Opponents have "given up" trying to win the argument on same-sex marriage and are deliberately muddying the issue ahead of a national plebiscite, says leading Irish marriage equality campaigner Tiernan Brady.
Brady, who is in Australia to assist the "yes" campaign in a national vote on marriage, told BuzzFeed News he is already seeing the types of "misdirections" that cropped up in the Irish campaign, which included linking same-sex marriage to adoption and surrogacy.
"They kept saying [surrogacy law is linked to marriage law] until the independent chair of the referendum commission had to come out and say ‘This is a separate area of law, it is not connected to the question you are being asked to vote on’," Brady explained.
"This tactic is as old as the hills – if you can’t persuade people, persuade them of something else."
During a panel discussion on ABC's The Drum on Tuesday, the Australian Christian Lobby's Lyle Shelton argued that same-sex marriage is a "package deal" with erasing gender from society, tied to the "rainbow political agenda".
"You only have to look no further than Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, one of the country's most vocal supporters for changing the definition of marriage," Shelton said.
"He is about to make [LGBTI anti-bullying program] Safe Schools compulsory in all Victorian high schools next year, allowing boys who identify as girls to be in the girls' toilets and all of this fluid gender ideology material," Shelton said.
Brady told BuzzFeed News such comments show the "no" campaign has "literally given up on trying to win the argument about marriage".
"The game is over. They know Australians are for it – 'so how can we make it about something else?'" he said.
"You can deliberately try and fool people. They’re hoping that by the time we can make clear how untrue and how unconnected it is, we’ll be on the far side of the decision. As a tactic, it is one you have to work very hard to defeat."
Paul Ritchie, Tony Abbott's former speechwriter, told The Drum that pivoting the argument against same-sex marriage towards parenting or transgender people is "an old political trick".
"I have worked for five state and federal Liberal Leaders and I know when someone is really under the gun, what they do in a debate is say, look over there. Look over there," he said.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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