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Marriage Equality Campaign Battlegrounds

The marriage equality ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps are establishing their campaign narratives. If the ‘yes’ campaign is to win, it’s important that they understand what the ‘no’ camp is doing, and fight back against their strategy at every opportunity.

No political campaign can offer everything to everyone, so messaging must be targeted towards specific groups at the most relevant times. There are three groups that the ‘yes’ campaign need to be aware of. As per Essential Media’s latest poll, there are the ‘committed yes’ group, which make up 57% of the population. Then there are the ‘committed nos’ at 32%. And the ‘don’t knows’ at 11%.

The ‘yes’ camp has speedily mobilised an impressive grass roots campaign to get voters on the electoral roll. The narrative of this enrol campaign is spot on to encourage those in the ‘committed yes’ group who weren’t previously on the roll, or who needed to update their details, to make sure they can place the yes vote they are clearly committed to placing. Correctly, the narrative of this campaign is to invite the ‘committed yes’ voters to be part of something big, to stand up for equality, to do the right thing and to feel good about the part they have played in a big outcome. It is entirely appropriate that this narrative expand the question of marriage equality to the larger issue of standing up for human rights, and for valuing love above all else.

However, now that the enrolment deadline has passed, as much as it might go against the yes camp’s natural affinity with this enlarged ‘this is a big deal’ narrative, it’s time to turn attention away from the ‘committed yes’, and focus on the 11% of ‘don’t knows’. In order to target this group effectively, the yes narrative needs to reduce the issue of marriage equality to a smaller, less momentous decision, rather than make it the earth-changing story that the yes camp has been using in the enrolment period.

The yes camp should understand the game plan the ‘no’ camp are using, and why they’re using it. They are not targeting the ‘committed nos’, because they already have them in the bag. If people are voting no because of religious beliefs, or because of a range of ideological beliefs; everything from intolerance of diversity, to bigotry, homophobia, to conservative views of marriage, a fear of the ‘slippery slope’ outcome and unisex toilets, the no camp would be wasting their dollars preaching to the choir, and the yes camp would be wasting their effort trying to change their stuck-in-the-mud minds.

The no camp, instead, have latched onto the understanding that human beings fear uncertainty. They are therefore trying to scare the ‘don’t knows’ over into the ‘committed nos’ group by expanding the question of marriage equality into an ever-growing list of scary, threatening, uncertain outcomes. That way, if people aren’t sure what the outcome of a ‘yes’ vote would be, they will be sucked into the ‘no’ narrative, believing that marriage equality will somehow threaten their mixed-gender marriages, threaten Australian values, threaten their family, threaten their right to religious freedom, to free speech, will threaten the children of gay parents, and will get its scary tentacles into a range of never-properly-explained-vague-threats to every aspect of the community. The more uncertain the no camp can make the outcome of marriage equality, the more likely the ‘I don’t knows’ will tend towards ticking ‘no’, out of a fear of not understanding what a ‘yes’ vote will mean.

This is why the yes camp need to avoid expanding the outcome of marriage equality into a bigger moment for the country than simply allowing LGBTI people to get married. I understand why some campaigners in the yes camp will find this a difficult suggestion; many of them have been fighting their whole lives to have the right to marry their beloved partner, and for them it is a huge outcome to finally be allowed to do that. For them it means acceptance, normalcy, the end of out-dated discrimination and it means being able to legally join in union with their partner. It’s an outcome as big as their whole world. But even so, the ‘don’t knows’ need to be convinced back from the ‘no’ dark side with the narrative of certainty. And this certainty needs to reduce the magnitude of the decision to its literal outcome: that everyone in the community, no matter their sexuality and gender orientation, is free to get married. A situation which will have zero impact on anyone but the people able to get married, and of course their loved ones who can celebrate with them. In fact, the more every-day, common-sense the yes camp can make this outcome, the better. So, perhaps an advertisement that shows a gay couple negotiating difficult pre-wedding plans, such as where to seat crazy aunt Linda and deciding who gets to choose which cars they arrive in. The narrative here is: we are just like you, and you are allowed to get married, so why shouldn’t we have the chance too?

This yes narrative can also be used to fight back against the tentacles-in-every-aspect-of-your-lives threat from the no camp through the simple statement of: ‘no, marriage equality is not going to change everything. It actually has a very certain outcome. All it means is that everyone can get married, just like you can’. This means not getting into debates with no campaigners about free speech, about freedom of religion, about the impact of gay marriage on the children of gay parents. It means being firm and repetitive with the promise that marriage equality impacts no one but those who currently can’t get married.

Just like the mistake climate change activists have been making for years (including me) in trying to argue with deniers, by arguing with the garbage from the no campaign, you give their position legitimacy and imbed the idea that there are uncertain outcomes from marriage equality. Instead, keep it simple. Keep it small. Rinse and repeat. Celebrate when the yes vote wins. And then the battle begins to get the yes vote through parliament.


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  1. Peter F

    The Marriage Act controls who can get married, It is not controlled by Churches.

    The call for Marriage Equality is simply a call to return the legislation to what it was before Howard had it changed by a vote in Parliament when he had the numbers.

    Thank you Victoria for you call to KISS.

  2. Max Gross

    The NO camp is simply lying through its teeth, as one would expect: pure LNP!

  3. diannaart

    There is no argument against equal rights.

  4. helvityni

    When will we ever learn, sang Marlene Dietrich in German, a very long time ago…

    We can sing the same song in English today; why are we making every issue into a major problem…

    Why is it so effing hard for our Government to understand that the SSM does not need to be a problem; done and dusted in most Western countries, no probs…,the Dutch did it in 2001, the country has not sunk into the sea, it still rains and the winds are blowing, but the Tulips are blooming….and both Catholics and Protestants are not worried about the sky falling down…

  5. wam

    as is usual a great read victoria. Sadly, there are two in my family group who may want to vote yes but their men will fill out the vote for them under the trusted friend rule???. This should be 9 yes and 5 no. I hope that is enough to cater for the slack no posters

    sorry helvityni but none of those countries had an amoral religious lunatic with access to the media and a hand firmly around the prime ministerial left testicle

  6. stephengb2014

    Very good Victoria – yes I will try to remember to keep it simple – I must admit these locked in religious no sayers and the climate deniers, make my blood boil with their pathetic displays of ignorance.

    In the meantime Wam, what makes you think Mr Waffle, has any testicles let alone a left one?

  7. stephengb2014

    AIMN, is there reason that the same questions keep coming up to be voted on?

  8. Roswell

    Stephen, from what I understand there are dozens of polls and they come up randomly (unless a particular poll is embedded into a post). Chances are you’ll get a different poll if you refresh the page.

  9. Kyran

    So well said. The matter is one of equality. Nothing else.
    Needless distractions by way of religion, god’s dictate, social erosion, freedom of speech, etc will only ever amount to needless distractions.
    The ‘no’ camp seem reliant on the strategy of the god debate. That’s the one that says it’s up to those who don’t believe in god to prove he/she/it doesn’t exist, rather than it being incumbent on those who do believe in god to prove he/she/it does exist.
    The ‘no’ camp want those who agree with equality to prove that the removal of discrimination won’t erode the very fabric of society, rather than it being incumbent on them to show one, just one, example of any of the countries that have introduced marriage quality having suffered a moral, economic, financial, legal collapse.
    These people who want to live in fear, however entitled they are to their various phobias, are wearying. That they want to skew not only the argument, but the entire process, to protect their delusions is so passé.
    You are so right when you say “Keep it simple”. It is about equality. Nothing more. Nothing less.
    Thank you Ms Rollison and commenters. Take care

  10. Madeleine Kingston

    Victoria thanks so much.

    I have been supporting marriage equality as an unaffected person interested in broader concepts of equality principles, lest we may be at risk of confusing the picture.

    Yet some are saying that as the voting registration deadline has passed, we should be narrowing our foci and concentrating on the smaller picture. Yet the broader picture keeps ringing in my ears since I feel unable to separate broader principles of equality from the narrower. If I were to to follow my normally reliable instincts do you think I may be prejudicing the narrower cause. Surely equality is for all, and marriage quality long overdue

    @Kyran. Your posts have always inspired me and I am really am pleased I am in such good company, since my natural instincts have always led me to believe that the principles of equality are more usually broad than narrow. Being no politician, I have no idea how to politically strategize.

    Everybody then, should we forget about whether we possess strategic art and try to evaluate this issue in broader blocks of equality, since for the most part, most of relate to equality for all. If we embrace the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we should be more or less home and hosed. Unless you disagree.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


    These are the broadest provisions, but international provisions and concepts for the delivery of human civil and political rights do come with narrow constraints

    At the expense of exceeding word count limits, may I publish here the fundamental principles upon which each and every one of us needs to rely upon and expect. All the rest should follow, but those with own agenda, possibly political, are unable to grasp the broader picture. This is a function of their own limitations not ours. We need to celebrate our entitlements and peacefully demand them. We are after all members of the electorate and no violence is required.

    Article 1

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

    Article 2

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Further, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty

    *Article 3

    “Everyone has the right to life liberty and security of person

    Article 4

    “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude, slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”

    Article 5
    “No-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading

    Article 6

    “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

    Article 7

    “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

    Article 8

    “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the component national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law

    Article 9

    No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile

    Article 10

    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

    Article 11

    “(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has all the guarantees necessary for his defence

    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

    Article 12

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks

    Article 13

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state

    (2) (Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country

    Article 14

    (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum freedom from persecution

    (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations

    Article 15

    (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or denied the right to change his nationality

    Article 16

    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution

    (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses

    (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State

    Article 17

    (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others

    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property

    Article 18

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance

    Article 19

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions with interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers

    Article 20

    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association

    (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association

    Article 21

    (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of a country, directly or through freely chosen representatives

    (2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in this country

    (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

    Article 22

    “Everyone, as a member of society has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

    Article 23

    (1) “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment

    (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work

    (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity , and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection

    (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests

    Article 24

    Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay

    Article 25

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control

    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection

    Article 26

    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit

    (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace

    (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children

    Article 27

    (1) Everyone has the right to freely participant in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits

    (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific literary or artistic production of which he is the author

    Article 28

    “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

    Article 29

    (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible

    (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare in a democratic society

    (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    Article 30

    “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

    Finally our individual and collective rights are inherent. Accessibility is a different thing since these concepts are unfortunately embedded within unenforceable international provisions although of universal application.

    In the first place we need to rely upon these principles and then slow, surely and peacefully demand them.

    There I have said it. Well actually the international provisions said it. I just copied and pasted.

    I am with you on this one, powerless, but in full moral support. Your time will come.

    Good luck

    Cheers, Madeleine

  11. roma guerin

    Can we please be advised what is the confounded question? John Howard ensured the republic debate was lost by loading “the question”. Can we be sure this will not happen again. Facebook is alive with “Vote YES” information, yet the LNP could still provide a loaded question, and the whole show will fall over. Let’s face it, the general public are so over this farce, they might conceivably vote YES without examining the meaning of the question. This is making me nervous.

  12. Möbius Ecko

    roma querin, the question is loaded:

    “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

    Straight away the question opens with “should the law be changed…” That’s a loaded premise from the get go as this law has been changed 17 times in the past without the requirement for a plebiscite, the Coalition’s first choice, or a postal survey. People don’t change laws, the government does. People can influence the change of a law or bring in laws through protest and action groups appealing to local members, but in the end the government makes the law.

    This opening part of the question invites the response; “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it,” which is what happened in the republican debate.

    The second part is also loaded. It should say; “…allow marriage equality.” By using “same-sex” instead of the work “equality” the government is deliberately treating the LGBTI community as not being equal to heterosexual couples.

    So the government has loaded the question with a double barrel of buckshot in an attempt to shoot it down.

    Putting aside there should be no plebiscite or postal survey on this matter, the question should simply be; “Should there be marriage equality in Australia?”

  13. Carol Taylor

    Möbius, I object to the question simply because of the word “allow”, as in being permitted, bowing down in gratitude to be given the permission to do something. “Allow” gives the impression of inferiority such as allowing your kids to stay up half an hour past their bedtime. If you said to your partner I’ll “allow” you to buy those shoes, don’t expect them to think of you as anything other than a condescending pr*ck.

  14. Möbius Ecko

    I also chewed over over the word “allow”, not being happy with it for the reason you state.

    Since we’re stuck with a survey, maybe; “Should there be marriage equality in Australia?” Anytime that’s asked in polls, which this postal survey is, then the answer is a resounding yes. Of course that’s why this government hasn’t framed the question that way.

    roma guerin has indirectly raised a relevant point. No matter what the outcome of this survey, a resounding yes or no, or a close poll, there’s going to be a backlash against the process. One of the valid points that will be raised by the “Yes” campaign if it is close or if they lose, is the framing of this question being deliberately discriminative.

  15. Michael Taylor

    It certainly is worded to give the government an ‘out’.

  16. Kyran

    What a difference a day makes. Estimates of the crowd in Melbourne yesterday vary, most suggesting 20,000. The vast majority of the signs referred to ‘equality’.
    I have yet to read of any ‘no’ rallies, but can’t help but query if they would ever amass 20,000. They seem reliant on Hart, Shelton, Bernardi, et al, being handed a microphone to amplify their redundant message. Any utterance from these exemplars of ‘no’ will be as widely reported, if not more so, than 20,000 people actually amplifying the voices of those who have been deprived a microphone. Go figure. ‘Balanced’ reporting apparently means you have to say as much for one side as you do the other, regardless of how many supporters either side may have.
    A line from Ms Rollison’s article;
    “And this certainty needs to reduce the magnitude of the decision to its literal outcome: that everyone in the community, no matter their sexuality and gender orientation, is free to get married…”
    Is amplified by Ms Kingston’s reference to the Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 28, which serves as an encapsulation of not only the basic tenets, but the very aspiration of the document.
    “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”
    Möbius Ecko pretty well sums up the sham. Ask a loaded question, with an underlying premise of “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it,”, and hope it all just goes away.
    On a daily basis, I converse with family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. How can it be that so many of them are angry, not at their situation (however desperate), but at their governments willful ignorance of their situation?
    The process, like the government promoting it, is a sham. A voluntary postal survey to establish if Australian’s want, or deserve, an equal access to the most basic of Human Rights.
    Profanity alert. Feck off, you gits.
    How about another question.

    “Should the Australian government review every single piece of legislation to ensure its compliance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights?”

    “Australia was a founding member of the UN and played a prominent role in the negotiation of the UN Charter in 1945. Australia was also one of eight nations involved in drafting the Universal Declaration.
    This was largely due to the influential leadership of Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, the head of Australia’s delegation to the UN. In 1948, Dr HV Evatt became President of the UN General Assembly. That same year he oversaw the adoption of the Universal Declaration.”

    Hmm, 1948. “On 4 December 1948, he sent the final manuscript to the publisher.” It was published as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. ‘He’ was George Orwell. Which Declaration is winning?
    These are not difficult questions for any reasonable mind.
    Thanks again, Ms Rollison and commenters. Take care

  17. Madeleine Kingston

    Well Kyran

    The numbers are looking hopeful.

    Extraordinary 100,000 new vote joint electoral SMH 20170825


    90,000 new voters – mostly the young have enrolled with the AEC

    A further 675,000 people had updated their electoral details, and 165,000 transactions were yet to be processed as of Thursday night, bring the figure up t almost a million

    Polling commissioned by the Equality Campaign undertaken by Jim Reed of Newgate Research has apparently shown 58 per cent of people of faith back the “yes” campaign, compared with 79 per cent of non-religious Australians. The question asked in this poll was: Do you think you will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for same-sex marriage in Australia? They are no using the word equality which would be preferable.

    Catholics and non-Christians were more likely to support same-sex marriage, with two thirds of both of those groups saying they were in favour
    There are two High Court matters on foot listed for 5 and 6 September. Unless the High Court rules against the voluntary non-binding postal poll, polling forms will be posted out from 12 September onwards.

    The Government has indicated that if the majority return a “Yes” response the matter will return to Parliament for a conscience vote. This means that parliamentarians will vote according to their personal beliefs; or according to the electorate’s wishes as a majority, or according to the party platform.

    However, the ABS has been ordered to simply open envelopes and sort them into electorates instead of undertaken the quality assessment of demographics and undertaken the usual weighting procedure for those unable to vote for various, illness, disability, remote location and so on.

    See Peter Martin (2007) one good thing about the postal plebiscite 20170816


    The High Court decision may be to squash the postal poll, given that the government appears to have circumvented the implied and/or express wishes of Parliament (who voted against a plebiscite).

    Otherwise the figures are looking favourable towards a Yes. The question is likely to be loaded, but the figures are looking encouraging.

    Finally, as you have pointed to the UN Universal Declaration for Human Rights, Article 16 says and as shown in a previous post

    “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion have the right to marry and found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its resolution.”

    There is no reference to gender or restrictions against same-sex marriage in that Declaration.

    Cheers, Madeleine

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