The Australian government is planning to hand $7.5 million of funding to anti-LGBT activists under a plan for a public vote on equal marriage.
The country’s right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has avoided a free Parliamentary vote on equal marriage, instead making plans to take the issue to the public in a non-binding plebiscite to avoid a rift with his own conservative anti-LGBT MPs.
But the proposal is being blocked by opposition parties, who support equal marriage but see a plebiscite see it as costly measure that invites homophobic debate rather than swiftly resolving the issue in Parliament.
New details of the plan emerged this week – revealing that both the official Yes and No camps would be amazing.
According to ABC, the cabinet has approved the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Under the plan, a total of $15 million of public funding will be allocated to the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns – with each receiving an equal $7.5 million of public funding.
Confirmation of public funding for ads attacking LGBT rights has infuriated the opposition Labor Party, who say they are more likely to block the popular vote.
Australian Marriage Equality Chair Alex Greenwich said: “For more than a decade, we have been advocating for this straightforward reform that at its core is simply about making people happy
“This public funding provisions would allow tax payers funds to be used to attack other Australians with fear campaigns, and is totally unnecessary for achieve a reform that the parliament could deliver now.
“The proposal also creates a complex committee process that takes the campaign away from those who have advocated long and hard for reform.
“It is also concerning that the Government has not released the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act that would follow from a successful plebiscite meaning Australians would not know what they are voting for.
“The parliament should not proceed with this complex and unfair process, and instead MPs and Senators who support marriage equality should work towards a multi-partisan parliamentary vote.
“Poll after poll proves that two thirds of the nation backs marriage equality for every Australian and want this parliament to deliver this now so we can all move forward.
“The people of Australia don’t want marriage equality to remain a political football for the next three years or more – they want to get this done.
“No one party has the numbers to marriage equality, they must now work together if they are serious about achieving the reform.”
Spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Sharyn Faulkner, said: “We cannot countenance taxpayers’ money being spent on what is likely to be hurtful, harmful and even hateful campaign materials from the ‘no’ case.”
“We call on the Senate, and particularly the Labor Party, to block the plebiscite and for Parliament to have a free vote instead.”
Long-time marriage equality advocate, Rodney Croome, said Cabinet’s decisions on a plebiscite show the right wing of the Coalition has taken control of the plebiscite process from Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis.
“The right wing of the Coalition appears to be dictating terms on the plebiscite which will make the LGBTI community even more hostile to the proposal.”
Mr Croome said he is concerned about the proposed question as well as the proposal for public funding.
“As well as rejecting public funding, I am concerned about the proposed question which should be as simple as possible.”
“Asking about a ‘change to the law’ is unnecessary and distracts attention from the key issue.”