Over 60 LGBTI groups and people have signed an open letter to the Australian parliament calling on politicians to vote down the marriage equality plebiscite.
The letter appears to contradict comments from attorney general George Brandis, who said on Wednesday that most of the LGBTI groups he has consulted with see the plebiscite as the best way forward.
"I can assure you that most of the gay groups that I have met with, while the plebiscite may not be their first preference, recognise that the plebiscite is now the surest and most immediate path for this outcome," he told the ABC's AM program on Wednesday.
But the letter with 64 signatories calling the plebiscite legislation "unfair, unjust and unworkable" was released by Australian Marriage Equality and signed by Australians 4 Equality, the two main LGBTI groups Brandis later told the senate he had consulted with.
In Question Time on Wednesday, Brandis was asked to detail discussions he has had with members of the LGBTI community about the plebiscite.
He named Australian Marriage Equality and Australians 4 Equality, the "yes" campaign vehicle, as two groups he had spoken to at length.
"I have in particular had several discussions with Mr Tiernan Brady, who ran the 'yes' campaign during the Irish referendum," he said.
Brady is part of the Australians 4 Equality group, which is closely linked with Australian Marriage Equality.
A few minutes later, Brandis told the parliament he had also spoken to the NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Shelley Argent from PFLAG, and Victorian gay and lesbian advocates.
"They oppose it!" called senator Penny Wong.
"That is not correct, Senator Wong," Brandis replied.
All five of the groups named by Brandis have made clear their opposition to the plebiscite.
The NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby called for the plebiscite to be blocked on Tuesday, saying the proposed structure is "not equal for both sides of the campaign".
"We do not support a publicly funded smear campaign," said co-convenor Chris Pycroft.
PFLAG has maintained a consistent and strident opposition to the plebiscite.
Several Victorian groups are signatories to the letter, including the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Transgender Victoria, the Victorian AIDS Council and the Victorian gender and sexuality commissioner Rowena Allen.
Brandis's office did not respond to a question from BuzzFeed News on which LGBTI groups he had met with who said the plebiscite was the best way forward.
The open letter presents several reasons for opposing the plebiscite, including the non-binding nature of the vote, the $15 million offered to fund the "yes" and "no" campaigns, the wording of the question, the impact on LGBTI Australians, and the fact the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act have not yet been made public.
Brandis's office did not respond to a question on whether the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act would be made available.
The letter also noted concerns over a potential advantage to the "no" campaign due to the $1,500 tax-deductible cap, and the fact churches do not pay tax in Australia.
Introducing the bill to the parliament on Wednesday, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Australian people would come up with the "right answer", whether it is yes or no.
“If ever there is an issue to be put to a plebiscite, this is one that can be, and should be, because it is a very straightforward question," he said.
The troubled policy looks doomed in the senate, where Labor has all but confirmed it will block the legislation.
The signatories to the letter are:
- Rowena Allen, (Gender & Sexuality Commissioner, Dept of Premier & Cabinet, Victoria)
- Asian Australian Rainbow Alliance (AAuRA)
- Aleph Melbourne
- Australian Catholics for Equality
- Australians for Equality
- Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council
- Australian Marriage Equality
- Black Rainbow
- Dameyon Bonson
- Brave Network Melbourne
- Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network
- Brisbane LGBTI Action Group
- Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust
- Florence Chen
- Karen Christie
- Meg Clark
- Connect for Life
- Susan Ditter
- Diversity Launceston
- DIY Rainbow
- Anne-Marie Delahunt
- Harley Dennett
- Nathan Despott
- Kate Doak
- Maxine Drake
- Suzanne Eastwood
- Equal Marriage Rights Australia
- Jamie Gardiner
- Kelly Glanney
- GLOBE Melbourne
- Gosford Pride Games
- Christine Healy
- Brendan Heck
- Aram Hosie
- Mandy How
- Corey Irlam
- LGBTI Rights Unit of the Human Rights Law Centre
- Sharon Jones
- LGBTI Legal Service
- Marriage Equality Gilmore
- Lynne O’Brien
- National LGBTI Health Alliance
- New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
- OII Australia
- PFLAG Perth Queensland
- AIDS Council
- Rainbow Rights
- WA Rainbow Families
- Krishna Sandha
- NSW Sydney Gay Meditation Group
- Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Network
- Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
- Transgender Equality Alliance
- Transgender Victoria
- Uniting Network
- Victorian AIDS Council
- Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
- Veronica Wensing
- Working It Out
- Tushara Wickramariyaratne
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at email@example.com.
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