Australia’s “postal survey” on same-sex marriage saw a resounding victory for LGBT+ equality.
61.6% said yes to marriage equality, and over 12 million people (79.5%) participated in this voluntary, non-binding poll — a higher rate than the Brexit vote.
All states had a yes majority, and 133/150 electorates voted yes, including almost all regional and rural ones.
However, 12 electorates in Western Sydney voted no. These were mostly Labor-held, with working-class, largely immigrant populations.
These areas were systematically targeted by right-wing religious organisations, and not so thoroughly worked by the Yes campaigners. This pattern was not however replicated in similar areas — e.g. only two similar electorates voted no in Melbourne. This points to a need for systematic work to make links between the struggles of oppressed LGBT+ and migrant/refugee people.
The strange beast that was the ABS postal survey — not a plebiscite, not really a survey —came about as a sop to the right-wing conservatives of the Liberal/National coalition, who hoped that young people would not participate and a no vote would sneak through.
Instead, hundreds of thousands of young people enrolled and voted, energised by the campaign for equality.
Conservatives are on the back foot on the legislation likely to follow. Religious exemptions are unlikely to be too extensive, although they are already bad e.g. religious schools have the right to sack teachers or expel students. The religious right are correct to fear that this legalised discrimination is likely to be wound back in future; hence their attempt to entrench it further now.
There were many downsides to the process — $100 million wasted and a lot of mental health harm caused, especially to young LGBT+ people, indicated by skyrocketing referrals to LGBT+ friendly counselling. Even experienced psychologist colleagues of mine who are queer felt the strain — much more than they expected.
Now the upsides are much more prominent, given the huge turn out and clear result — there is a great sense of inclusion, with some concerns in Western Sydney.
The newly energised layer, especially of young people, can have a lasting impact on activist and electoral politics.