Boaty McBoatface and marriage equality: more in common than you think

A post by ADBA president Mark Campbell

By now most of us have received our marriage equality postal surveys and will be filling them out and returning them over the coming weeks. In a sobering way, it made me stop and think a lot about what the public reaction would be if it were about race, religion, gender, etc. Would there be more public outrage, or less? Clearly, as Australians, we thought it was completely acceptable 40 years ago, when we finally recognised our indigenous population as human beings with a whopping 90% of the vote, but imagine in 2017 a publicly funded survey asking the same or similar thing – it’s incomprehensible. And yet, here we are.

I can’t bring myself to believe that this is democracy at its best; an expensive non-compulsory, non-binding survey that divides our communities and puts vulnerable people under the spotlight (yet again) for ridicule, abuse and shame. Some might argue that ‘Well, they asked for it’, to which my answer would be ‘No, LGBTIQ people didn’t ask for the Australian population to vote on whether or not they are allowed equal rights. What they asked for is our elected officials to do what they’re paid to do (lead) in the place they’re supposed to do it (Parliament), as they do every other day on a wide range of laws.’ We didn’t get a vote when the law was changed in 2004, so why start now? Public votes also lead to things like Boaty McBoatface, and we all know how that went down.

The actual question of the survey is about equal rights, laws and choice as governed by the state. Not safe schools, children in dresses, religious freedoms and ‘political correctness gone mad’ … whatever that confusing statement was meant to mean. Even if you know of no LGBTIQ people in your life (which I’d find surprising and untrue), please stop for a moment and put yourself in their position before you pick up the pen and make your mark on history. Tell your friends, your family, your colleagues and open up a conversation in the workplace … every little bit counts. I might personally not be rushing out to get married anytime soon, but I think those that want to should absolutely be able to.

As an openly gay man, I want everyone to vote with your heart, your mind and everything in between. As ABDA president, I encourage all our members to exhibit respect and tolerance to views different from your own, but above all to participate in the vote; a boycott is not the answer. As a national association it’s important we stand for equality and inclusion – when one of us is diminished, we are all diminished. To this end, ABDA offers its support to all our LGBTIQ members throughout this difficult time – we acknowledge the huge contribution you make to our community and the wider publishing industry, and we’re all better for it.

A post about LGBTIQ people I recently read (and enjoyed) on Facebook sums up my thoughts perfectly: ‘Gays: we’re frighteningly good at planning your weddings’. It’s a cliché, I know (see: Father of the Bride) but the hypocrisy was apparent. As it turns out, we’re frighteningly good at designing the books you read too.


Disclaimer: all political conclusions are my own and do not represent ABDA.