Chris McCormack, News Weekly, August 26, 2017
The countdown to the postal ballot on redefining marriage is on, but any robust debate on the issue has so far gone missing in action, as media outlets publicly refuse to allow any “No” arguments from being aired, or actively campaign for the “Yes” case.
On August 12, Lenore Taylor, editor of The Guardian Australia, wrote an article entitled, “We won’t be giving equal time to spurious arguments against marriage equality”. She asserted that those who claimed redefining marriage had consequences wider than just allowing same-sex couples to marry had no basis in fact and therefore, “If there was a reasonable argument to say ‘No’, we’d certainly discuss it. I just haven’t heard it yet.”
She dismissed all of the far-reaching ramifications, such as have been seen in Ireland, where months after legalising same-sex “marriage” the parliament passed laws repealing the exemptions for “religious, educational or medical institutions … to maintain the religious ethos of the institution”. In other words, they no longer could legally employ only people who shared the doctrines of their faith. The legislation followed two other Irish acts of parliament in the aftermath of redefining marriage, the Gender Recognition Act, which allows people legally to change their gender by altering their passport without medical intervention, and a gay adoption act, which allows homosexual couples to adopt children.
For Lenore Taylor to sweep aside any legitimate concerns that the narrow protections for institutions promised in Australia could be meaningless, shows either wilful ignorance or bias.
In an effort to head off perceived bias at the ABC, its editorial policy manager, Mark Maley, issued an all-staff email on August 10 stating that the “ABC does not have a position on the issue [same-sex marriage]” and “it is very important that we are impartial and that all perspectives are given a fair hearing and treated with respect by the ABC.”
It seems ABC News Mornings presenter Joe O’ Brien missed the memo. In an interview with Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton he asked: “Did you cheer on Ian Thorpe and take pride in his achievements at multiple Olympic Games?” Before Shelton could finish his answer, O’Brien interrupted: “What right do you have to participate in that joy and take national pride in those achievements if you now deny him the right to feel like an equal and experience the joy of marriage?”
This rather bizarre line of questioning, or should I say campaigning, prompted a complaint to the Federal Government over bias. However, ABC media manager Sally Jackson said: “It was a ‘devil’s advocate’ question and not inconsistent with standards.”
Demonstrating the capacity of the “Yes” cheer squad in the media not just to show blatant bias, but publish fake news, was the revelation that Ten News photoshopped a poster entitled, “Stop the Fags” onto a blank bus stop billboard (actually a Getty Image of a European bus stop) and then ran the image as “proof” of the vitriol the “No” campaign was capable of. Ten eventually admitted it had doctored the image and attributed it to a Melbourne bus stop for a news bulletin because they could not source an image of the poster in situ.
In the meantime, all and sundry media outlets ran stories of the “horrific“ posters plastered over Melbourne. Pedestrian TV, Women’s Weekly, the Daily Mail, ABC News, Huffington Post and 9 Honey to name but a few, ran the story without, it seems, checking that it was a single poster no one had actually spotted, photographed by someone who had sent it to his mate, who had posted it on social media. Additionally, Buzzfeed reported that the poster had originated in the U.S. back in March by a Neo Nazi group, and so had nothing to do with the current debate over marriage.
Mandy Frostick, media manager for the City of Melbourne, issued a statement that a City of Melbourne officer had been sent to investigate the posters but had found none and that all officers were told to keep an eye out, but no posters had been seen in the municipality.
Media outlet SBS, while the recipient of Australian taxpayer funds, has no qualms about representing only one side of the marriage debate. The headline, “15 of the most glorious same-sex marriage postal survey signs from all around Australia”, appeared atop an article urging people to enrol to vote.
Another headline, “When it comes to same-sex marriage, not all views deserve respect”, topped a breathtakingly hypocritical line of argument: “If you want to believe … homosexuality is morally wrong, or that relationships between people of the same sex should not be legitimised through marriage, then go ahead … when you ask that the taxes of your fellow citizens support your belief, you will be resisted. This is exactly how an open society operates and should operate.”
There is evidence, however, that the media bias may backfire, as it did in the U.S. when President Donald Trump was elected. One thing people won’t swallow is being told how to think and what to say. If talkback radio is any indication, many supporters of redefining marriage are now saying they will vote “No”.
 Lenore Taylor, “We won’t be giving equal time to spurious arguments against marriage equality“, The Guardian, August 12, 2017.
 Donna Rachel Edmunds, “Ireland revokes protections for religious freedom in wake of gay marriage vote“, Breitbart, December 4, 2015.
 Andrew Bolt, “‘Don’t cheer for gay sports stars’ comment fine, says ABC“, Herald Sun, August 28, 2017.
 “Media outlets caught out in faked anti-gay marriage campaign“, Bandt.com, August 29, 2017.
 Josh Taylor, “Here’s what you need to know about the anti-gay Neo-Nazi poster everyone is talking about“, BuzzFeed, August 24, 2017.