Marriage equality supporters received good news on Monday following a brutal week in Australia’s increasingly nasty debate over same-sex marriage: The “Yes” campaign holds a wide lead in early voting. Seventy-two percent of those who have already cast a ballot in the non-binding plebiscite say they voted in favor of equality, according to a new Guardian poll.
Just 26 percent claim they voted against the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.
This decisive margin is an about-face for the embattled country following recent setbacks in the campaign to legalize marriage equality. A poll published the same day in the conservative newspaper The Australian, owned by Rupert Murdoch, found that support for same-sex marriage had plummeted from 63 percent to 57 percent since August.
A similar survey conducted by Newspoll recorded a similar drop.
Ali Hogg, a campaigner with the pro-marriage equality organization Equal Love, says that LGBTQ people are “obviously encouraged” by the early voting results.
“A decisive win would deliver an absolute mandate to the Government that they must act immediately on delivering the equality that has been denied our community for far too long,” Hogg tells INTO in an email. “The ‘No’ camp are employing a grubby campaign of lies and tactics of conflation, and it appears that they will stop at nothing to sabotage our attempts to achieve that equality.”
After the “No” campaign held its formal launch event on Sept. 16, attacks on Australia’s LGBTQ community have ramped up.
Mark Coleridge, the Archbishop of Brisbane, compared same-sex relationships to “incest” in an interview with Australia’s Sky News. He’s one of the highest-ranking religious authorities in the nation. A Christian YouTuber in Tanzania claimed that legalizing marriage equality will lead to people marrying children and animals.
“How soon will pedophiles be given freedom to walk our streets?” asked Matt Long in a video posted earlier this week.
Advocates say that The Guardian poll is another sign of hope amidst virulent backlash from the right. Tony Abbott’s daughter, Frances, voiced her support for the marriage equality campaign in an ad released Monday. Abbott, the former Prime Minister, is one of the most vocal voices opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
But Ivan Hinton-Teoh, a national campaigner with Just Equal, warns LGBTQ people not to read too closely into the poll numbers, even favorable ones.
“It’s critical at this moment in time to focus on encouraging our supporters to participate,” Hinton-Teoh tells INTO in an email. “Right now, it’s essential that every one of them marks their survey and gets it to a post box. What we’ve learned from other non-compulsory polls, including the recent U.S. election and Brexit, is that we can’t rely on everyone else to get out and vote. It’s our personal responsibility.”
The results of the plebiscite will be announced on November 15. The results of the nationwide poll will help the Australian Parliament decide whether to introduce a bill to pass same-sex marriage.