By Lyle Shelton
There was confirmation from the Government this week that the long-awaited people’s vote on marriage is to be pushed back into next year.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney General George Brandis had previously indicated their preference to hold it before Christmas.
Australian Electoral Commission advice is that there is not enough time to organise another national poll to meet this timeline.
The AEC had actually signalled this some weeks ago.
But a leak from somewhere within the Government to a Sunday newspaper confirming that the Government agreed with this advice set the media in a frenzy.
The story also contained details of a draft question.
This was disappointing given that consultations with both sides of the debate about the plebiscite process and question has not yet been held.
The Prime Minister’s office and senior ministers were quick to distance themselves from the story and stressed that Cabinet was yet to consider these issues.
That’s code for the process has a way to go yet and everyone should settle down.
A February date has been touted but the WA election is on that month.
Also, Parliament resumes next week and it is uncertain whether or not legislation enabling the plebiscite will make it through the Parliament.
I think there will be attempts to get a private member’s bill on same-sex marriage passed; that these will fail and that Labor will finally allow plebiscite enabling legislation to pass.
I could be wrong, but that’s how I think it will play out. Watch this space.
Whatever happens, it is important the plebiscite process is not rushed and that it is fair to both sides.
Meanwhile, it is disappointing to continue to hear commentary that allowing a plebiscite will somehow unleash hate upon the same-sex attracted community.
Yes, there are trolls on social media on both sides and they are reprehensible.
In the mainstream media space, however, there has been no evidence of “hate” or “bigotry” from the pro-marriage side. While debate may be robust at times, as it should be in a mature democracy, our spokespeople have always been respectful.
In contrast, a senior Canberra press gallery journalist this week took to Twitter to describe supporters of marriage as “Neanderthals”.
I have been called a “creep” and a “nauseating piece of filth” on Twitter by another senior journalist, who incidentally tweets this to 50,000 people.
These are not trolls, they are journalists who support changing the definition of marriage.
If I started calling same-sex marriage advocates these sorts of names on social media, I would be hounded from my job and rightly so.
But there are double standards in this debate.
Those of us who wish to preserve marriage must not give in to the narrative that assumes our side is about hate. It is not.
We must be free to make our case for marriage without being intimidated and bullied from the playing field.