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18 September 2016
By Matt Hrkac

Marriage equality plebiscite: we all must campaign for the 'yes' cause

In the event of a marriage equality plebiscite, all supporters of equal marriage in Australia must fight tooth and nail for the yes cause. It does not matter if you, like me, are opposed to the whole idea of a plebiscite. It does not matter on what grounds you are opposed to a plebiscite; whether it be on monitory grounds or on the grounds that equal rights should not be subject to a popular vote. It does not matter. We must all fight and campaign for the yes cause.

We know that a majority of Australians support marriage equality; an overwhelming majority, in fact, and opinion polls published over the last half a decade confirm this. As a matter of fact, even the Attorney-General, George Brandis, is on the public record on multiple occasions over the last few weeks in saying that he expects a plebiscite to result in the yes campaign winning easily. We know that the plebiscite is a delay tactic, a gross waste of public funds, divisive, and that it is non-binding. The whole premise of a plebiscite, therefore, is designed to cause public outrage. It is designed to cause so much public outrage that it will ensure that people don't participate in any pro-marriage equality campaigns at all leading up to a plebiscite out of protest, or failing that, complacency.

We also know that the no campaign will be fighting tooth and nail against marriage equality during a plebiscite; indeed, the whole idea of a plebiscite was devised by the no camp. They act all confident, but they know very well that the yes cause easily trumps the no cause, and there is no doubt that the no cause will be trumpeting their views from the rooftops in an attempt to make themselves out to have more support than they actually do and will do so knowing full well that it is incredibly influential to those who are sitting on the fence, or for those whom changes to marriage law doesn't directly effect.

Furthermore, the no cause has considerably more resources to throw at their campaign then the yes cause does, and they have a sensationalist media looking for viewers and higher ratings that will amplify the reach of the no cause at the expense of the yes cause. But where the no cause has money and such a blatant sensationalist media landscape to manipulate, the yes cause has what the no cause doesn't: experienced campaigners, energy, and lots of potential boots on the ground.

Being in support of marriage equality is, however, only part of the reason why one should get involved in the yes campaign if the plebiscite enabling legislation gets through the parliament. It is also important as a means of drowning out the torrent of inevitable hate-campaigns that will come from the no cause in the lead-up to a plebiscite as well, to ensure that the LGBTI community don't feel isolated or alone through the plebiscite process, to let the LGBTI community know that the overwhelming majority of Australians stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

In the event of a plebiscite, those who are in favour of marriage equality, in every corner of the country, must come together within their communities and campaign as hard as possible for the yes campaign. Knocking on doors, hitting the phones, organising rallies and marches, community events, letterboxing, writing letters to the local newspaper; even social media (outside of the echo-chambers of course). Doing all of these things will be important in drowning out any hate-filled messages put on by the no campaign. Those who are in favour of marriage equality can not become complacent in knowing that a majority of Australians support equal marriage: as mentioned - this is principally about ensuring the safety and well-being of the LGBTI community and letting them know that the majority of Australians stand with them in saying that their love is equal.

As it currently stands - the Labor Party has still left the door open to supporting a plebiscite on modified terms, and they aren't likely to categorically rule out supporting it. The time to start preparing for a plebiscite, therefore, is now, and every supporter of equal marriage in Australia must be a part of the yes campaign in one way or another. Complacency and not campaigning out of protest leading up to a plebiscite is not an option, it's exactly what the no cause will want from supporters of marriage equality. The no cause will want us to feel hopeless, helpless, demoralised and defeated while having a free run to spread their hate without accountability. We can not let that happen.

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and activist based in Geelong who regularly contributes to Green Left Weekly. He has particular interests in politics, elections and the trade union movement and has had extensive involvement in a number of local campaigns. He is a former member of the Greens.

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