So there you have it. The lobby group Australian Marriage Equality doesn’t want a referendum on same-sex marriage. It thinks it would lose.
So much for all the talk about "70%" of Australians supporting a change in the marriage laws. Suggest putting that assertion to the test of a referendum and "marriage equality" proponents slink away. Whines Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality: "Overseas referenda on marriage equality have been exploited by cashed-up, anti-gay groups to conduct fear and hate campaigns against gay people." In Australia he means by that the Rev. Fred Nile and various Christian and, most recently, Muslim groups.
Apart from it being pretty offensive — though instructive as to how Croome thinks about people with whom he disagrees — to suggest that a wish to preserve the status quo in marriage amounts to "a fear and hate campaign against gay people" — does Croome not know of any gays opposed to gay marriage? — the notion that the religious constituency in Australia is sufficiently cashed-up to conduct mass political campaigns strains credulity.
Even if it were loaded with activist dollars, it doesn’t seem much to have the Rev. Fred against you when large sections of the media, especially the ABC and the Fairfax press, are on your side, shamelessly spruiking your case at every turn. The irony is lost on Rodney, of course, but who gave him the free publicity of a platform to proclaim his opposition to a referendum? Melbourne’s Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, naturally. Did they give equal space to pro-referendum campaigners? Of course not.
Besides, if a majority of voters are in favour of same-sex nuptials, as the Croomes of this world tirelessly tell us, are they going to change their mind because of the siren voice of Fred Nile?
This exposes the real objection to the referendum. Enthusiasts for same-sex marriage know that it is not a majority of Australians who have no objection to their getting married, but more likely a majority of Fairfax readers and ABC viewers and listeners. The rest are impervious to the propaganda daily disseminated by these media organs because they seldom if ever read, watch or listen to them (it is always worth remembering, when the ABC is invoked in controversy, that no more than one fifth of the population ever turns it on).
Croome seems to recognise that a referendum, requiring majorities voting for change in all states, would be hard for the same-sex marriagists to win. He doesn’t say it, but this is largely because the people he and his organisation would have to persuade to vote in their favour are beyond the influence of the tame metropolitan media who support and promote his campaign. There was the same disconnection between voters and the metropolitan media over the republic.
So instead of a referendum giving everyone a say on a question that goes to the heart of how our society orders itself, "marriage equality" activists want parliaments to do the legislating for them. They know they are on much safer ground there, parliaments being full of pliable MPs who are far more responsive to lobby-group pressure than is the public who elects them.
Christopher Akehurst blogs at Argus