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Despite What The Government Says, LGBTI Groups Do Not Want A Plebiscite

The community isn't buying the government's line of "plebiscite or nothing".

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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:

  1. ACON
  2. Rowena Allen, (Gender & Sexuality Commissioner, Dept of Premier & Cabinet, Victoria)
  3. Asian Australian Rainbow Alliance (AAuRA)
  4. Aleph Melbourne
  5. Australian Catholics for Equality
  6. Australians for Equality
  7. Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council
  8. Australian Marriage Equality
  9. Black Rainbow
  10. Dameyon Bonson
  11. Brave Network Melbourne
  12. Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network
  13. Brisbane LGBTI Action Group
  14. Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust
  15. Florence Chen
  16. Karen Christie
  17. Meg Clark
  18. Connect for Life
  19. Dayenu
  20. Susan Ditter
  21. Diversity Launceston
  22. DIY Rainbow
  23. Anne-Marie Delahunt
  24. Harley Dennett
  25. Nathan Despott
  26. Kate Doak
  27. Maxine Drake
  28. Suzanne Eastwood
  29. Equal Marriage Rights Australia
  30. Jamie Gardiner
  31. GetUp!
  32. Kelly Glanney
  33. GLOBE Melbourne
  34. Gosford Pride Games
  35. Christine Healy
  36. Brendan Heck
  37. Aram Hosie
  38. Mandy How
  39. Corey Irlam
  40. LGBTI Rights Unit of the Human Rights Law Centre
  41. Sharon Jones
  42. LGBTI Legal Service
  43. Marriage Equality Gilmore
  44. Lynne O’Brien
  45. National LGBTI Health Alliance
  46. New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
  47. OII Australia
  48. PFLAG Perth Queensland
  49. AIDS Council
  50. Rainbow Rights
  51. WA Rainbow Families
  52. Krishna Sandha
  53. NSW Sydney Gay Meditation Group
  54. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Network
  55. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
  56. Transgender Equality Alliance
  57. Transgender Victoria
  58. Trikone
  59. Uniting Network
  60. Victorian AIDS Council
  61. Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
  62. Veronica Wensing
  63. Working It Out
  64. Tushara Wickramariyaratne

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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