Who pays for homophobia, biphobia and transphobia?

Prejudice against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community comes with a hefty price tag.

 

It is paid for by the individuals who are subject to direct and indirect acts of discrimination, being denied employment, or services, because of who they are, who they love or how they identify.

 

And by others, who self-censor, missing out on opportunities and on full participation in society, because of the legitimate fear of such discrimination.

 

It is paid for in the adverse mental health impacts experienced by the LGBT community, with depression, anxiety and other mental illness caused by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

 

And most tragically by those who end their lives as a consequence.

 

It has even been estimated that homophobia costs the global economy at least $119.1 billion in lost GDP every single year (and presumably more if the effects of biphobia and transphobia are included).

 

But, in this post, I want to take this question – who pays for homophobia, biphobia and transphobia – more literally.

 

In essence, who provides the money that funds anti-LGBT prejudice, who allows it to occur in the first place?

 

The answer (or at least one of the answers), sadly, is all of us. Let me explain.

 

You are probably aware that most religious schools in Australia currently enjoy special privileges that permit them to discriminate against LGBT students, teachers and other staff.

 

This includes religious exceptions such as section 38 of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as well as equivalent anti-discrimination laws in New South Wales and Victoria.

 

In fact, Tasmania is the only Australian jurisdiction that does not allow religious schools to discriminate against teachers and students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

 

All of the other states and territories allow at least some discrimination against LGBT students, or teachers, or in many cases both (Queensland actually comes closest to matching Tasmania’s ‘best practice’ approach: it does not permit discrimination against LGBT students, while LGBT teachers are subject to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ regime – although that still means they can be fired if they even mention having a same-sex partner in the workplace).[i]

 

And you likely also know that in Australia, religious schools receive significant government funding.

 

But you are probably not aware just how much public money – taxpayers’ money, your money – is given to these institutions.

 

According to the 2018 Budget, the Commonwealth Government will provide:

 

  • $11.829 billion to non-government schools in 2018-19
  • $12.452 billion in 2019-20
  • $13.145 billion in 2020-21, and
  • $13.821 billion in 2021-22.

 

That’s a total of $51.247 billion in taxpayers’ money going to non-government schools in just four years.

 

In fact, it’s even worse than that. In September, the Morrison Liberal-National Government announced an extra $1.1 billion for non-government schools over the next four years (and $4.5 billion over the next decade).

 

And these numbers don’t include the funding provided by state and territory governments.

 

Based on averages published by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), state and territory governments provide approximately one-third of the amount funded by the Commonwealth.

 

That means an extra $17.43 billion of public funding over the next four years alone, bringing the overall total to $69.78 billion.

 

Now, a couple of important caveats. Given religious schools in Tasmania are not permitted to discriminate against either LGBT students or teachers, let’s subtract $1.438 billion from this figure (the $1.079 billion allocated to Tasmanian non-government schools in the Commonwealth Budget, plus an extra third for additional state government funding).

 

And, with a small proportion of non-government schools being non-religious in nature and therefore generally not allowed to discriminate (except in NSW, where the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 permits all private schools, religious or otherwise, to discriminate against homosexual and transgender students and teachers), let’s be generous and subtract another 5%.

 

That still leaves $64.92 billion in Commonwealth, state and territory government funding allocated to religious schools over the next four years even though they are allowed to discriminate against LGBT teachers, students or both.[ii]

 

And who picks up the tab for this Government-sponsored homophobia, biphobia and transphobia? You do of course.

 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in June 2017 there were 19.963 million Australians aged 15 and over (and therefore potentially of taxpaying age).

 

This means that for every Australian individual taxpayer Commonwealth, state and territory governments will collectively give $3,252 over the next four years to religious schools that have the legal right to discriminate against LGBT students and/or teachers. Roughly $800 every year, per person, spent subsidising anti-LGBT prejudice.[iii]

 

What makes these figures truly offensive, obscene even, is remembering that this money is coming from LGBT teachers, who are paying for religious schools to have the ability to deny them employment in up to 40% of the jobs for which they are qualified.

 

From the parents of LGBT children, who are paying for the special privileges of these institutions to reject their child’s enrolment simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

And from same-sex couples in rainbow families, who are paying for religious schools to deny their children admission on the basis of their parents’ relationship.

 

Indeed, the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia of religious schools is being paid for by the taxes of all LGBT Australians, our families, friends and allies.

 

And by the 61.6% of voters who just last year said that we are, or should be, equal irrespective of our sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Despite that result (or perhaps even because of it) the Liberal-National Government seems intent on making what is a horrible situation worse.

 

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the Ruddock Review of Religious Freedom during last year’s same-sex marriage parliamentary debate.

 

The contents of that review’s final report, delivered to the government in May but not yet released to the public, were leaked yesterday to Fairfax newspapers, and appear to support the further entrenchment, and possible expansion, of the ‘right’ of religious schools to discriminate against LGBT students and teachers.

 

This could potentially include the Commonwealth Government using the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to override the anti-discrimination laws of states and territories like Tasmania (and to a lesser extent Queensland) that have moved to limit these special privileges.

 

New Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not seem opposed to such a development, saying that the right to discriminate against gay students ‘already exists’ (ignoring the fact it has been curtailed in some jurisdictions).

 

Three weeks’ ago he also told Sky’s Paul Murray that:

 

Let me give you this example. I send my kids to a Christian school, I think that Christian school should be able to ensure they can provide education consistent with the Christian faith and teaching that I believe as a parent. That’s why I’m sending them there. I don’t think that school should be told who they can and can’t employ, or have restrictions on them in ensuring that they’re delivering to me – the parent, their client, their customer – what I’ve invested in for my children’s education.

 

What he fails to mention is that, by virtue of public funding for religious schools, we are all ‘investing’ in his children’s education.

 

And what the Ruddock Review, Prime Minister Morrison and some members of his Government seem to want is for all of us to pay even more to allow more religious schools to discriminate against more LGBT students and teachers.

 

Well, fuck that. Enough is enough.

 

It’s time we stopped handing over money so that religious schools can fuck over LGBT students.

 

And it’s time we stopped coughing up cash so that these institutions can tell LGBT teachers and other staff to fuck off.

 

These human rights violations have gone on long enough.

 

To borrow a phrase from the American Revolution, there should be no taxation without anti-discrimination protection. Or even more simply:

 

No Taxation For Discrimination.

 

Instead of being an excuse for expanding religious exceptions in relation to religious schools, the Religious Freedom Review should be the catalyst for these special privileges to finally be subjected to proper scrutiny.

 

If the Morrison Government introduces amendments to entrench and expand the exceptions in section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act, and potentially to override the best practice approach of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act, it will be up to Labor, the Greens and the cross-bench to block it (for his part, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is making the right noises, saying “The fact is every child is entitled to human dignity. We shouldn’t even be having this debate”).

 

The pressure will also be on Liberal moderates, who like to claim credit for delivering marriage equality (they didn’t, but that’s a post for another day), to stand up and help defeat proposals that will increase discrimination against that same community.

 

But stopping things from getting worse would hardly be a heroic achievement. The religious exceptions of the Sex Discrimination Act, and the equivalent laws in most states and territories that promote anti-LGBT prejudice, must be repealed.

 

Because LGBT teachers should be employed on the basis of their abilities, not their orientations or identities.

 

And LGBT students should not be refused enrolment, expelled, or discriminated against in any way, shape or form, just because of who they are. Not one student. Not ever.

 

While the rest of us shouldn’t be forced to pay for it, literally funding the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia of religious schools.

 

Bottom line: if religious schools want one cent from us, they must be decent to us, and that means ending their special privileges to discriminate against LGBT students, teachers and other staff once and for all.

 

To take action, please sign and share this petition from just.equal: www.equal.org.au/protectourkidsandteachers

 

aud100front

Your hard-earned dollars are funding anti-LGBT prejudice.

 

Footnotes:

 

[i] For more information about these laws, see: A Quick Guide to Australian LGBTI Anti-Discrimination Laws.

[ii] I am not suggesting that all of these schools would discriminate against LGBT students and/or teachers. In practice, a number provide welcoming environments irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, these schools retain the legal right to discriminate on these grounds.

[iii] By way of comparison, the Commonwealth Government will provide $245.6 million over the next four years to another inappropriate and unjustified school funding initiative (the National School Chaplaincy Program), or the equivalent of $12.30 for every Australian aged 15 and over. On the other hand, the Turnbull Government, of which Scott Morrison was Treasurer, axed the $8 million Safe Schools program in 2016 – in effect, they could not even be bothered spending 40c per taxpayer, spread over four years (so just 10c per taxpayer per year), to help address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools.

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If we want genuine marriage equality, we’re going to have to fight – & write – for it

2017 might be the year that Australia finally introduces marriage equality[i].

If it is, it will only be because lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians, and our families, friends and allies, have fought long and hard to make it happen.

However, there is also a very real risk that we end up with something less than genuine equality.

This is because there are some members within the Liberal National Coalition who are willing to support the right of LGBTI couples to marry, but only on the condition that new special rights to discriminate against us are included in any amendments to the Marriage Act.

That is simply not good enough.

As the US Supreme Court found more than 60 years ago[ii], separate but equal is not equal. And so we must reject any attempt to impose a 2nd-class system of marriage for LGBTI Australians, where we can be treated differently to cisgender heterosexual couples, merely because of who we are.

In the same way that we have fought, and continue to fight, for the right to marry, we must also fight for the right to marry equally.

The battleground for this campaign is the Government’s Exposure Draft Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, released in October 2016. This is the legislation that the Government would have introduced had its (unnecessary, wasteful and divisive) plebiscite been held, and had it been successful.

While the Bill allows any two people to marry – and therefore would provide LGBTI Australians with the ability to finally tie the knot – it also proposes four new special rights to discriminate against any relationship that is “not the union of a man and a woman[iii].” This includes:

  1. A specific provision allowing ministers of religion to reject LGBTI couples, and only LGBTI couples[iv] – even though ministers of religion can already reject any couple for any reason. That means this clause is both unnecessary, and unfairly targets our relationships.
  1. An entirely new right for civil celebrants to reject LGBTI couples, and only LGBTI couples[v]. No other section of the Marriage Act 1961 currently allows these celebrants to discriminate. This homophobic provision is especially concerning given three out of every four weddings in Australia are conducted by civil celebrants.
  1. A specific provision allowing ‘religious bodies and organisations[vi] to deny facilities to, and withhold goods and services from, LGBTI couples, and only LGBTI couples[vii]. This has been included despite existing religious exceptions to anti-discrimination laws, at both Commonwealth and state and territory level, and applies even where these groups are engaged in commercial enterprise.
  1. A new right for Defence Force chaplains to reject LGBTI couples, and only LGBTI couples[viii]. This is despite the fact these chaplains are public servants, paid for by all taxpayers – including LGBTI Australians – and that they are expected to “administer spiritual support to all members, regardless of their religion” (emphasis added)[ix].

None of these new special rights to discriminate against LGBTI couples are necessary. All are completely unjustified. All must be challenged.

Fortunately, this Bill generally, and these proposed new ‘religious exceptions’ specifically, are currently the subject of a Senate inquiry.

The Select Committee examining this Bill has called for public submissions, which close next Friday (13 January). Full details of the Inquiry, including how to lodge, can be found here.

I encourage you to make your own submission, calling for the Committee, and ultimately the Parliament, to reject these four new special rights to discriminate against LGBTI couples.

In doing so, you could make the following two main points:

  • This Bill is NOT marriage equality

While the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill would allow LGBTI couples to finally marry, by including new special rights to discriminate against LGBTI couples – and only LGBTI couples – the Bill actually establishes a 2nd-class system of marriage for some Australians based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. ‘Separate but equal’ is not equal – which means this Bill would not deliver genuine marriage equality.

  • The exceptions included in this Bill do not protect religious freedom, they promote homophobia and transphobia

There are a variety of different religious beliefs about marriage. Some people believe only cisgender heterosexual couples should be able to marry[x]. Others do not believe in divorce, and therefore oppose the right of people to participate in second (or subsequent) weddings. Some even continue to hold the (once widespread) belief that people of different faiths should not marry.

If the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill reflected genuine concerns about protecting ‘religious freedom’, it would allow civil celebrants, religious bodies and organisations and Defence Force chaplains to discriminate against divorced people, or against inter-faith couples[xi].

The fact that it does not, and that it establishes new special rights to discriminate solely against LGBTI couples, reveals the fundamental truth of this legislation: it has very little to do with protecting religious freedom, and much more to do with promoting homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia[xii].

**********

3 Ways to Take Action

If you agree with me, then now is the time to get involved, to get fighting – and writing – to let the Senate Committee, and the Government, know that marriage equality should mean exactly that: equality. And we won’t accept anything less.

Here are three ways you can take action in the next week:

  1. Write your own submission to the Senate Inquiry. As noted above, details on how to do so can be found here. Alternatively, two LGBTI organisations have designed web platforms to make writing a submission easier:
  1. Complete these surveys about the Bill. Both the NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby and just.equal (& PFLAG Australia) are consulting the LGBTI community about what they think of the proposed religious exceptions. Let them know your views here:
  1. Sign and share this petition to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, demanding that Equal love should not be treated unequally.

Above all, if you think that equal means equal, no ifs, buts, or maybes, then it’s time to get writing…

equalmeansequal-3

Footnotes:

[i] Of course, if Malcolm Turnbull continues to fail to show any leadership on this issue, we might instead be forced to wait until 2019 or 2020.

[ii] Brown v Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954)

[iii] Interestingly, this phrase would not cover all LGBTI couples – for example, civil celebrants, religious bodies and organisations and Defence Force chaplains would not be able to reject heterosexual couples where one or both members are transgender and where the couple identifies as a man and a woman.

[iv] Proposed sub-section 47(3)

[v] Proposed new section 47A

[vi] It is worrying that these terms are not defined in the Bill, meaning the number of bodies or organisations allowed to discriminate against LGBTI couples could be high.

[vii] Proposed new section 47B

[viii] Proposed new note to section 81

[ix] For more on why these new special rights to discriminate must be rejected, see The Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill in Unacceptable.

[x] Of course, they should not be able to impose that belief on others through secular law.

[xi] I am not arguing for either to be made lawful, merely highlighting the double-standard that lies at the heart of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill.

[xii] The Government, having revealed its (homophobic) intentions, also cannot now turn around and extend these new special rights to discriminate against divorced people and inter-faith couples because they will only be doing so to ‘cover up’ the anti-LGBTI nature of its original legislation.

Plebiscite Survey Results: Part 1

 

How do you solve a problem like Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed marriage equality plebiscite?

 

It was clear within days of the July 2 Federal election that Mr Turnbull’s Liberal-National Government had been re-elected – albeit more narrowly than had been anticipated (with final counting giving it 76 seats, to the Labor Opposition’s 69, and 5 others).

 

The outcome in the Senate was far less clear. Indeed, it was only after the final ‘button press’ in each state, over the course of the past week, that it was confirmed the ALP (26 seats), Greens (9) and Nick Xenophon Team (3) will together have enough votes to block Government legislation, including the Bill required to hold the plebiscite.

 

What remains completely unclear, almost 12 full months after they first adopted it as Coalition policy, and five weeks after an election in which it was a prominent part of their platform, is what, exactly, the plebiscite will look like. Key features – such as the wording of the question, the criteria for success and the extent of religious exceptions it will provide – remain in doubt.

 

In this context, it has been a challenge for many marriage equality activists, myself included, to determine what our approach should be to this issue. Should we be ‘principled’, and continue to reject a plebiscite because it is unnecessary, wasteful and will cause harm to the LGBTI community?

 

Should we instead be ‘pragmatic’, acknowledging that Turnbull’s re-election means a plebiscite is the most likely way to achieve marriage equality in the next three years? Or does the lack of information about the plebiscite mean it is in fact too early to decide, either way – in short, should we continue to wait and see?

 

In order to resolve this issue, I decided to survey the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer (LGBTIQ) community to determine what they believe we should do next. The remainder of this post will detail the methodology used for this survey, the demographics of respondents, the overall results, as well as results by category where a minimum of 50 people answered. I will then make some concluding observations.

 

Methodology

 

An eight-question survey was designed on online platform Typeform. It asked for information about status, including whether someone was LGBTIQ or not. Members of the LGBTIQ community were then asked for relationship status, as well as whether they had children.

 

People outside the LGBTIQ community were asked whether they were family members or friends of LGBTIQ people, or allies of the LGBTIQ community and supporters of marriage equality.[i] All respondents were asked their age bracket.

 

The only compulsory question in the survey required people to identify their preferred approach to the plebiscite, with three options presented:

 

  • Block it, if possible – Because it is unnecessary, wasteful and will cause harm to the LGBTIQ community, even if there is a risk marriage equality will not be passed for another 3 years as a consequence.
  • Wait to see the details – Because the plebiscite may or may not be acceptable, depending on the question asked, the criteria for success and the extent of ‘religious exceptions’ that are included.
  • Accept it, and fight to win – Because, following the re-election of the Turnbull Government, holding the plebiscite may be the clearest path to achieving marriage equality, despite the potential for harm to the LGBTIQ community.

 

Respondents were then provided with two optional ‘free-text’ questions, the first to explain their choice, and the second to provide any additional information they wanted.

 

The survey was open for a two-week period, from Sunday 17 July to Sunday 31 July. It was publicised via:

 

  • The post “To plebiscite or not to plebiscite?” on my blog
  • My personal twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the No Homophobia, No Exceptions Facebook page
  • Direct contact with individual trans, intersex and rainbow families activists, to ensure these groups were adequately represented in the sample, and
  • A small amount of paid Facebook advertising, both general, as well as specific ads to encourage responses from lesbians, and younger members of the LGBTIQ community.

 

Demographics of respondents

 

The survey attracted 1140 complete responses[ii]. This included 840 members of the LGBTIQ community, and 300 from outside the community[iii].

 

From within the LGBTIQ community, the respondents were as follows:

 

  • Gay – 342
  • Lesbian – 293
  • Queer – 207
  • Bisexual – 151
  • Transgender – 77, and
  • Intersex – 9[iv].

 

Their relationship statuses were relatively diverse:

 

  • Single, or in a relationship and not currently intending to marry, but want to be able to choose whether to get married or not in the future – 290
  • In a relationship and waiting to be married under Australian law – 282
  • Not interested in marriage for myself, but supportive of marriage equality for others – 165
  • Married overseas but not married under Australian law – 58
  • Married (here or overseas) and recognised as married under Australian law – 33, and
  • In a relationship that is affected by forced trans divorce provisions – 11[v].

 

288 LGBTIQ respondents indicated they had children, while 551 said they did not[vi].

 

From outside the LGBTIQ community, survey respondents were as follows:

 

  • Friend of an LGBTIQ person – 143
  • Family member of an LGBTIQ person – 95, and
  • Neither a family member nor friend of an LGBTIQ person, but an ally of the LGBTIQ community and supporter of marriage equality – 57[vii].

 

All respondents were asked for their age, with:

 

  • Aged 30-54: 765
  • 18-29: 205
  • 55 or above: 154, and
  • Under 18: 11[viii].

 

Overall result

 

The overall result of the survey was unambiguous:

 

  • Block it, if possible: 786 or 69% of respondents
  • Wait to see the details: 231 or 20%, and
  • Accept it, and fight to win: 123 or 11%

 

This is a remarkable, and remarkably clear, result. Just 1 in 9 respondents were willing to accept a plebiscite, despite it being arguably the most direct path to achieving marriage equality in the current Parliament.

 

Even with the addition of a ‘wait & see’ option – which, given key details are still to be resolved, is a perfectly understandable approach – almost 7 in 10 people believe we should block the plebiscite if we are in a position to do so.

 

786 respondents were willing to risk a delay of at least three years in this reform being passed, despite the fact it has already been 12 long years since Howard’s homophobic ban was first introduced.

 

On the basis of this result, I would argue that the people have spoken, and they have said, quite clearly, #NoPlebiscite.

 

Results by Category

 

In designing the survey, I expected there might be some differences in approach to this issue across the community, depending on personal characteristics. In analysing the responses across respective categories, however, I was surprised by how consistent the results were, with only minor differences depending on the group (although some of those differences were nevertheless interesting).

 

In terms of the LGBTIQ community, the responses were as follows:

 

  • Gay: 227 (66.4%) block, 71 (20.8%) wait & see and 44 (12.9%) accept
  • Lesbian: 221 (75.4%) block, 40 (13.7%) wait & see and 32 (10.9%) accept
  • Queer: 157 (75.8%) block, 35 (16.9%) wait & see and 15 (7.2%) accept
  • Bisexual: 105 (69.5%) block, 34 (22.5%) wait & see and 12 (7.9%) accept, and
  • Transgender: 55 (71.4%) block, 14 (18.2%) wait & see and 8 (10.4%) accept[ix].

 

Overall, the differences between these categories were not large (with the proportion marking block located within a narrow range, 66.4% to 75.8%).

 

However, it is interesting to note gay respondents were both slightly more willing to accept the plebiscite, and slightly less willing to block it, than other groups, especially queer, lesbian and trans people. This may be due to lesser prejudice experienced by gay men in particular, a larger proportion of lesbians being parents (see below) as well as wariness on the part of the trans community following recent attacks on gender diversity (eg the Safe Schools debate).

 

In terms of people from outside the LGBTIQ, the responses were as follows:

 

  • Friend: 82 (57.3%) block, 41 (28.7%) wait & see and 20 (14%) accept
  • Family member: 64 (67.4%) block, 21 (22.1%) wait & see and 10 (10.5%) accept, and
  • Ally/supporter of marriage equality: 38 (66.7%) block, 15 (26.3%) wait & see and 4 (7%) accept.

 

Given the small numbers within these categories, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. However, when looked at overall, the proportion of people who are not LGBTIQ calling for the plebiscite to be blocked – 62.7% – is lower than the equivalent figure within the LGBTIQ community (71.2%)[x].

 

This may indicate that, even among family members, friends and allies or other supporters, there is less awareness of the potential harms of the plebiscite – and therefore that, if the LGBTIQ community is indeed to call for Labor, the Greens and Xenophon to oppose the enabling legislation, these harms will need to be explained in more detail (helpfully, the higher proportion of non-LGBTIQ people who marked ‘wait & see’ suggests that they are persuadable about these dangers).

 

There was even less difference according to relationship status:

 

  • Single, or in a relationship and not currently intending to marry, but want to be able to choose whether to get married or not in the future: 203 (70%) block, 64 (22.1%) wait & see and 23 (7.9%) accept
  • In a relationship and waiting to be married under Australian law: 201 (71.3%) block, 43 (15.2%) wait & see and 38 (13.5%) accept
  • Not interested in marriage for myself, but supportive of marriage equality for others: 121 (73.3%) block, 31 (18.8%) wait & see and 13 (7.9%) accept, and
  • Married overseas but not married under Australian law: 43 (74.1%) block, 7 (12.1%) wait and see and 8 (13.8%) accept[xi].

 

Interestingly, people already married overseas had the highest proportions of both block and accept[xii], although the sample size is smaller than for other categories.

 

The following is the summary of LGBTIQ respondents depending on whether they had children:

 

  • Children Yes: 211 (73.3%) block, 51 (17.7%) wait & see and 26 (9%) accept, versus
  • Children No: 387 (70.2%) block, 102 (18.5%) wait & see and 62 (11.3%) accept.

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me in undertaking this survey was that the margin between these two groups was so small – while LGBTIQ parents were more likely to call for a plebiscite to be blocked (presumably because of legitimate fears about the impacts of a prolonged hate-based campaign against themselves, and especially their children), the final difference was only about 3%, which is much lower than I had previously anticipated.

 

Finally, there was also minimal variation according to respondents’ ages:

 

  • Aged 30-54: 536 (70.1%) block, 151 (19.7%) wait & see and 78 (10.2%) accept
  • 18-29: 140 (68.3%) block, 42 (20.5%) wait & see and 23 (11.2%) accept, and
  • 55 or above: 103 (66.9%) block, 35 (22.7%) wait & see and 16 (10.4%) accept[xiii].

 

To me, this consistency, not just across age groups, but also relationship status, parental status and LGBTIQ attributes, demonstrates that, far from being divided by the plebiscite, the LGBTIQ community is remarkably united – roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of every group believes the plebiscite should be blocked, even if that means a potential delay to marriage equality being passed.

 

As noted above, the only significant difference in approach was actually between people who marked LGBTIQ and those who responded ‘None of the Above’, although, as the debate about the plebiscite continues, and its inherent unfairness and potential danger attracts greater scrutiny, there is room for ‘growth’ in the proportion of non-LGBTIQ people supporting calls for it to be blocked.

 

Concluding Observations

 

I found this to be both an interesting exercise to undertake (and hopefully for you to read about), and a valuable one in resolving what my approach will be to the plebiscite in coming months.

 

It should also be noted that the findings of this survey are similar to those of a poll which was conducted by PFLAG Australia (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and new organisation just.equal, in late July[xiv]. Based on 5,500 responses, it found that:

 

“Almost 85 per cent of LGBTIQ Australians remain opposed to a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, with 10 per cent in favour, and 5 per cent undecided. In addition, a majority said they were against a nationwide vote even if it means no change to the law.”

 

Full results of their survey can be found on the just.equal website.

 

Of course, there are limits to both surveys – these are complex questions, with the potential for unintended consequences in any approach that we ultimately adopt (for example, blocking the plebiscite could cause a delay of much greater than three years, or the Liberal-National Government could be returned with a larger majority at the next election, meaning a plebiscite goes ahead irrespective of the position of Labor, Greens and Xenophon Senators). And it is likely that stopping the plebiscite, potentially delaying equality, will be seen as a win by our opponents.

 

It is also possible that, even if the LGBTIQ community calls for the Senate to block the enabling legislation, at least one grouping out of the ALP, Greens or Nick Xenophon Team will instead agree to the Government’s demands to hold the plebiscite, as a ‘circuit-breaker’ on this issue.

 

Given these factors, it is both rational and reassuring that Australian Marriage Equality is currently focussing on lobbying to ensure that, if a plebiscite is held, its format is as fair as possible (please sign their petition calling for no public funding for the Yes and No cases, thereby preventing the Australian Christian Lobby receiving money from our taxes to campaign against us: sign here).

 

It is also absolutely vital for Australians 4 Equality – a national umbrella organisation – to lay the groundwork to fight a Yes campaign should the plebiscite turn out to be unavoidable.

 

However, on the basis of both my survey, and that of PFLAG and just.equal, my own primary focus in the next few months will be on pushing for a parliamentary vote, rather than plebiscite.

 

The responses to both polls mean we can and should be bolder in our demands – that parliament must deal with this issue in the ordinary way, rather than by holding an extraordinary national vote. Now it is time to make sure Bill Shorten, Richard Di Natale and Nick Xenophon listen.

 

Nick Xenophon

Nick Xenophon, and his Party’s 3 Senate votes, will be crucial in deciding whether the plebiscite goes ahead.

 

One final note: While the answer to the main survey question – whether to block, wait & see or accept the plebiscite – was interesting, perhaps just as valuable were the ‘write-in’ responses to the two free-text questions, including respondents’ personal explanations for why they opposed the plebiscite (or not). I will publish a summary of these responses in the week beginning Monday 15 August. Please check back then for more information.

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Endnotes:

[i] It also allowed people outside the LGBTIQ community to indicate that they opposed marriage equality. If they answered yes, survey logic then excluded them from remaining questions. 14 people did so.

[ii] Excluding two responses that did not answer the primary question (to block, accept or wait & see), and the responses identified in endnote 1, who indicated they were opposed to marriage equality and were therefore discarded.

[iii] 6 respondents indicated that they were at least one of LGBTIQ and ‘None of the Above’. For ease of analysis they have been treated as being outside the LGBTIQ community.

[iv] Numbers add up to more then 840 because people were allowed to mark as many of LGBTI and/or Q as appropriate.

[v] Numbers add up to less than 840 because this question was not compulsory.

[vi] Numbers add up to less than 840 because this question was not compulsory.

[vii] Numbers add up to less than 300 because this was an optional supplementary question for people who indicated they were ‘None of the above’ rather than LGBTIQ.

[viii] Numbers add up to less than 1140 because this question was not compulsory.

[ix] With only 9 responses from people who marked intersex, this sample size is deemed insufficient to draw any conclusions. In raw numbers, 3 intersex respondents marked block, 4 selected wait & see while 2 answered accept.

[x] A full comparison:

  • LGBTIQ: 598 (71.2%) block, 153 (18.2%) wait & see and 89 (10.6%) accept, versus
  • Non-LGBTIQ: 188 (62.7%) block, 78 (26%) wait & see and 34 (11.3%) accept.

[xi] There were two categories with insufficient responses to draw any conclusions, although their raw numbers are as follows:

  • Married (here or overseas) and recognised as married under Australian law: 23 block, 6 wait & see and 4 accept
  • In a relationship that is affected by forced trans divorce provisions: 7 block, 2 wait & see and 2 accept

[xii] It is perhaps unsurprising that people who have taken matters into the own hands, by choosing to marry overseas rather than wait for the Australian Government to eventually catch up, would be less ‘undecided’ about this issue, include a minority willing to accept the plebiscite to have their marriages finally recognized domestically.

[xiii] With only 11 responses from people aged under 18, this sample size was also deemed insufficient to draw conclusions. In raw numbers, 5 respondents who were <18 marked block, 2 selected wait & see and 4 answered accept.

[xiv] The PFLAG and just.equal survey did not start until Thursday July 21 – four days after my survey had commenced – and I was not aware it was being conducted until after my poll was already in the field.