CEO Update - Now that we have said 'Yes' to marriage equality...
Now that the results are in, what will be the legacy of Australia’s marriage equality ‘postal survey’? I confess that when the results were announced I was a little underwhelmed. A 62% YES vote was at the lower end of my expectation, having paced a small friendly wager on the YES vote reaching 75%.
I then read some reporting from Sky News that put this result into a clearer political perspective.
“At 61.6% the YES has got more votes than LABOR or LNP have ever got to win a general election. The highest vote ever for LNP was 56.9% in 1966. Highest vote ever for ALP was 53.2% in 1983.”
The strength of that result is reinforced even further when you consider that to reach those percentages, Labor and the LNP relied on preferences – votes that were cast for someone else, but added to their totals during the counting process. The YES vote was a pure ‘primary vote’, a first preference.
Put another way, if the vote had been to establish a parliament to consider the issues, the YES vote would have 116 seats and the NO vote would have only 17.
I hope that the strength of that result is a comfort to those whose lives have just been judged in the court of public opinion. I also hope that the clarity of the result sets the issue to rest, and we can get on with the business of healing the wounds that the whole process has created.
Mental Health Australia had a clear position from the outset that these were decisions to be taken by the parliament. We knew that before the process began, the LGBTIQ community experienced much higher levels of distress, mental illness and suicide that the rest of the population.
During the campaign ReachOut, beyondblue, headspace, Orygen, BlackDog, the Brain and Mind Institute and many others tracked the negative impact of the debate on those most affected.
Establishing marriage equality eliminates only one of the many forms of discrimination that nurtures that distress, so we move a step closer, but we have certainly not reached our destination.
This hurt will require a period of healing and I like the suggestion that the $20 million saved by the ABS in delivering the survey could now be reallocated to support that healing through services and programs to the LGBTIQ community.
Finally, I think we would be unwise to forget ‘NO’ the voters, who are also part of the community in which we live.
Far from being a homogenous group, we would do well to better understand the makeup of this group, and to better understand how we can deliver messages about human rights and equality in ways that resonate more effectively.
Frank Quinlan, CEO Mental Health Australia