Cory Bernardi warns mar­riage equal­ity will lead to 'le­gal war­fare' against op­po­nents

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Gareth Hutchens and He­len David­son

The Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tives party sen­a­tor Cory Bernardi has ral­lied the spir­its of anti-same sex mar­riage cam­paign­ers, telling the na­tional launch of the Coali­tion for Mar­riage’s no cam­paign that they are on the right side of le­gal and moral his­tory and that is why they are be­ing at­tacked.

Spear­head­ing the launch at the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre Syd­ney on Satur­day evening, Bernardi warned the au­di­ence that if the Mar­riage Act was changed to in­clude same-sex cou­ples it would lead to “le­gal war­fare” against sup­port­ers of tra­di­tional mar­riage.

His warn­ing fit­ted with the tone of the event, which placed its fo­cus on the flow-on ef­fects of al­ter­ing mar­riage.

But his warn­ings were coun­tered by yes cam­paign­ers on Sun­day, dur­ing the na­tional launch of the mar­riage equal­ity #PostYourYes cam­paign.

Yes ral­lies were sched­uled for Bris­bane, Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Ade­laide, Dar­win and Perth on Sun­day, with ad­vo­cates push­ing to get as many mar­riage equal­ity sup­port­ers as pos­si­ble to post their same-sex mar­riage sur­vey forms back to the Bureau of Sta­tis­tics.

On Satur­day evening, Bernardi was joined by prom­i­nent Coali­tion politi­cians Matt Canavan and Con­cetta Fier­ra­vanti-Wells, as well as Lyle Shelton from the Aus­tralian Chris­tian Lobby, dur­ing the an­ti­same sex mar­riage launch.

An es­ti­mated 1,000 peo­ple, many with shirts and plac­ards bear­ing the slo­gan “It’s OK to say no”, filled the ICC Syd­ney at Darling Har­bour on Satur­day night.

“The mar­riage plebiscite is a ref­er­en­dum on con­se­quences,” the event page said about the postal sur­vey, which is nei­ther a plebiscite nor a ref­er­en­dum.

“Chang­ing the Mar­riage Act will af­fect you, your fam­ily and all Aus­tralians.”

The event page re­peated claims that “rad­i­cal gay sex ed­u­ca­tion” may be­come com­pul­sory in schools, and that chang­ing the mar­riage act “gives li­cence to gay ac­tivists, weapon­is­ing anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion and us­ing it to sti­fle de­bate or dis­sent”.

Bernardi, who re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion be­fore he be­gan his speech, said free speech was un­der at­tack from those seek­ing to re­de­fine mar­riage, and their mis­sion would have pre­dictable con­se­quences.

“We’re un­der as­sault be­cause we’re on the right side of le­gal and moral his­tory,” he said, adding that same-sex mar­riage would lead to “weaponised” anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

Shelton, who be­lieves par­ents should al­lowed to take their chil­dren to gay con­ver­sion ther­apy, made ex­actly the same warn­ing about weaponised anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

He also pointed to the former prime min­is­ter John Howard, who in­ter­vened in the mar­riage equal­ity de­bate this week to ac­cuse the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to deal with the mat­ter of re­li­gious free­dom be­fore the postal sur­vey went ahead.

“If Mal­colm Turn­bull, Ge­orge Bran­dis and Bill Shorten don’t know how your free­doms are go­ing to be pro­tected, vote no,” he said.

The cam­paigns over mar­riage equal­ity have stepped up this week as postal vote forms be­gan be­ing de­liv­ered.

Re­search by an ad­ver­tis­ing an­a­lyt­ics firm found op­po­nents of mar­riage equal­ity had out­spent yes cam­paign­ers on tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing by about five to one.

Ebiq­uity found the no cam­paign had spent $312,000 and the yes cam­paign $64,000 on TV ads. The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics has spent $1.7m on the cam­paign so far.

Ad­vo­cates of the yes cam­paign are push­ing sup­port­ers to get their vote in the post.

Well-known mar­riage equal­ity ad­vo­cates, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, cou­ples and cam­paign­ers have be­gun shar­ing their plans to en­cour­age oth­ers to tick yes and post their forms back to the ABS.

Alex Green­wich, in­de­pen­dent MP for Syd­ney and co-chair of the Equal­ity Cam­paign, said on Sun­day ahead of the rally in Ade­laide that the postal sur­vey was an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity to vote yes to na­tional val­ues of fair­ness and equal­ity.

“Mil­lions of en­velopes have al­ready been sent out by the ABS, with mil­lions more set to ar­rive in mail boxes this week. In those en­velopes are the hope, dreams and as­pi­ra­tion of ev­ery­day Aussies who sim­ply want to marry the per­son they love in the coun­try we all cher­ish,” he said.

“So to­day, we launch our na­tional ‘get out to vote’ cam­paign, to em­power all sup­port­ers of mar­riage equal­ity to vote yes – yes for their friends, their fam­ily mem­bers, their work mates and neigh­bours, and yes to a fair go for all.

“From to­day we will be knock­ing as many doors as pos­si­ble, ringing as many re­los as we can and do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure yes is a suc­cess.

“When 11.30am on the 15th of Novem­ber comes, let’s hope this is a mo­ment our na­tion can fi­nally cel­e­brate get­ting this done to­gether.”

Green­wich was joined at the rally by Lib­eral MP Christo­pher Pyne and La­bor sen­a­tor Penny Wong.

Tony Ab­bott’s sis­ter and City of Syd­ney coun­cil­lor Chris­tine Forster and her part­ner Vir­ginia Ed­wards ap­peared in Le­ich­hardt in Syd­ney on Sun­day morn­ing to pro­mote the yes cam­paign.

On Fri­day, seven former pres­i­dents of the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion launched a video in sup­port of mar­riage equal­ity, urg­ing peo­ple to vote yes.

No cam­paign­ers take their mes­sage to the sky above Syd­ney on Sun­day. Pho­to­graph: Lenore Tay­lor for the Guardian

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