HUMAN RIGHTS activists will march in Perth this Saturday urging federal MPs to vote for marriage equality in parliament.
The Liberal party’s election platform was to go out to a “plebiscite”, allowing the country to vote on whether they wanted people to get married regardless of their sex.
It will cost about $160million, but some estimates put the cost to the economy at $500m, and it’s non-binding, so MPs can still vote whichever way the want, and some Liberal MPs have already said they’ll ignore the outcome and vote against letting same-sex couples marry regardless.
Marriage equality advocates also claim negative campaigning in the media ahead of a plebiscite could be hugely damaging to gay people—especially the young—as their right to marry who they want is put out to what will likely become a fiery public debate.
Early leaked pamphlets from anti-marriage equality campaigner Chris Miles were filled with anti-gay rhetoric, claiming same sex marriage could lead to disease, drug use and child abuse.
Accounting firm PwC estimated that the damage to the mental health of the LGBTI community would cost the economy about $20m.
The weekend’s rally is being organised by lobby group GetUp!, whose campaign director Sally Rugg told the Voice she hoped the rally would “demonstrate overwhelming support” for parliament to skip the pricey, damaging plebiscite and just vote in marriage equality.
WA Liberal senator Dean Smith is leading the charge within the party to go straight to a parliamentary vote, and is due to bring a private members’ bill to the party this week.
While GetUp’s usually associated with the progressive side of politics, they’re backing Mr Smith’s move: “he crossed the floor last year to vote against the plebiscite, so he’s been a champion for LGBTI rights.
Ms Rugg says “when the issue of marriage equality is before the party room on Tuesday we want every single member of the government to understand that the public demand a free [parliamentary] vote and they want it now.”
A Newspoll last week ostensibly showed more respondents wanted a plebiscite than a parliamentary vote, but Ms Rugg says such “push polling” can be misleading.
She says when it’s explained to people that the plebiscite is non-binding (along with the cost of carrying it out and the potential damage to vulnerable LGBTI youth), most people quickly come to the conclusion it’s better to let parliament handle it.
The rally is at Forrest Place this August 5 at 1pm, and it follows similar marches across the country, with Brisbane attracting about 700 people last weekend.
by DAVID BELL