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Marriage Equality: Potty Plebiscites

Thu 17 Mar 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Recently, two referendums about marriage equality were in the international news. One was about Switzerland, while the other deals with the planned waste of taxpayers money on a non-binding Australian plebiscite on the subject of marriage equality, now costed at $AU 525 million. As Australia is just across the Tasman Sea and our second largest/largest trading partner, let's see how current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was shoehorned into this costly exercise, which his nation can ill afford. Like so many other things wrong with contemporary Australian society, it was the work of his predecessor, the ill-fated conservative Catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Abbott decided to pander to his core constituency, religious social conservatives, and impose a costly referendum/plebiscite and organise a national electoral ballot box exercise on the matter. To placate truculent and hostile religious social conservative Abbott supporters and mitigate conflict within his federal parliamentary caucus, Turnbull was forced to agree to retain the plebiscite, at a time when Australia's economy is still in deep recession due to the sheer incompetence of his predecessor and his aforementioned cronies in office. Claimed expenses of the plebiscite have ranged from $48 million to $525 million, claimed by the respected international accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers. Amusingly, the substantive issues that the report raises have been subjected to facilead hominemabuse by Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz and the Australian Christian Right's Australian Christian Lobby, as well as their New Zealand echo chamber, Family First. Sorry, gentlemen, but the burden of proof is on your shoulders, not that of Price Waterhouse Coopers. Either produce your own detailed, substantively accounted criticism of where the report "went astray," or if you can't, then your 'dismissal' carries no importance or weight whatsoever. Onto Switzerland, which hasn't prosecuted gay male sex since 1798. Soon after, the first Swiss progay literature appeared in print, in 1836:"Eros: The Male Love of the Greeks."In the 1930s, a commercial 'scene' arose in Basel and Zurich, large Swiss cantons. In 1942, the Swiss national legislature formally decriminalised male homosexuality, albeit with a discriminatory gay male age of consent. As in most other western societies, the first LGBT social networks, community magazines and activist groups arose in the 1960s. In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS arrived, as did the AIDS-Hilfe network for HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and political activism. Since 1999, discrimination against lesbians and gay men has been illegal, and this extends to military service discrimination. In 2007, registered partnerships/civil union legislation was passed. In early 2016, moves started through Swiss federal parliamentary institutions to allow inclusive adoption reform for same-sex couples. Only one cloud was visible on this otherwise rosy horizon. It arose from the antigay agitation of the Christian Democratic Party of Switzerland, the fourth largest Swiss political party within the national legislature. In 2011, it started to amass signatures for a citizens initiative (referendum) entitled "For the Couple and the Family- No to the Penalty of Marriage." It hid a commendable intention to equalise benefits between straight de facto and married couples in taxation and government social services with a more prescriptive same-sex marriage ban. In the Swiss national legislature, the resultant debate pitted the right-wing social conservative Swiss Peoples Party and Christian Democrats against social liberals within the Greens, Green Liberals, Social Democrats and Conservative Democrats, who criticised the anti-gay content of the proposed referendum. In late Febuary 2016, the referendum was narrowly defeated at the polls by a 70,000 vote margin. However, as the positive experience of concurrent adoption reform shows, Switzerland is not a reactionary nation when it comes to LGBT rights. It may be the case that there will be more momentum if neighbouring Germany and Austria move toward reform after national elections. Given the ailing nature of Angela Merkel's administration and the state fortunes of her CDU within Germany, that may be sooner rather than later. Recommended: Matt Akersten: "Marriage plebiscite would cost Australia $AU 525 million" Samesame: 13.03.2016:http://www. 13455/Marriage-plebiscite- would-cost-Australia-half-a- billion-dollars Recognition of same-sex unions in Australia:https://en. Recognition_of_same-sex_unions _in_Australia Registered partnership in Switzerland: wiki/Registered_partnerships_ in_Switzerland. Not Recommended: Paul Karp: "Conservatives criticise study that claims that marriage equality plebiscite will cost $525m" Guardian: 14.03.2016:http://www. theguardia 14/marriage-equality-votes- true-cost-attacked-by- conservatives "Embarrassing Accounting in Australia" Family First: 16.03.2016:https://www. embarrass ing-accounting-in-australia/ Craig Young - 17th March 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 17th March 2016 - 2:05pm

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