on my own workings of the logical argument, and I’m happy to be proven incorrect (but I do mean proven. Any assertion of opinion as fact and not backed by reasoned argument will not count) I have come up with the following:

    1) as far as I’m aware bah mitzvahs aren’t written into Australian legislation beyond the inference presented by our rights to religious freedom. You can do what you like with the ceremony as long as you’re prepared for disappointment when the Jewish council point out you didn’t follow the instructions properly, and that your efforts aren’t considered to be vilifying of Jews.

    2) marriage on the other hand is written into our legislation, which means the legal institution of marriage has become a separate function from the religious process people associate with it due to the separation of church and state. Please keep in mind that any religions that practice moral absolutism(ie, everyone who doesn’t believe is going to hell), Catholicism for example, wouldn’t recognise the validity of non-Abrahamic religious marriages due to the lack of monotheistic belief in the Jewish god Jehovah, which would rule out Catholic recognition of, say, a Nordic gods or Wicken based marriage.

    3) homosexual relationships (due to social change, accepted benefits to the health of society, and a recognition of basic human rights) have been legislated as legal and no longer incur a criminal penalty and thus qualify for all the freedoms and responsibilities that full citizenship affords.

    4) there is no legislation binding citizens to provide the state with offspring.

    *And as a side note, humans are one of three mammals along with killer whales and pilot whales that go through menopause and live well past breeding age which is suggestive amongst biological theorists that the addition of help in numbers plus the passing of knowledge is a vitally important contribution to survival. Thus it could be inferred that as long as a certain threshold of breeding pairs are maintained non breeding individuals provide important survival benefits.

    5) up to 2004 there was no definition of marriage in the 1961 Act which relied on common law as its guide. In 2004 John Howard changed the legislation to ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’ (rather disingenuously, I propose) without a referendum and leaving a certain personalised 1950’s bigoted stamp on the Act. Also we must consider given the original reliance on common law that we can assume the spirit of the common meaning would have changed through time with society. Not to mention the incredibly common breach of the ‘voluntarily entered into for life’ 2004 amendment these days that it would be more than fair to conclude the applicability of the Act has become outdated within the context of our social change and is already in need of revision.

    So in conclusion, I can find no logical or moral arguments against Gay marriage as a binding arrangement in the eyes of the state, as I cannot find any arguments against Catholic marriage, Buddhist marriage, Hindu marriage, Muslim marriage, Italo-Roman neopagan marriage, Aztec marriage, etc, etc. Thankfully we don’t live in a Theocracy akin to Iran, for example, where a marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is not recognised, and if you’re Bahai’i you’re stuffed no matter what. Anyone who advocates universal standards for all Australians from a particular religious moral perspective is essentially advocating a Theocratic Dictatorship. If you love Australia and enjoy our freedoms and rights that are maintained by a secular government and legislature but object on religious and/or moral grounds to Gay marriage, of which international research strongly suggests does not have a detrimental effect on society or families, then my advice would be to reflect that rights and freedoms given come with social responsibilities and to consider what it would be like for a diverse peoples to live under a Theocratic or Fascist Dictatorship. Sometimes there are things in society that cause no harm and even add to our rich tapestry but we may not like and all we can do is suck it up princess and pass the butter.

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