17 Times The Marriage Equality Debate Was Too Much For Gay Australians In 2016

    What a silly year.

    1. We entered 2016 with the government planning to hold a national vote on marriage equality. But things started to go south in, well, January, when government MPs said they wouldn't abide by the result.

    Sam Mooy / AAPIMAGE

    Senators Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi said they would exercise their conscience on a same-sex marriage bill regardless of a national vote on the matter.

    2. The next month Marriage Alliance decided the best way to illustrate the dangers of same-sex marriage was a picture of a woman hanging herself with a rainbow noose.

    Twitter / @MarriageAll

    Mental health bodies slammed the image, saying it was harmful to depict a method of suicide.

    3. Come March, and things were heating up in the Senate over voting reform. What does that have to do with marriage? Well ...

    1. The Coalition and the Greens teamed up against Labor and the crossbenchers on Senate voting reforms.

    2. Crossbenchers tried to bring up other issues to stop the legislation being debated, but the Coalition and the Greens voted the debates down.

    3. So crossbencher David Leyonhjelm brought forward the Greens' own bill on same-sex marriage for debate! (In parliament-world, this was a ~cheeky move~.)

    4. The Coalition and the Greens voted the debate down.


    6. Nothing actually happened re marriage equality.

    4. In June Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby said the cowardice of Australia's political leaders on LGBTI rights was causing “unthinkable things to happen”, like those in Nazi Germany.

    Lane Sainty / BuzzFeed News

    Nothing more to say on this.

    5. Eyes rolled across the country when treasurer Scott Morrison said he had experienced bigotry because he opposes marriage equality.

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

    His comments were in response to Labor senator Penny Wong, who said, “Not one straight politician advocating a plebiscite on marriage equality knows what [it] feels like" to be targeted because of their sexuality.

    “I understand the concern Penny is raising,” Morrison said. “I know it from personal experience having been exposed to that sort of hatred and bigotry for the views I’ve taken.”

    6. Later in June Malcolm Turnbull confirmed that not even cabinet members would be bound by the result of the plebiscite.

    Stefan Postles / Getty Images

    The Coalition's plan was to hold a popular vote, and then go right on and have a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage anyway.

    “The tradition in the Liberal party is that on matters of this kind it is a free vote,” Turnbull said.

    7. Then Morrison, Julie Bishop and other Coalition MPs kept saying they would definitely "respect the result" of the plebiscite... but didn't say WHAT THAT ACTUALLY MEANS!!!

    Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

    Leigh Sales: “...if the plebiscite is carried, will you vote for same-sex marriage?”

    Scott Morrison: “I’ve said I will respect the outcome of the plebiscite.”

    Sales: “Why can’t you just answer that question clearly – will you vote for same-sex marriage, yes or no?”

    Morrison: “I will use my words, you yours, and you’re not allowed to put words in my mouth. I’ve said I will respect the outcome of the plebiscite entirely.”

    8. In September – after the Coalition had won the election and everyone was back in parliament – supporters of marriage equality loudly said they wanted to work together... while introducing separate, near-identical bills on the same day.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Bill Shorten: “We are prepared to work with the crossbench as well. We don’t mind who gets the credit. A year, even a week from now, no one will care whose name was on this bit of paper.”

    Adam Bandt, 10 minutes later: "And at the end of the day, what matters is that marriage equality is passed and the leader of the opposition is right, ultimately no one will care whose name appeared in what position on this bill."

    9. Then, an Australian group used Nelson Mandela's image and words to argue against same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools Coalition's anti-bullying program.


    Mandela is pictured on the flyer and quoted as saying, “Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future".

    10. It created such a stir that the Nelson Mandela Foundation actually responded to the flyers, saying it was a "misrepresentation" to imply the civil rights leader opposed same-sex marriage.

    "As South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela signed into law a constitution that stood for the rights of all," the statement read.

    "We object to the misuse of the legacy of someone who worked precisely for the recognition of such rights."

    11. During debate on a transgender rights bill in September, a politician said people in same-sex couples would get sex changes just so they could get married.

    The South Australian bill would remove the requirement for transgender people to have surgery before changing the sex on their birth certificate. Liberal MP Adrian Pederick said it was a, “Trojan horse for gay marriage”.

    “You may have a gay couple, whether it is two ladies or two gentlemen, and to get around the federal Marriage Act one of them decides that if they are a man they will become a woman and if they are a woman with a lesbian partner they will become a man,” he said.

    12. Remember the rainbow noose meme from February? In October Marriage Alliance spokesperson Sophie York conceded it was, "probably too dramatic".

    Four Corners / ABC TV

    “We actually took this down in the end because the feedback was that, you know, it was probably too dramatic,” she said.

    York added that the meme was inspired by a guy who was upset at his work holding a "Wear It Purple" day to support LGBTI young people.

    "One guy that worked at a major bank got an email... saying it’s Wear Purple day coming up, you have to wear purple, you have to make sure all... the employees are wearing purple. And he felt very put upon by this," she said.

    13. Labor took its sweet time deciding how it would vote on the marriage plebiscite... earning the ire of politicians on the left and right.

    Stefan Postles / Getty Images

    Attorney general George Brandis in September: “If Mr Shorten could stop playing politics with the lives of gay people and put the interests of a cause he claims to believe in first, then he would support the plebiscite bill."

    Greens senator Janet Rice in October: "[Labor should] stop playing politics with the lives of LGBTIQ Australians and rule out supporting a plebiscite on marriage equality."

    14. Then Labor and the Greens had a minor spat over a photo opportunity and a novelty-sized thank you card.

    BuzzFeed News / Just Equal Facebook

    The card was presented to a large number of Labor MPs, fronted by leader Bill Shorten, on the lawns of Parliament House in October, after Shorten announced Labor would block the plebiscite.

    But noticeably absent from the event were the other parties that had pledged to vote down the plebiscite, including the Greens.

    A source told BuzzFeed News there was talk of a cross-party photo event with Labor and the Greens, but it was canned after Labor said no.

    15. And then the plebiscite was voted down in the Senate... and everyone spent a lot of time yelling at everyone else that THEY were the ones delaying marriage equality.

    Meanwhile gay couples were like, "OK, cool, but we still can't get married".

    16. That night, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson went out for dinner and came up with a plan for a TRIPLE PLEBISCITE at the next election.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    The three ballots would be for Indigenous recognition (which would have to be a constitutional referendum), euthanasia, and same-sex marriage.

    “Three questions. Simple," Lambie told the ABC.

    17. The tumultuous year finally stumbled to a finish... and Australia still doesn't have marriage equality. Could 2017 be the year? Who can say.

    For more Best Of 2016 content, click here!

    Lane Sainty is the editor of BuzzFeed News in Australia and is based in Sydney.

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

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