A MOTHER of two in rural Victoria has spoken out against the government’s proposed postal plebiscite for marriage equality, saying it will be harmful to LGBTI families and young people.
Brydie Smith said her own family is resilient because they have a strong support network and their two children are too young to be aware of the national debate, but her concern is for other families who don’t have the same protections.
“Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying we trust the Australian people and it’s not going to get personal, but the very nature of this debate is personal to the LGBTI community. You can’t sidestep that.”
Smith is concerned that a lot of homophobic rhetoric will come from the debate leading up to the plebiscite.
“It’s surfacing already,” she said.
“It just seems to be stirring up a whole heap of ignorance. Luckily my kids are young, and they don’t watch the news, so they’re oblivious to it, thankfully. I’m glad that my kids aren’t even a couple of years older and aware of what’s in the media.
“I worry for people who don’t have the same support network who will bear the brunt of it on their own. Particularly seeing as statistics prove the LGBTI community have so much more depression and higher rates of suicide, it’s not going to help that.”
Smith and her wife married in a ceremony last year, but their marriage is not recognised by the Australian government.
“The fact that it’s not seen as a legitimate union in the eyes of the law is—my wife says bullshit,” said Smith.
“I see situations for same-sex couples where the law is not on their side, for example when one goes to hospital and the other has to fight to be recognised as the legal next of kin, whereas if they were legally married that wouldn’t be a question.”
She added that same-sex relationships are recognised by the government “when it suits them”.
“As soon as we moved in together we were counted as a couple in the eyes of Centrelink and government agencies,” she said.
“So our incomes were directly affected. And yet they won’t give us the legitimacy on the other hand by allowing us to have a legal union. They’ll recognise it when it’s convenient for them.”
Smith is against the postal plebiscite, saying it’s worse than the compulsory plebiscite that was previously proposed.
“It’s a ridiculous waste of money that could be spent so much better in other places,” she said.
“It’s now even a more watered-down version of what we were going to originally have with the plebiscite.
“At least that was through the Australian Electoral Commission and had some sort of air of something official about it. It’s now all very up in the air and disenfranchising a lot of people.”
Smith gave the example of a family member who is between addresses and can’t enrol to vote with no fixed address, so won’t be able to have a say in the plebiscite.
“It seems like they’re stacking the deck in a way,” she said.
Smith said people who want marriage equality should not boycott the plebiscite, because it will allow the ‘no’ vote a greater chance to win.
“The Australian Christian Lobby and Family First are not going to boycott,” she said.
“They’re highly organised. If we all boycott and it comes back with a ‘no’ vote, does that then shut down the conversation for good, or until we get a change of government? It will just give those people that don’t want to see the change ammunition.”
Tiernan Brady, executive director of The Equality Campaign, said, “We will continue to exhaust every avenue political and legal to stop this unnecessary and non-binding plebiscite that sets a terrible precedent for Australia.
“LGBTI Australians their parents, families, friends and colleagues have always been campaigning for marriage equality and they will continue to, it is because of them that the majority of Australians support marriage equality.
“Supporters of marriage equality have not given up. They will not walk away until every Australian is offered the same dignity and respect.”