Marriage equality in Australia: Fallout

Here’s an interesting angle on the results I happily shared the other day. A Facebooker by the name of Carrie Hou shared the following post and I thought it was worth copying here:


Can white lgbtq/allies who haven’t stepped a foot into Western Sydney once and are saying ‘multiculturalism is ruining Australia because of the high No turn out’ sit the fuck down? If you didn’t do ANY campaigning in Western Sydney for the yes vote – also do me the favour. Stop blaming multiculturalism. You’re inadvertently perpetuating minority divide, pitting lgbtq folk against ethnic minorities. It fucks over queer people of colour and what should be a happy celebration of a yes vote has been soured by racist rhetoric I’ve seen from allies.

sydney
West Sydney, as I linked the other day.

As someone who campaigned a whole month in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities the results in Western Sydney weren’t a huge surprise. Here’s why this happened:

  1. The No campaign went hard into playing up migrants fears over marriage equality. In Western Sydney, they pumped out bilingual material and used fearful messaging that actually connected with the migrant community. The language barrier is a huge advantage when it comes to effective fear mongering. The deceptive bilingual material pumped out of the No Campaign into these specific communities was old school shit like gay marriage = aids” “”gay marriage = rape of your children/wives”, “gay marriage = removing your son’s penis”. Many people I engaged with in mandarin had these weird fears until I explained to them what this survey actually meant and they said “oh shit I would have voted yes” and “this survey is incredibly confusing”.
  2. Class divisions. Western Sydney is predominately working class inclduing lower access to education. This makes areas way more suspectible to fear campaigns. Homophobic fear campaigns have been galvanising since the moral panic relating to safe schools in a lot of these communities.
  3. Yes Campaign did not bother engaging these communities as strongly. There were some amazing campaigners reaching out to these areas. They fought hard but it was not nearly as much as the east. The Yes campaign strategy was ensuring that Yes inclined voters would actually go out to vote in one of Australia’s first optional votes. There was already a yes inclined majority in Australia, so consolidating this base was essential as a political strategy. But that meant that turning the no inclined votes around was deprioritised. That meant suburbs deemed too difficult were ignored. This is primarily to blame on how bullshit the roll out of this postal survey was, which blindside a lot of us and left those who needed it the most in the dust.
  4. The YES campaign’s messaging was incredibly white. Saying “love is love” does NOT work on migrant communities – it’s confusing & it’s not translateable. From overseas data and surveys, messaging that does work in CALD communities is emphasising a narrative of equality and antidiscrimination to these migrant communities – which actually makes much more sense to their experiences. The yes campaign didn’t use that as effectively.
  5. Invisibility of Queer PoC platforming is the main campaign to grab attention or care from migrants. If there was way more Queer PoC visibility, migrants would have engaged more. A lot of migrants disengaged from the issue as the media tends to position this as a “white issue” when there isn’t more diversity platformed.
  6. Many many many multicultural communities around Australia voted yes. And yet we are coming down hard on ethnic minorities. You need to maybe think about WHY this specific multicultural community had such high no turn out rates.
  7. Ethnic minorities make up less than 20% of the NSW voting population. Not all of us voted no. Remember that 42.2% of NSW voted No.

This does not discount homophobia, which is very much alive in these areas. As a queer Chinese Australian I can tell you this straight up. It sucks. It’s hard. It doesn’t let us off the hook, we have homophobes in our community. But let’s not deny the barriers and inequalities these areas face. Let’s not pin this on multiculturalism. And please don’t tie homophobia down to something inherent or unchangeable within our culture or race. Lgbtq activism tends to be incredibly white (middle class and urban based) . The people being platformed, the stories being told, the language being used and the people being reached out to are white. That is literally why Australia transformed from 1970s, where homosexuality was a crime, to 2017 where Australia voted yes for gay marriage. Views changed with activism and education. This activism and access to education is inequally distributed. We need to ask ourselves how we can reach out to these communities long term and take care of the queer (often people of colour) affected. We need to think, what intersectional ways can we make lgbtq activism more understandable to working class & migrants in these areas?


I found this really interesting, and at once enlightening, depressing, and uplifting for different reasons. Of course, it makes a lot of sense that these are all factors in an issue as polarising and heated as LBGT rights. And it makes perfect sense to me that no sooner does one issue begin to resolve itself, another bounces up.

Humans gonna human.

Ah well.

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5 Responses to Marriage equality in Australia: Fallout

  1. stchucky says:

    This, though:

    “But that meant that turning the no inclined votes around was deprioritised. That meant suburbs deemed too difficult were ignored. This is primarily to blame on how bullshit the roll out of this postal survey was, which blindside a lot of us and left those who needed it the most in the dust.”

    This is basically the core of our Gutless debate, in a nutshell.

  2. aaronthepatriot says:

    A great read, with many excellent points. I too experienced many emotions reading it. Early on, I knew it was hopeless to think this explanation would reach many people, because it’s pretty complicated. They got their narrative, and they even have voting statistics to back it up. It’s similar to crime statistics here and how they’re employed racially. If you can cobble together some percentages that seem to support you, that’s good enough for most people, never mind they’re not experts in statistics and so shouldn’t be cobbling together ANYTHING to do with them.

    I did see a lot of parallels to Gutless. The next point I want to make pertains to non-mandatory voting, and isn’t really the right approach when there’s mandatory voting for all. Depending on your familiarity with each system, you may or may not already know what I’m about to write here.

    For this vote, as with votes in the US, I would argue the Yes campaign did the right thing, focused on the right area. Turning out Yes voters (since it’s not mandatory to vote) is much easier and more efficient than turning around AND turning out No voters. Seems obvious, but I bet if you’re used to mandatory voting your whole life it’s not obvious.

    A perfect example is how Trump won with such terrible approval ratings. Only about 35-40% of Americans said they approved of Trump, right before the election. Yet he received just under 50% of the vote. That’s because of how many people did not vote, of course. If you turn out more voters, the more popular or “approved” candidate/position will win. On the flip side, to take it to the extreme, you could theoretically win with only 26% approval, and 50% or less of the populace voting (which is usually the case), if all your supporters turn out to vote.

    Perhaps this is another factor in my disinterest in converting wrong-headed people. I know that in a truly democratic vote, their positions would not win. So I just want to focus my energy in that direction.

    • stchucky says:

      Proper answer to this when I get a chance, these were good points. In the meantime I’ll just say that I was talking with my parents about this today, and what do you know, they knew all about west Sydney and the reason things were so bad there. It was the [let’s be nice and say “Muslims”], of course.

      I did what I could to share this information with them and they seemed shocked, but largely weren’t listening.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        And if relatively smart and educated persons such as your parents can be duped, what chance do most other humans have?

        I hope I’m not either giving too much credit or being too unkind in the “relatively smart and educated” descriptor. I was shooting for noncommittally uninformed.

      • stchucky says:

        It’s fair. They’re smart people but they are a product of their times, very trusting of the media, and already set in a rut when it comes to not liking change or outsiders. The “they voted against same-sex marriage because Islam hates homosexuals” fits their narrative perfectly, and “lobbies running a dishonest series of different-language campaigns targeting these groups” doesn’t.

        I mean, like the poster says, there’s absolutely still homophobia and ignorance in these communities. But it’s not 80+% of the vote levels. Not without help from evil bigoted pieces of shit.

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