Australian Prime Minister ‘blames Muslims’ for voting against equal marriage
The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to blame Muslims for votes against equal marriage.
The country is in the process of passing equal marriage through Parliament after a divisive public vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal.
Aussies gave their resounding backing to equality in the vote, with 61.60% voting Yes and 38.40% voting No.
The Yes vote won a majority in every state, and in 133 of the 150 federal electorates – with voters in just 17 seats favouring a ‘No’ vote.
12 of the seats that voted ‘No’ were in western Sydney, along with three Queensland electorates and two Victorian regions.
The country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited the migrant population in western Sydney as the reason for the result.
He told 3AW: “The numbers speak for themselves, and you can see the biggest No votes were in electorates with a large migrant population, and in particular with a large Muslim population, like several of the seats in western Sydney and in Melbourne.
He added: “In some of those seats you’ve got a very big Muslim community who are very, who are very conservative on issues like this and very little support for same-sex marriage.”
The apparent attempt to brand migrants “intolerant” for voting against equal marriage is bizarre, given that Mr Turnbull was responsible for forcing a public vote on the issue in the first place – while many senior figures in his Liberal Party aggressively campaigned against equality.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton led calls for the censorship of a ‘gay’ song during the debate, while former Liberal leader Tony Abbott became the de facto leader of the ‘No’ campaign.
Meanwhile former Liberal chief whip Eric Abetz vowed to push amendments to ‘wreck’ the marriage law.
Other Liberal MPs to speak out against equality include Kevin Andrews, who said: ” I have an affectionate relationship with my cycling mates. We go cycling on the weekends, but that’s not marriage.”
The most vocal opposition to equality came from the Australian Christian Lobby and its affiliated groups, including the Coalition for Marriage.
Speaking to SBS, Muslim equal marriage activist Fahad Ali rebuffed claims that the Muslim community was ‘to blame’ for the vote.
He said that the official campaign for equality did little to reach out to diverse communities.
He said: “The Yes campaign, they didn’t really go into Western Sydney, it didn’t really build in diverse communities out west and the consequences of that is that they voted No.”
Meanwhile Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology at the University of Technology Sydney, noted that Muslims were far from alone in favouring a ‘No’ vote, again citing lack of outreach.
He wrote: “The opposition to same-sex marriage was particularly resonant in communities where people have fairly poor educational backgrounds, somewhat limited English language skills and their information is mediated primarily through religious institutions.
“So, in localities where there are strong communities built around Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, Eastern Catholicism, African Christianities, Asian Christianities (ranging from Catholic to Evangelical), and even in other areas with pockets of Orthodox Judaism, there were singular funnels of information presented in cultural and moral terms.”
Elsewhere this week a large-scale survey of LGBTI Australians has shown opposition to a same-sex marriage bill that allow discrimination in the name of religion.
The study found a slim majority of LGBTI people would rather wait than accept a compromised bill.
The study conducted between the closure of the postal survey and yesterday’s announcement of the result, also found almost 80% of LGBTI Australians were adversely affected by the postal survey with 56% saying the process was not worthwhile, even with a Yes vote.
As a result advocates have called for the money saved on the postal survey to be spent on LGBTI support services.
The survey of 3,300 LGBTI Australians across all demographics was run by just.equal and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and designed by social scientist, Dr Sharon Dane.
It found 63% opposition to civil celebrants nominating themselves to have the right to refuse their services for religious reasons and 87% opposition to businesses with religious links also being able to discriminate.
71% believe exemptions allowing discrimination against any couple would be used to disproportionately discriminate against same-sex couples.
54% said they would be willing to wait until marriage equality can be achieved without such exemptions. 28% were not willing to wait and 18% were neutral.
Just.equal spokesperson, Brian Greig, said: “The LGBTI community clearly wants marriage legislation that will not legitimise further discrimination.
“For LGBTI Australians religious exemptions like those in the Smith Bill already go too far and anything more would be a definite deal breaker.
“Religious exemptions like those proposed by Dean Smith and other Liberals are all about smoothing over differences in the Liberal Party and nothing to do with the aspiration of the LGBTI community for full equality.
“Other countries, including Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland, did not attached spurious religious protections to marriage equality and neither should Australia.
“We call on the Parliament to amend the Smith Bill to tighten up its religious exemptions, and ensure there will be no detriment to LGBTI people.
“Our study also shows that despite a strong Yes vote the postal survey caused widespread harm and that nothing like this should be attempted again.
“We call on the Government to spend the money it saved on the postal survey on LGBTI mental health services to ensure there is support for those who continue to be affected by the prejudice the survey stirred up.”
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The projected cost of the postal survey was $122 million but it came in $20 million under budget.
PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent said: “We believe in religious freedoms, but not religious privilege especially when it negatively impacts on our children’s freedoms. Our sons and daughters are not to be feared and the Yes vote shows the vast majority of this country believe it’s time to end discrimination.
“This LGBTI community study funded by PFLAG showed that LGBTI couples would prefer to wait for true marriage equality.
“A Galaxy poll of the entire community also commissioned by PFLAG showed almost all Yes voters and 43% of No voters believe all couples should be treated equally should the nation vote Yes, which is decisively has.”
The survey designer, Dr Sharon Dane, said: “The study was conducted in the lead up to the postal survey announcement so that people’s attention was focussed on the result without being unduly influenced by the outcome one way or the other.
“Polls showing a likely Yes vote meant many LGBTI people were quietly optimistic about the outcome, yet a majority of respondents still oppose compromised legislation.
“We kept the questions as general as possible because the details of proposed religious exemptions will keep changing.”