DECLAN CLAUSEN: Marriage equality plebiscite not ideal, but votes are vital

THE PATH AHEAD: Cr Declan Clausen argues enrolling to vote, particularly for disengaged youth, is vital to supporting marriage equality despite the plebiscite’s flaws.


OPINIONThe people of Newcastle are used to constant elections. Whether due to the series of by-elections in 2014 caused by ICAC related resignations, the 2015 state election, 2016 federal election or the upcoming local council elections, it can feel like there’s always a campaign being run and a democracy sausage sizzle to be had.

So when presented with the option of voting in a non-compulsory, unenforceable, inaccurate and wasteful survey about marriage equality there are some who will think they shouldn’t bother.

This would be a terrible outcome, giving permission to a vocal minority to continue their campaign against the loving relationships of others.

Despite regular elections being compulsory, between five and ten percent of Novocastrians choose not to cast a ballot, risking a fine and missing an opportunity to have their say. A further five percent cast an informal ballot, either blank or incorrectly completed.Research shows that young people are disproportionately represented in these groups – disenfranchised due to the failure of the political system to offer a solution to their most pressing issues.

Rising inequality is perhaps most highlighted across the generations: the opportunity for home ownership, for holding a permanent job, and for gaining a quality and low cost educations are closed to so many young people.It is no wonder young people aren’t motivated to sign up to vote.

This marriage survey may change that. Over 200,000 people have enrolled to vote or updated their address since this survey was announced.Young Australians see their gay and lesbian friends, family and colleagues in loving committed relationships and can’t understand why they are treated differently.

We see leaders like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was once passionately in favour of equality, being held hostage on this issue by the likes of Tony Abbott and the far right of the Liberal Party.

When routine polling shows that a majority of the community (and indeed a majority of MPs) already support marriage equality, people are right look at each other and ask ‘Why hasn’t this just happened already!?’

But change doesn’t happen just because it should. Change is only possible when people stand up and fight for it.

In these fights I have been guided by the words of a great campaigner who said “I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be”.

This marriage survey is not the way I would have liked to have seen this law change. There is simply no constitutional need for such a divisive survey to take place before the Parliament can change the law. But this survey is the process we have been given and we must do all we can to win the vote.In coming weeks we will see material in letterboxes and on TV which seeking to link loving same-sex relationships like mine to bestiality, child abuse and even, as Senator Eric Abetz suggests, the marrying of bridges. We will see so-called community leaders use outdated stereotypes and straw-man arguments to get their supports to vote no.I know Novocastrians are smarter than that. This vote is only about allowing two loving adults to marry, nothing else.As a gay man and young Novocastrian I’ve confirmed my enrolment and will be voting yes. I encourage you to as well.

Check and update your enrolment at aec.gov苏州美甲学校论坛/check by midnight tonight

Declan Clausen is a Newcastle Labor councillor. At 25, Declan is Newcastle’s youngest councillor, and lives with his partner of 6 years, Steven.