The government appears to be lurching from crisis to crisis on the issue of gay marriage in a mess that appears to be entirely of its own making. It is now in the ridiculous position of advocating a plebiscite all referendum on an issue where public opinion has been well known for sometime.
The only reason for this casting around some form of delaying tactic can be that the government hopes that the issue will go away during the next parliamentary term.
It clearly won’t.
There are members of the government who believes that to support the change to same sex marriage will be an electoral disaster. This is from a government that currently trails the Opposition by 8% in the polls (based on preference distributions from the last election) and by massive 14% based on voting intentions in current polls.
If these figures are repeated in the next general election, then the government will lose nearly 50% of its existing members in the House of Representatives and may hand the Opposition a working majority in the Senate.
So why is the Government wasting so much time and energy trying to delay, and possibly thwart, an issue that has the support of nearly 70% of the electorate which is not regarded as a particular important issue out in voter land?
There is an excellent article in The Age (18/8) by Sarah Gill who argues the case for marriage equality not being decided by popular vote. In essence, the argument is that the civil rights of minority groups will always be blocked by hostile majorities.
Gill cites black Senator Corey Booker on marriage equality ”Dear God, We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote to be subject to the sentiments and passions of the day. Equal protection under the law – for race, religion gender or sexual orientation– should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day.”
And essentially that’s what the current arguments boil down to. The government is effectively saying ”We will deny one minority group in our society the civil rights granted to another group. And we’ll do that based on what we believe to be the beliefs and preferences of that majority group.”
Wrong on all counts.
It is clear that the Australian public does not regard this as particularly important, but through their handling of this particular issue, the parliamentary Liberal party may make it the issue that decides the fate of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership.