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“It is time for the people's voice to be heard.”

Mon 17 Oct 2016 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

New Zealand marriage equality champion Louisa Wall supports the decision made by Bill Shorten and Australian Labor to not support a marriage equality plebiscite that is non-binding. Wall says “The problem with a plebiscite is that, by definition, it is only a test about whether people either support or oppose a proposed action by the government on an issue. The government is not bound by the 'result' of a plebiscite as it is by the result of a Constitutional referendum. “Therefore, for a marriage equality plebiscite to have any validity the Turnbull government must be bound by the 'result' of a plebiscite as if it had the same status as the result of a Constitutional referendum. This can be written into proposed legislation for the plebiscite and this should be Labor's bottom line.” The Labour MP says a binding marriage equality plebiscite would have ensured that legislation must be enacted unanimously by the Australian Federal Parliament if successful. She notes that “Based on the latest ReachTel poll conducted for Australian Marriage Equality 46.2 per cent of nearly 3000 people believe it is "important" for Parliament to legislate for marriage equality.” Wall believes that a plebiscite should be binding saying “Australian politicians need to follow the wishes of the Australian people. Marriage equality has become an issue that only the people of Australia can resolve. “A binding plebiscite will ensure that there is only one public debate. The campaigns, either for or against marriage equality in Australia can then be contained to help minimise the risks associated with public debate on legislating for marriage equality. “This position is based on evidence from the University of Queensland study of the same sex marriage referendum in Ireland which found that gay people suffered serious emotional trauma as the public debate unfolded in 2015,” she says. “The university surveyed 1600 LGBTI people in Ireland via interviews conducted over social media and found less than a quarter would be happy to repeat the referendum process.” She says that essentially Turnbull's marriage equality plebiscite was advocating a two stage process, a plebiscite first followed by a debate about legislative reform. This is something Wall says could not be justified given the Queensland study found the ''no" campaign had a highly detrimental impact on young LGBTI people and the children of LGBTI parents. Wall believes that Bill Shorten and Labor should be advocating for a binding plebiscite as an initial alternative. “Let the people decide, minimise the harm to young LGBTI people and the children of LGBTI parents and commit to enacting unanimously federal parliamentary legislation. “Marriage today really does need to be about two consenting adults choosing to create a family. The government's role is purely administrative in the issuing of licenses to qualifying couples. Who marries, how and where people marry is a private decision. Churches are private and they can determine what is acceptable to their members only. “It is time for the people's voice to be heard.” “Hopefully, Turnbull and his government agree with the majority of Australians on the importance for Parliament to legislate for marriage equality. The time for talking is over. Actions speak louder than words so if it's not a binding plebiscite it must be a free vote to achieve marriage equality in Australia. “That is if you want marriage equality in Australia and that is if you put the interests of young LGBTI people and the children of LGBTI parents at the heart of any legislative reform process.” Sarah Murphy - 17th October 2016

Credit: Sarah Murphy

First published: Monday, 17th October 2016 - 4:52pm

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