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Postal survey ends don't justify means



I woke up anxious. I got on the train and met my sister and we talked about what the result was going to be. My sister was sure of a yes; I wasn't so confident.

xxxxx'People thought Hillary was going to win and the UK was going to stay in the EU,' I reminded her. My sister bought me a dyed rainbow rose from Flinders Street Station, 'for the symbolism. So you'll have something physical of this day.' I smiled at her and twirled the rose over and over on the way to the tram.

In an article for The Age, Premier Daniel Andrews told LGBT+ people to 'keep standing up and speaking up ... keep telling us what you go through day-to-day'. For me, I've been doorknocking, calling, gone to rallies and written articles. I've been living my life; finishing one university program that I loved and applying for another one, checking in with friends, dealing with my mental health. I'm happy to report there were days that I didn't actively think about the postal vote, though most days I did.

When I wasn't thinking about the postal vote, I thought about how on Manus, there are 400 refugees who are still without water and food. I thought about Indigenous Australians still are fighting for recognition and how this year the Elijah Doughty demonstrations had hundreds of protestors while the same sex marriage rallies had thousands. The LGBT+ community didn't want this vote to happen, but I still feel guilt all the same that the same sex marriage debate has overshadowed these issues.

Every day, in the back of my mind, I thought about queer youth and marvelled how they could even be upright, let alone go to school or take exams. According to ReachOut, the user rate of youth hotlines has increased by 20 per cent in the last few months. I thought about how almost every LGBT+ person I talked to said how they felt like they are back 'in the closet' or 'in high school'. How I felt the same way.

So standing in front of Melbourne's State Library, I was near tears as the minutes ticked by. Five minutes, four, three ... the live stream that the yes campaign had set up kept glitching, so we only heard snatches of what was being said. What if it glitched on the announcement? A few people around us made jokes about 'bloody Turnbull's NBN'.

As the minutes wound down, pre-emptive tears started filling my eyes. Another crackle, then we heard that there were 7,817,247 yes votes, 'representing 61.6 per cent'. Everyone started yelling and crying. I hugged my sister and sobbed. Glitter bombs went off. The song, 'Celebrations', started to play. We stood amid the joy for a moment. Then it was over. 'Want to get something to eat?' my sister asked me.


"I don't think it will help Australians to whitewash over how terrible this actually was."


We walked around and I knew I should be happy, but I hadn't stopped feeling nervous. All the fear and anxiety that I had been carrying suddenly rose to the surface. Eventually I ran for the bathroom. When I was finished, I told my sister, 'I just threw up, how's that for symbolism?'

While I am relieved that the result is a yes, I agree with Andrews when he urged LGBT+ people to 'get mad'. I'm angry. I'm angry that the postal survey has, in some ways, consumed the last few months of my life, as well as all of Australia's attention. I'm angry that LGBT+ people were forced into the position of defending their own worth. I'm angry that when my mother and I sat down to do the survey, I was scared to look over at her paper.

And I'm angry because I've been tired and worried for months over something that could have been resolved years ago in parliament.

In the ensuing debate and talk about how love wins, we shouldn't let ourselves forget that this postal vote never should have happened in the first place, and nothing like this should happen again to any minority group. The public voting yes or no on human rights is not what democracy looks like. If we're the country that we say we are, we need to recognise that the postal vote was wrong and damaging to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

In Ireland, people from the yes side said the turmoil was worth it, to get a yes. And maybe I would feel differently if Australia had to do a referendum. But I think we shouldn't sell ourselves short. We should be better than 'tolerant' and better than treating others like second class citizens. I don't think it will help Australians to whitewash over how terrible this actually was. To me, the ends did not justify these means. 



Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, marriage equality, asylum seekers, Aboriginal recognition



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Existing comments

Neve, I loved your last sentence "To me, the ends did not justify these means" because that truism has just about disappeared from public discussion and needs to be brought back! The long road to justice for LGBT people has been marked by murders, bashings, sackings, jailings, suicides and a postal survey - none of which should have been necessary, but we can salute the brave people who keep fighting and rejoice when progress is made. (You would feel worse in Brexit-UK and Trump-USA!)

Russell | 14 November 2017  

The 'ends', Neve, were never to achieve marriage equality. In the case of Abbott, the aim of his 'plebiscite' proposal was to kick the can further down the road and, if possible, defer marriage equality indefinitely. In the case of Dutton, the aim of his 'postal survey' was to get the issue settled before the next election by which time he hopes to be leading the Liberals. In neither case was the cost - financial, societal, or emotional - a concern to them. They were simply the prices that others were going to pay. And 'we' didn't sell ourselves short Neve, we were sold short, and that by the likes of Abbott, Dutton, and weak-kneed Turnbull.

Ginger Meggs | 15 November 2017  

Neve, thank you for all the care, anxiety, and overall emotional cost to you and so many. It has been worth it, even though it has its 'after-effect' as you have so clearly described. I assure you that my partner and I, who have been together for 33 years, value the work that you and so many have done in making marriage available to us now, in order to celebrate and proclaim our love, care and concern for each other in freedom and equality. God bless.

Thomas Amory | 15 November 2017  

Well said Neve! All those sincerely happy people, all duped and hijacked for the political ends of a divided governing party. And all those who languish because that government, that now declares, "Love has won", does not have the slightest intention of enacting love to those in this country and this world that really need it. How can you declare that "Love has won" while you wave away the Uluru Statement from the Heart and use asylum seekers as pawns for your political power ambitions. Yes, this survey never should have happened, and its happening has wrought bad in this land, distracted us from what we should be doing, avoided the parliament doing its job.

Janet | 15 November 2017  

I am not surprised that the attacks on people's right to disagree with same-sex marriage have started immediately after the announcement of the results of the plebicite. This was always a fear held by those who were campaigning for the preservation of the dignity of marriage. I am surprised that the attacks started in Eureka Street. If there has been any victory at all it is that everyone got to have a say despite the left and people like Neve not wanting to allow opponents of same-sex marriage to have a voice. Same-sex marriage is not a human right. From a christian point of view, homosexual sex is morally repugnant. There are many issues to consider in this debate, including, as Neve points out, that many people have psychological issues, especially if they do not have the comfort and hope provided by personal faith. I voted No because of my understanding of who we are and how God made us, and what the sacrament of marriage really means.

David Crowley | 15 November 2017  

With you, Neve, and all my lgbtiq friends and kin. It was unnecessarily emotionally costly, and expensive, and did no more than confirm the common polls. A shocking irony that I hope is not lost on the bean-counters. I hope the conservative rump driving this have the grace to hang their heads in shame, and doubt the ideologues will. The only good thing to come out of the fiasco is that the ABS results area by area help us understand why it’s higher and lower in spots. And that’s a call to build inclusiveness. But please, for yourself, Neve, stand very tall. You fought a good fight and can rejoice in an outcome unlikely to impinge on conscientious no voters.

Frances | 15 November 2017  

Neve, I am happy for you today. I agree with Mr Turnbull - yesterday was a day when Australia said "yes" to fairness, acceptance and love. The parliament should have taken the brave step to legalise same-sex marriage instead of having the postal vote. Politically, though, it was a difficult issue. And now that the "yes" vote has prevailed, we still need to work together with those who voted "no". It hurts, I know, to be treated as a second class citizen but that is not who you are. I believe it and so do you. That's two of us. And there are others.

Pam | 15 November 2017  

Brave, beautiful, thankyou.

Michelle walker | 15 November 2017  

There was nothing in Neve’s poignant article that was an “attack on people's right to disagree with same-sex marriage”. Rather, in the immediate aftermath of the Yes announcement, Neve and many other LGBT+ people experienced such a release of tension and anxiety that they became sick to the stomach. The article clearly attacked the voting process itself which (needlessly, frustratingly and immorally) put all voters in a position where they participated in deciding upon the human rights of a minority group. What indignity and presumptuousness! Neve’s article did not attack individuals who opposed SSM – it expressed a view about a terrible process that gave everyone (whatever their SSM views) an opportunity to decide on basic human rights for a group of fellow-citizens. Based on accounts from LGBT+ people over the past day or so, I suspect that many “bottled up” the fear, anxiety and hurt during the past two month’s campaign in order not to damage their potential to achieve a Yes outcome by appearing to be whingeing victims. These folk should now come forward and tell us how they weathered through this tough period – so that we can all admire their strength and conviction – and share the anger and rage.

Richard Heggie | 15 November 2017  

David Crowley, in his comment here, says: "I voted No because of my understanding of who we are and how God made us". He is clearly not aware that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. This is how you are born, and isn't that "how God made us"?

Brian Finlayson | 15 November 2017  

Sorry, Neve! You did not vote YES. You responded YES to a national postal SURVEY. That is why the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics read the results as RESPONSES not votes. No winner was declared. After all 20% of those eligible to participate in the SURVEY did not. There is still a significant number of Australians who are so committed to their definition/understanding of marriage that they do not want SSA couples to enjoy their loving lifetime compact having equal status under law. The SURVEY was a political con job so that Mr Turnbull could claim a mandate which he did. Even talking in terms of Australia has voted overwhelmingly inn favour of SSA couples being able to marry. It was a very expensive unnecessary acerbating exercise to get a hammer to crack the hard nuts of the Abbott Resistance in his government ranks. Who will live to fight another day rallying support from the disgruntled NO campaigners .

Uncle Pat | 15 November 2017  

I would agree strongly with Neve that this plebiscite was a bad idea for all sort of reasons, including the ones she puts forward. The greatest problem however is that it is an assault on Parliamentary Democracy; we elect MPs to make these decisions, and this issue should have been decided by a free vote in Canberra. I voted NO becuase i considered it bad social policy to change the time-honoured definition of Marriage, and that the change was likely and perhaps even intended by many in the secular "progressive" camp to undermine this vital institution. But I am glad that it has made the gay community for the most part happy; it is always good to have an excuse for a party! I would though also point out that this was not a vote on a Human Rights issue (capitals) but an issue of civic rights; Human Rights include such core things as Freedom of Speech and Religion, which have not fared so well recently in Australia; can ES now give these the priority they deserve please?

Eugene | 15 November 2017  

David says, "I voted No because of my understanding of who we are and how God made us, and what the sacrament of marriage really means." Sometimes, through thoughtful and respectful dialogue with someone with a different understanding we can see that there is room for all of us who want to protect what we conscientiously believe to be right and just. "We should be better than 'tolerant' and better than treating others like second class citizens." There is an inviting challenge here for us all.

Alex Nelson | 15 November 2017  

Who said NO campaigners are "disgruntled" Uncle Pat? We might just be interested in trying to uphold God's law. Most YES respondents were not "informed". They were driven by media and gaudy demonstrations. Some countries are legalising incest and bestiality. Is that next here? Should elected MPs just vote this in too?

Marjorie | 15 November 2017  

Thank you, Marjorie, for asking the question - "Who said NO campaigners are disgruntled?" I must say not one of the NO campaigners I know personally and those making their views known in media has used the word "disgruntled" to describe how they feel about the results of the SUREY. But to my ear and understanding their utterances do not bespeak contentment or serenity with the result. I thought "disgruntled" was the word I would like my friends (and foes) use to describe my upset feelings and discontentment with the whole process of the POSTAL SURVEY, It reduced a fundamental socio-political-ethical question to a nation-wide opinion poll. I confess I assumed that the NO campaigners might be feeling the same way about the conduct of the SURVEY and its mathematically puzzling result. I mean 20% of those eligible to have their say did not. The YES responses were fewer than half those eligible to participate. To say Australia has said YES is political speak for we squeaked home. Uncle Pat is very disgruntled - and wears his disgruntlement with pride.

Uncle Pat | 15 November 2017  

This accursed survey was not about the ‘sacrement of marriage’ and canon law David, it was about civil marriage and the law of the state.

Ginger Meggs | 16 November 2017  

Neve, I’m sincerely happy that you are happy. Like David, and presumably Marjorie, I voted No and I door knocked for Traditional Marriage. Not once did anyone in the support group say anything disparaging about LGBTI people. Understandably we don’t appreciate being branded ‘homophobes’ and ‘bigots’ and having every event at a venue sabotaged and worse. Everyone in our group was a parent and/or grandparent; we understand a thing or two about life; can appreciate the challenge that same-sex attractedness must be; but cannot see how SSM aligns with Christian values and tradition. Among the over-riding concerns were, and are, where SSM will take what remains of Australia’s Judeo-Christian culture and the impact of SSM on the formation of Australia’s children (remember those TV ads that caution introducing children to an irresponsible drinking culture – what will be the demonstration effect of ubiquitous SSM on impressionable children?). In the thousands of SSM drives from the Big Corporations, Big Banks, the Media, the ABC which bulldozed aside and ridiculed all contrary views, not once can I recall an argument as to why this will be good for the biological or identity completeness of children.

bb | 16 November 2017  

My wife and I have been married just over 37 years .We have 3 adult children (all straight) , 2 married , 4 grandchildren. I am not sure what my children voted . I worked with a chap who was openly gay. He was a great friend and work mate and had a wonderful sense of humour. As I am retired and he has moved in his job, we lost touch, so I don't know his opinion. I have no doubt he suffered greatly during the lead up to the Survey results . I totally agree with Neve, t the whole exercise was a massive waste of our hard earned taxes. Personally, my wife and I agreed that we would vote "No" .We believe in traditional marriage. I think a law to regularise same sex relationships and their rights concerning legal, property rights, inheritance etc (as exists in heterosexual marriage) would have been a better way of dealing with the issue. We hope that our right to disagree will be respected. Once the necessary law is passed , the issue will die away from the media, so all of us can live normal lives. We are both actively practising Catholics and in my case an Acolyte of 35 years!

Gavin | 16 November 2017  

Uncle Pat, why omit a religious category from your "socio-political-ethical" description of the same-sex marriage survey? After all, it is a real factor for a significant percentage of Australians.

John | 16 November 2017  

Thank you for these sensitive thoughts. We should remember, too, that the survey was itself an act of contempt by the PM towards Parliament, which had already rejected his plebiscite. The whole exercise was an exercise in cynical politics which rode roughshod over the real needs of LGBTI people.

Ken Rookes | 16 November 2017  

Hi John! I left out religion because the SURVEY was about changing the secular law so that SSA couples could marry. Fr Brennan SJ has tried valiantly in recent months to draw the distinction between civil marriage and sacramental marriage. In my own mind I tried to respond to the SURVEY question from the point of view that the Marriage Act is primarily concerned with civil marriage as a legal compact for life voluntarily entered into by two adults. It is not concerned with their religious beliefs. The main objects of the Howard amendments in 2004 were to ban gay couples from marrying or adopting children from overseas. Mr Howard made it plain then that "the definition of marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation." Howard to his credit (whatever his private religious belief) did not introduce any religious questions. I tried to do the same this time. Although I was mightily disgruntled when Mr Howard's expectation that any further redefinition or change was something that should be expressed through the elected representatives of the country was squibbed by a LNP government.

Uncle Pat | 16 November 2017  

" I door knocked for Traditional Marriage". Thanks bb, it's nice to start the day with a smile. But when you "cannot see how SSM aligns with Christian values and tradition" at least remember that 30 years ago most Christians agreed with you, but, and it takes some thinking to change one's mind on such an issue, now most Christians are for SSM. It may not be the official view of the Catholic Church in Australia, but it is the view of most Catholics here. Also remember, when fretting about the Judeo-Christian tradition that perhaps 2% of Australians will avail themselves of the opportunity of SSM - surely there are many more serious threats to the Judeo-Christian tradition than that.

Russell | 16 November 2017  

Russell, you say "it takes some thinking to change one's mind on such an issue, now most Christians are for SSM". Actually, to be for SSM doesn't require any thinking at all, just capitulation to enormous pressure and a desire to describe oneself as "progressive". As for most Christians being for SSM, that's certainly news to me. Where did that information come from?

Gavan O'Farrell | 16 November 2017  

Gavan, pressure to be "progessive" is s good thing. It's given Aboriginal people the right to vote, land rights. It's given women the right to vote and be treated equally in the workplace. It's ended slavery and apartheid. It's lifted criminal convictions for homosexuality and made it socially unaccepted to bash and persecute gay people. Let's hope the progressive movement continues across the political/social/religious spectrum of ideas.

AURELIUS | 17 November 2017  

Thanks Neve for your heartfelt article. In my opinion the recent postal survey was meaningless and a waste of money and was nothing more than a cynical exercise by people such as Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Peter Dutton to delay a Federal Parliamentary conscience vote on same sex marriage. Abbott and his conservative cohorts did not want an outcome that occurred in Catholic countries such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Ireland which have all voted for same sex marriage. The result of the survey was predictable, but it is disappointing that 40% of people either voted 'No' or did not vote. With respect to the Catholic population, I believe that the majority of people believe in social justice and humanitarian rights for LGBT people; I remember some commentator, who I think was either Paul Collins or Stephen Crittenden saying a few years back that surveys of Catholic people had demonstrated that the majority of Catholic people were in favour of equal rights for these people. I also remember that about 25 years back when I was living in East Melbourne and attending mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, there were several blokes who were members of some rainbow sash group and were refused holy communion and most people made comments after mass of disagreement with this action. In my opinion, there is currently a significant number of white people in my golf and bridge clubs who are homophobic, islamophobic and rascist. With respect to the culture of the Catholic Church, I believe that there is no theological reason for church policies such as discriminating against LGBT people, opposing women priests and the bizarre policy of male priest celibacy. These policies are political and the church's history of anti-feminism. Arguments about religious freedom are illogical and mischievous. Cheers and have a good day!

Mark Doyle | 17 November 2017  

'Actually, to be for SSM doesn't require any thinking at all, just capitulation to enormous pressure and a desire to describe oneself as "progressive".' Just a tad of Christian condescension there, Gavan? If anything, I would have thought the 'capitulation to enormous pressure' would have been on the other boot, that is, the pressure to conform to culture, tradition, group pressure, religious teaching, and a general tendency to discourage questioning of holy writ, canon law, and what the sacred texts say.

Ginger Meggs | 18 November 2017  

The polls show a long, gradual, continual shift in people's view of SSM. You might say (I would disagree) that there was 'pressure' on people to go with the flow now, but that didn't apply ten and twenty years ago when the change started. You can google up the polls or reports of them and you'll find it's the same for abortion and euthanasia. Might there be a relation between the increasing proportion of Christians/Catholics who are for these things, and the decreasing size of congregations?

Russell | 19 November 2017  

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