Yes! Yes! Yes! Australia Has Delivered Its Verdict On Marriage Equality
Australia, the numbers are in: After tallying up more than 12.7 million vote the Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced that the Yes side has won the postal survey on marriage equality 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.
The result is in line with polls conducted during the campaign that found the Yes side leading with over 60 percent of the vote.
The announcement was made in Canberra by head statistician David Kalisch. According to Kalisch every state and territory recorded a majority yes result of over 60 percent, except for NSW which recorded a majority result of 57 percent. The participation rate was slightly higher for older ages and slightly lower for younger voters.
Despite the voluntary, postal nature of the survey, Australians turned out in huge numbers. The 79.5 percent participation rate is higher than what was achieved in the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, the British referendum on Brexit and the US presidential election last year.
How Did We Get Here?
The whole concept of a voluntary postal plebiscite on marriage equality was cooked up by the Liberal Party’s right-wing to delay progress for as long as possible. It was first floated by Queensland senator Barry O’Sullivan and soon endorsed by Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott. Then it became actual government policy, because that’s how politics works in Australia these days.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the mechanics of the survey were designed to dampen the Yes vote and increase No’s chance of winning. It was expected that younger voters, who move around a lot and are less familiar with sending mail, would be less likely to take part in the survey. It looks like the strategy backfired, not just because a majority of voters backed marriage equality but because the process resulted in record numbers of young people enrolling to vote.
It’s hard to pick highlights from the campaign because the whole thing was such a ridiculous waste of time and money, and put the LGBTI+ community through an enormous amount of stress and public ridicule, all sanctioned by the government.
There were court cases, Captain Planet got involved, along with Meghan Trainor, there was the whole Macklemore thing that seemed to never end, the No campaign’s penchant for skywriting, and just when things started the wrap up the rest of the world figured out our bullshit and called us on it.
Anyway, it’s done and thanks to a lot of bloody hard work on part of marriage equality campaigners and the community we’ve won. So what’s next?
The Next Steps
Now that the public has spoken it’s time for parliamentarians to step up and do their jobs. A bill that would legalise marriage equality has already been prepared by Liberal senator Dean Smith, and it’s got widespread support.
There’s a competing bill from another Liberal senator, James Paterson, that would substantially wind back anti-discrimination laws if passed, allowing business owners to discriminate against couples on the basis of their sexuality. That bill is unlikely to draw support outside of the Liberal party hard-right.
So the most likely result is a vote on Smith’s bill before the end of the year. And even though some politicians will ignore the results of the survey (makes you wonder what the point was…) the bill is probably going to pass.
There you have it. It only took $122 million and months of unnecessary delaying, but we’re finally getting closer to marriage equality.