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7th September 2017, 11:07:20 UTC

“Marriage equality is a human rights issue. Amnesty International Australia wanted a free vote in Parliament to usher in marriage equality in our country. However, now the High Court has ruled the postal survey will proceed, we call on all Australians who believe in fairness, in family, in equality and in love to make certain that they post their ‘Yes’ vote. And we encourage them to ensure that everyone they know does the same. Let’s bring home the Yes vote now,” Amnesty International Australia’s Marriage Equality Campaign Coordinator Naomi Vaughan said.


“LGBTQI Australians have already waited too long for their loving unions to be treated with dignity and respect. Let’s make 2017 the year the Government finally reforms the Marriage Act so Australians can join more than 1 billion other people around the world living in countries that respect and protect marriage equality.”



Surveys consistently show that at least two-thirds of Australian voters want marriage equality (see statistics, below).


Amnesty International Australia (AIA) has campaigned for months for a free vote in Parliament to usher in marriage equality. AIA activists lobbied their Members of Parliament and Senators via phone, email and online petitions to this end.


The Federal Government under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to introduce a Marriage Equality bill, instead sought to honour an election commitment to hold a plebiscite. However, the plebiscite proposal was defeated in Parliament on two occasions by MPs and Senators who sought a free vote instead.


The Government then opted to introduce a non-binding and non-compulsory ‘postal survey’ to measure the public’s mood on the issue, to be carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


It was planned that the ABS would post ballot papers to everyone on the electoral roll. However, 16- and 17-year-olds can also be on the electoral roll, and the Government fought to close this loophole for the plebiscite purpose. This is subject to a legal challenge by 17-year-old Cameron Warasta.


On the announcement of the plebiscite proceeding, there were 250,000 young people missing from the electoral roll. Therefore, AIA along with other groups campaigned for young people in particular to register to vote. One initiative was AIA supporting the youth media blackout, whereby for a period several prominent youth media sites diverted their traffic to the Australian Electoral Commission website with a message to readers to enrol to vote.


Electoral rolls closed for registration last month, by which time 90,000 new enrolments were received, with 50,000 of those in the final five days. There were another 165,000 transactions awaiting processing. (An as yet unknown number of these could be simply address updates.)  The day after ballots closed, AIA supported ‘Wear It Purple’ Day in solidarity with young LGBTQI people who were being hurt by the public debate over the validity of their relationships. For example, staff, volunteers and activists tweeted supportive messages along with photos of themselves wearing purple.


Ballots are due to be posted to households on 12 September. It is expected that most people will return their papers within the first few days, therefore AIA is campaigning hard for a Yes vote between now and then. This takes numerous forms, including participation in coalitions such as ‘NGOs for Yes’ (SM graphic attached) and Australian Marriage Equality whereby, for example, AIA is providing access to their action centres as venues for calling parties.


This week the postal plebiscite’s legality was contested in two hearings before the High Court. The High Court ruled today in a 7-0 unanimous decision that the postal survey – as it is now known – could proceed, and as a result AIA is campaigning for a Yes vote.


Key statistics


  • 1 billion people live in jurisdictions that protect the right to marriage equality
  • 21 countries have marriage equality laws
  • Same-sex marriages are already recognised (but not performed) in Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales
  • 2/3 of Australians support marriage equality
    • 59% of Christians support
    • 75% of people who followed other religions support it
    • 81% of non-religious people support it
    • 81% of young Australians (18-24 years of age) support marriage equality (Source: Crosby Textor research, 2014)