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Mystery marriage alliance
Concerns have been raised about who is behind a new Australian marriage equality alliance before the group has been formally announced.
The Marriage Alliance was founded six months ago and lists the Australian Coalition for Equality, Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, Gay & Lesbian Equality WA, NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Tasmanian Gay & Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG), PFLAG Australia and Australian Marriage Equality (AME) as members.
However, the Star Observer has spoken to leadership individuals from Alliance member organisations, some of whom requested anonymity, who are concerned that focus group research and polling was commissioned on their behalf but without their knowledge.
The research, seen by this newspaper, urges taking a non-confrontational approach in the lead-up to the ALP National Conference in December and, although supportive of marriage equality, notes “for those conflicted by the issue or sitting on the fence, the idea of civil unions seem like the easiest and less disruptive path, and a reasonable compromise for both sides … some also think it might be a good first step before same-sex marriage becomes law”.
Groups who organise rallies for marriage equality have not been invited to join the Alliance.
Concerns were also expressed that people purporting to represent the Alliance had used this research to lobby politicians without the knowledge of all Alliance members.
Most Alliance member organisations did not reply to questions by deadline.
However, PFLAG Australia national spokeswoman Shelley Argent told the Star Observer she knew little of the group’s activities.
“I have no idea about much of what you are asking because very little contact has been made with me,” Argent said, adding that she had now distanced herself from the Alliance to remain independent.
AME national convenor Alex Greenwich said his group remained independent but was part of the Alliance’s My Marriage Story online campaign.
“There are always teething issues at the start of any campaign and I am confident that if there are any issues, they will be resolved,” he said. “I will personally ensure that views and concerns of groups like CAAH and Equal Love will be represented.”
However, TGLRG spokesman Rodney Croome said he was “deeply concerned” by a lack of “process, accountability and transparency” within the Alliance.
“There is no board, spokesperson or structure. This would not matter if the Alliance was simply about sharing information or coordinating national actions … but it has gone far beyond that — commissioning research and polling, and lobbying politicians,” he said.
“On such an important and sensitive issue as marriage equality — where politicians are always looking for an easy way out like civil unions — the LGBTI community deserves to know who is representing it and what they’re saying … but not even people involved in the Alliance know what it is doing.
“If we are to avoid the mistrust and division that has plagued marriage equality campaigns in the US, it is vital we all work well together in an open and transparent way.”