Should Employers Tell You How To Vote In The Same-Sex Marriage Survey?

Should Employers Tell You How To Vote In The Same-Sex Marriage Survey?
Image: Simon Thomsen.

Earlier this week, a teenager working in Canberra was fired from her job for posting that she will vote No in the same sex marriage survey. And I’ve had a number of people tell me, on condition of anonymity and through their social media accounts, that their employers are pushing a strong view on how staff should vote.

Putting aside the obvious emotion regarding the same sex marriage postal vote, should employers be allowed to coerce you to vote in a particular way or fire you for your views?

The case in Adelaide highlights one of the challenges of this sort of vote. Typically, in formal elevations our ballots are carried out in private. We visit a polling place, walk past a bunch of people handing put “How to Vote” cards and cast our ballot.

But this survey has almost every person acting as an advocate for one side or the other.

So what do you think? Is it right for employers to coerce employees to vote in a particular way? Should employers be allowed to fire people over their views? Where does it stop? Will Labor voters be allowed to fire conservatively-leaning staff if they make their views known?

What do you think?


  • I dunno, I mean if it’s the difference between voting for equal rights or actively discriminating against people based on their choice of partner I don’t really think there’s an issue with a company/employer/whatever saying “hey don’t be a dick”

    • It is absolutely appalling that any employer or organisation should think it is their right to dictate a position what should be a conscience vote.

      Qantas together with their CEO is the biggest offender of this principle.

      • While they shouldn’t necessarily “dictate” a position, there’s nothing wrong with the company making their official stance known – and if employees wish to say their personal position is to discriminate against others based on their own beliefs… they shouldn’t be shocked if there are repercussions.

        “what should be a conscience vote”, shouldn’t be a vote at all… none of us should have a say on whether a group of people causing no measured to harm to others should be denied equal rights.

  • Quick answer: NO
    Longer answer: Also, No. But if you feel that your views and those of your employer may not coincide, then there’s the question of whether you want to get offside with someone who has ultimate control over your financial and employment future.

    In an election (and this is NOT an election, referendum or plebiscite; it’s a survey with zero weight to get pollies to legally do anything but waste $122 million) your vote is between you and the ballot box.

        • That slogan was created by a Hardline right wing conservative think tank with strong links to religious organisations. It’s opposition to marriage equality is only based on homophobia. They see homosexual relationship s as being lesser to hetrosexual relationshios. Therefore that slogan is hate and homophobic. No voters have no legitimate reason to be against SSM. Just imaginary ones from their loony religions or deep seeded hatred of homosexuals. Arguments like “boys will be forced to wear dresses” shows the credibility of the no side. The no side are on the wrong side of history, much like those who protested against giving women the right to vote or ending discrimination against blacks.

          • I don’t give a damn about the slogan, as a statement it stands clearly reasonable. In fact, judging by the ridiculous comment “have no legitimate reason to vote no”, I’d say it is fair to encourage people to say “It’s okay to vote NO”.

            There are many reasons people are voting NO, I have two gay friends (well, one and his boyfriend) who are voting NO. Hint- it’s not because he is religious. Your point about the homophobes is a strawman in this case. There are homophobes, loony religious right people as well as a fair share of vote YES idiots who wouldn’t know a rational argument if it punched them in the nose (you may want to look that one up).

            I’m voted down because I supported someone’s right to have an opinion in this discussion, not because I supported some imagined version of their reasons for voting that way (by presuming you know why a person would make a decision or attacking their reason based upon this presumption you are very much on the side of poor thinking processes). and I’m a YES voter. The vitriolic, idiotic, knee-jerk response of denying those who disagree the right to disagree is pitiful and simplistic.

            I’ll give you kudos, at least you backed it up with an explanation of the reaction, it just wasn’t a well thought out one.

            Enjoy your vote.

          • Its definitely a passionate question, that much is pretty clear. And that goes for both sides of the debate.

            If the question was “Should women be allowed to vote” and you voted No, that would be seen as sexist. If the question was “Should inter-racial relationships be legal” and you voted no, that would be seen as racist.

            That’s the basis behind the homophobic accusations. Rightly or wrongly a No vote implies you have a strong issue with the group behind the question, and are -phobic as a result. But is that resulting in some people being heterophobic?

            Personally, vote how you want. Every person has their own justification, built up over a lifetime of experience. But for a business, your actions do reflect on the business, particularly where you deal with the public a lot. So where do the business owners rights end, when they are protecting their brand?

            I don’t know where I stand on the issue myself. I can see why a business would want to protect themselves, but also see that this is a big freedom of speech issue.

          • Grunt, some good points.The most egregious part of all of this is we shouldn’t be “voting” in the first place. If the government had simply done its job this would have been (and should have been) a vote in house (keep in mind that the last time this WAS voted upon in parliament, many of those making noises now were actually the ones who voted down the proposal. Politics is a dodgy business on all sides at times).

            The “plebiscite” nonsense is simply a delaying and distraction option put up by true bigots. As a society I find it disgusting some believe we should have personal votes on other’s personal relationships. This is where it is similar in circumstance to your “women’s right to vote” analogy.

            Where it differs (significantly) is that this is a societal change issue (similar to “no-fault divorce), not one of rights (women absolutely should always have had a right to universal suffrage, there is no right- despite what is being put forward- for same sex couples to marry). Once (hopefully) a law is passed allowing same-sex marriage, THEN it will be a right. So, at this point, that part of your analogy falls down.

            Thank you for the considered response.

          • All good, I try to be balanced. I can get it wrong, but I like to think that most of my posts are generally a considered response 🙂

            The voting point, yeah, fair enough. People are seeing this as a vote though. As for the whole plebiscite nonsense that much we agree on. When they changed the Marriage Act to read ‘man and woman, to the exclusion of all others’ there was no public scrutiny, it just got done.

            The Government can just change it if they want, its only legislation. Its no a Constitutional question that needs a referendum, or anything like that, its something the Government can change. And has. But they seem to be doing what you say – delaying, and using the general population as the scapegoats.

            From a politicians perspective, they’re afraid that if they simply change the laws to allow for it, there would be a massive backlash to their party at the next election. And no party wants to risk that. Theres also internal issues within the party, with very split opinions. All the leaders want to stay as leaders, so have to mitigate those issues as well.

            One thing I will disagree on though is the societal change issue. Not the womens suffrage thing, but the inter-racial relationships thing. THAT was a societal issue, with similar debates to SSM. The no campaign for that had very similar discriminatory overtones to the current one.

            Maybe not the same passions, but the whole “they can do most stuff already, why do they need to make it official” aspect was eerily similar. So if that was the question, choosing No would have the same implications as a No choice now has for some people.

          • Personally I feel if the person conducts themselves in a professional and acceptable manner inside the workplace and whilst dressed in the uniform of that workplace, then things said on social media that have no bearing to work (i.e. aren’t said to people from work, aren’t about their work, etc) should not be a reasonable excuse for dismissal. People have a right to a life outside of work, and should not be forced to censor themselves 24/7 out of fear their employer might not like what they say.

          • Changing the definition of marriage is changing a traditional aspect of western society that dates back over a thousand years, a traditional aspect that originally stemmed from a religious ceremony celebrating commitment between a man and a woman towards each other and the forming of a family unit into which children will someday be born. Some people find changing that hard to accept. In the no camp, for some of the more rational people it is not about hatred towards gays or diminishing their relationship, but the change to that fundamental concept.

            I personally believe we should allow civil union between gay people but introduce a new term for the union, so as to grant them all the same rights as married couples but recognising the fundamental difference in the relationship unit they have formed: no offspring of the union will be biologically possible. In the absence of that option on the ballot though, I voted in favour of the change. Some people aren’t as flexible in their beliefs.

            Please note this is not defending some of the more ridiculous claims, such as the boys forced to wear dresses, or that the bible is against it (it actually contains arguments in both directions, using one over the other is selective ignorance), or such things. But for some people there really is a legitimate argument against the abandoning of the traditional definition of marriage, and ignoring that or dismissing their beliefs in that regard makes you as ignorant as those with the ridiculous arguments. Acceptance and respect is a two-way street.

            And fyi this is coming from a person with several gay friends, a gay uncle, several gay cousins (all of whom I love dearly), and who voted yes in the ballot, so please don’t attempt to use that “you’re homophobic” argument against me. 🙂

          • Thanios, my first reaction (many years ago) was the same: why use the term marriage, a different word indicating a similar relationship (as we use de facto) would suffice. But, then, why a different word? What sort of bias is this? It reminds me of the furore (many years ago) when the word “gay” was “stolen”. Really, what other word do people want them to use?

            Religions lost the argument about the word marriage having a social and sacred meaning when they lost the argument over secular marriage. Even some churches now marry those who do not believe in their version of a god. That “dates back over thousands of years and is traditional” argument no longer holds water. As for the “forming of a family unit into which children will someday be born”, well, another old, long-lost argument. It is correct that this used to be the case, but even religions (where they upheld this) abandoned the idea. Don’t forget “barrenness” was a valid reason to annul a marriage pre-Victorian times. Now, neither the religious nor the secular would not condone such a monstrosity of an idea. Strike two off your reasonable arguments.

            I do agree that with some minor changes to the law we can ensure same-sex (as well as de facto hetrosexual) relationships are not unreasonably affected in comparison with married couples, so yes, that does answer the question of legal status, same-sex marriage is not supported by this argument. The point is, that is no longer the argument. It is the equality in standing and perspective that the YES crowd are asking for (at least, those who can think for themselves) and in light of the other arguments against (a traditional religious state, an entity designed towards procreation) being poorly supported I don’t believe any of your stated reasons has a logical basis.

            As for the last point- procreation- be careful, we are not that far away from two women or two men being able to be the biological “parents” of a child. Because … science.

            Enjoy your vote.

          • Regarding the changing status of the terms: well it depends on whether you are going for equality or simply trying to make a point to people who are against same-sex marriage. Equality doesn’t necessarily demand changing the meaning of the word marriage to include same-sex relationships. Equality means equal rights in the eyes of the law and society. You can do that without having to change the definition of marriage whilst still granting the rights and responsibilities of marriage, thus granting equal rights to same-sex relationships whilst avoiding conflict with the more religious and traditional communities.

          • You are, of course, correct in that we do not have to change the definition of marriage in order to have legal equality (see my point above. I absolutely disagree there is no “right” to SSM). However, you are evading my point about this not being the argument. It is a furphy to suggest this can be overcome by simply adding a different word and/or new laws. The change in our society has meant the majority now accept same sex couple as a reasonable and acceptable part of our society (how very bloody generous of us!).

            From here the discussion is more about how we view these relationships in terms of others in our society. Now that marriage does not mean a covenant with god (70% of all marriages in Australia are now performed by civil celebrants) we have no reason to exclude a socially and legally acceptable couple from this, given that there is a social and personally psychological advantage to the relationship of marriage (if there were not it would not be protected so vehemently). Marriage is not, now, a religious experience or foundation. It has changed before, it can change again (Howard did himself and his supporters a disservice when he changed the wording- in a vile and self serving manner in my opinion – the last time. It showed that the convention of marriage can be manipulated).

            We do not NEED to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples… but morally, ethically and legally- we should.

          • I should have also pointed out, your comment that it may be “trying to make a point to people who are against SSM” in self centred and completely misguided. The acceptance of SSM will have no bearing upon you or your (or others’) marriage, other than that you ascribe yourself. Not my problem, get some counselling.

      • It’s ok to call out bigots.

        If someone was being insulting and disparaging towards gay people at work, I would expect them to be fired. This is no different. The no crowd believe the love, and commitment, of gay people is less worthy than their own.

        • It is okay to call out bigots, whether they are YES or NO voters. You do know what a bigot is, right? Someone who is intolerant (usually unreasonably so) to those with differing opinions. By that definition half the people commenting here are bigots. though in reality I would suggest most are not, just ill-informed.

          I agree if someone is being insulting or offensive to anyone in the workplace it is grounds for disciplinary action, possibly dismissal. Where your point falls down is equating being of the NO opinion equates to this. There are many reasons people are choosing to vote NO, including quite a number of Gay people. Are they homophobic? Your assertion rests upon your belief there is no legitimate reason to vote no, an indication more of your lack of insight than a reality of many (though obviously not all, not even a majority) NO voters.

          I’m voting YES, but not before considered reading, discussion and thought on the issue (some small differences in the current situation would sway me to a NO vote). Your suggestion that if I were to consider voting NO would make me a bigot and a homophobe is simplistic and insulting.

  • My understanding is she posted something on Facebook and her employer saw it.

    If that is the case, maybe this example is a reminder of the importance of putting some distance between your professional and private life. I imagine lots of people get fired or alienated at work because their colleagues or superiors see something they post on social media. Maybe you want to legalise pot. Maybe you support gun rights. Maybe you want to bring back capital punishment.

    I don’t think anyone should be hired or fired for their political beliefs but be realistic, if you have controversial views it is going to affect how others with opposing views think of you.

    Political and religious arguments are for the pub or the dinner parties, not your place of employment.

    • The business owner’s comments were idiotic. She said (initially) she “fired the woman for “hate speech”. This is a totally illogical and biased view of the comment of “it’s okay to vote no”. This sort of thinking is engendered by the ridiculous voices believeng their view is the only view (go to the comments section of relevant articles in the Australian, you’ll see exactly the same type of limited thinking from the NO vote side). The business owner said today she was actually thinking the woamn would “not be able to work with kids of gay parents” Yeah right!

  • As someone who is solidly in the pro-equality camp, I’m SERIOUSLY concerned about this report – it legitimises the (overall) bullshit claims of the right who say that this is some kind of referendum on political correctness.

    As progressive people, we can’t, on the one hand, be against discrimination, and then on the other hand, not condemn it – just because it happens to be in line with our views.

  • For me it’s a complex enough issue (marriage’s ties to religion and religion’s influence on the state) without my employer making any noise about it one way or the other.
    Add in the coverage given to the AFL’s (tacky and baffling) backing of a “yes” vote and now we’ve to voice an opinion on something that seemingly affects religion, state, employment and sport. And the politicians don’t have to do anything with the result. And >$100million of tax payer’s money goes up in smoke.

  • While your on company time (including lunch time) or wearing the uniform etc… act like a respectful member of your company and society and keep strong opinions to yourself. You have to respect your employer, your company, the people you work with and the Equal Opportunity practices.

    How would you react if someone preached a sermon on their beliefs while your making a purchase at retail store.

    So if your standing at the customer counter telling people to Vote No… and your boss doesn’t like it your ass is grass, cause while its your opinion, your saying it as spokesperson of the company.

    At the same time, an employer shouldn’t be pressuring you to take a side you don’t agree with… so if your a No, and the office looks like a rainbow exploded, your not required to participate or agree with them and they can’t force you say a message you don’t agree with (and can’t fire you for doing so), but you still have to do your job.

    The issue is how diplomatic people are (and given the lack of diplomacy in government is the reason this survey exists) I have no hope left in this world.

    Should she of been fired… I don’t know, people are hot heads, we don’t know the story of how she was expressing her “No” or how it effected the business, and Fair Work Australia is going to be in a tough position cause it is he said / she said at the end of the day and both sides will be twisted by media reports thus far

  • I voted yes and don’t think there’s a legitimate reason to vote no other than homophobia. However, your employer absolutely shouldn’t be allowed to fire you simply for saying you will vote no. If you’re spouting hate speech then that’s different, although I don’t think that was the case here (even though voting no is an indicator of hateful views – but views and speech are two different things).

    • I voted yes and don’t think there’s a legitimate reason to vote no other than homophobia.

      Wrong. Voting no means to vote no to marriage equality. It has nothing to do with homophobia as others above have pointed out.

      even though voting no is an indicator of hateful views

      Wrong again, enough said.

  • So what do you think? Is it right for employers to coerce employees to vote in a particular way?

    No. The fact the question even needs to be asked shows something is seriously amiss.

    • Because the “no” side has the “hometown” advantage in regards to the law remaining as is and certainly aren’t shy about spreading unsubstantiated myths or outright lies… the most effective way to try and combat that kind of vitriol is by showing how people view their homosexual peers as equals who should be treated as such and trying to dispel the myths and lies.

  • I would think that this is discrimination by the Employer. However I do know with education institutions associated with specific religions they do have clauses in their contracts requiring employees to accept and abide by their religious beliefs.

  • So what you saying is it would be ok if your employer is encouraging staff to vote yes?

    But what if your employer is encouraging to vote no, would that also be ok?

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