Friday 23 March 2018

'It’s going to be a nasty campaign' - Irish man calls for respect on both sides in Australia marriage vote

Mark Govern
Mark Govern

Ryan O'Rourke

An Irishman living in Australia has called for respect on both sides as the country prepares to cast its vote on whether or not to legalise same-sex marriage.

Mark Govern (34) from Tallaght in Dublin previously played a part in Ireland's marriage referendum, particularly with the “home to vote” campaign which encouraged Irish people to return from abroad to cast their vote back in 2015.

Mr Govern, who is now living in Sydney, has called for respect on both sides of Australia’s upcoming postal survey which will allow the public to give their opinion on whether Australia should legalise same-sex marriage.

Australians will be asked “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

“Do not get nasty, respect the no side, respect their opinion and argue you against it in a respectful way,” Mr Govern told

The Irishman said he is expecting this campaign get bitter, especially compared to the Irish referendum. He says he has already seen signs containing derogatory comments directed towards members of the LGTBI community.

“It’s going to be a nasty campaign, so we have to get behind it and push for a yes vote.”

Mr Govern also said that comparing Ireland and Australia’s campaigns for marriage equality is like “comparing apples and oranges".

“Australia is a very big country, and it’s very religious.

“Outside of the big cities attitudes can be strange, you can find that the attitude can be anti-anything different,” he said.

Mr Govern wanted to remind everyone to keep it respectful and to keep a level head. He also took on two of the main arguments of the no side.

“It’s a civil marriage we’re campaigning for, not a religious one.

“And gay people already have children all the time, you are just extending the rights of marriage to these families.”

The postal survey is different from the Irish referendum in a number of ways. Australia doesn’t actually need a referendum to change the law. In 2015 there were calls for to allow MPs a free vote on the issue. The prime minister of the time, Tony Abbot, instead proposed a plebiscite, which is a compulsory national vote.

Soon after this Mr Abbot, who is a campaigner for the No vote, was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, a supporter of marriage equality.

In August for a compulsory plebiscite was blocked again by a senate, so Mr Turnbull suggested a voluntary postal vote as a second best option. This will allow the Australian government to tell what exactly the public want, but will not actually change anything.

A yes vote could result in a successful law to legalise same-sex marriage, but it will not guarantee it, as it will lead to vote of parliament. A no vote, however, would mean there would be no free parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage.

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