Tiernan Brady on why a positive message will win the marriage debate

As Australian long drawn out debate over marriage equality drags on, the head of the ‘Yes’ campaign is adamant that one side of the debate will be sticking to a positive message.

“We have got to this point by being a positive and respectful campaign, and we are going to remain utterly, totally and unendingly positive.” Tiernan Brady, Director of the Equality campaign, declared to OUTinPerth during a phone catch-up.

“We’re not going to mirror the negativity of the ‘No’ side. It’s not the journey that Australia needs, and it’s not the journey that LGBTI people need.  It will not deliver the real change to our daily lives that we need.”

Brady said supporters of marriage equality will win the issue by persuading others of the advantages of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

“Winning is persuading people, not beating them over the head. The only way you persuade them is with positive, respectful engagement.”

“What is absolutely winning this campaign for us, and we are winning this campaign, is the amazing dignity of a million LGBTI people, who understand this journey must be positive.” Brady said. “In the face of wild provocation from the ‘No’ side, they’ve held their dignity, with steely determination, and it’s that dignity which is winning the hearts and minds of Australia.”

The seasoned political campaigner, who ran Ireland’s successful YES campaign for marriage equality, said LGBTI Australians would achieve marriage equality because they were not going to take the bait or be provoked by the ‘No’ campaign.

Brady said while the campaign would never be complacent, they were encouraged by the results of Tuesday’s Guardian-Essential poll which showed that Australia’s were overwhelmingly choosing to show support for marriage equality.

“There’s no room for complacency, we have to keep going to make sure as many votes are cast as possible, because that can only be good for the ‘Yes’ side, but it does show that despite all the red herrings, all the misdirection, and all the strategic dishonesty of the ‘No’ side,  the Australian people haven’t fallen for it.”

While Australia has only had a few weeks of the long postal survey, the discussion has already descended into insulting and ridiculous claims about the affects allowing same-sex couples to wed could have.

Just within the last few days a senior member of the Catholic church has raised concerns about incestuous relationships, while a Tasmanian vlogger as suggested marriage equality will lead to bestiality and legalised pedophilia.

Sky News reporter Caroline Marcus has filed a story about how marriage equality could affect the teaching of mathematics, and News Corp columnist Miranda Devine is writing about gay themed graffiti in an abandoned building.

Asked if he’s concerned about what the remaining two months of the campaign might bring, Brady said it’s clear those opposed to allowing same-sex couples to wed were running out of arguments.

“The ‘No’side has thrown out most of it’s red herrings and now it’s struggling at the bottom of the fish basket to see if there’s any left to thrown out.  We’re getting to the point where it just sounds silly.

“It is only going to get sillier, but what we have to remind ourselves as a community is ‘it’s getting silly, because they’re losing. Their big scare tactics haven’t worked, and now they’re going out to the fringe to find some really crazy stories.”

Brady said the Yes campaign would be sticking to being a campaign of respectful conversations and human stories and they wouldn’t be taking the bait.

Over the next few weeks the Yes campaign will be focusing on supporting community members and would be organising some events that allow people to meet up and be connected with other people advocating for change.

“We have to remember this is a marathon we’re running, not a sprint, we need to take care of each other.” Brady said.

Australia’s journey towards marriage equality is very different to the campaign Brady oversaw in Ireland. There everything accumulated in a single day where people cast their votes. The Australian postal survey is a different beast, with people posting back their surveys over a two month window.

“It’s going to be exhausting, this is a seven week voting process.” Brady said. “Hopefully everyone will have filled out the form within the first two weeks, but the conversation is going to roll on for another five weeks, that’s a frightfully long time for LGBTI people. The duration makes it much more of endurance test than the Irish one,” Brady said.

One of the biggest changes Brady notes between his experience in Ireland and running the Australian campaign is the conversation is much harsher, it’s something he attributes to a global tone in a post Brexit, post Trump world.

“There’s a freedom to be disrespectful. right across the world now that didn’t exist two years ago. You can see it in the corners of Twitter, and the corners of Facebook, from the ‘No’ side in particular, and you can see it in one or two polemic columnists that write for papers.”

Brady said he does think about what Australia will be like if the ‘No’ campaign is successful.

“Imagine what it will be like for LGBTI people to go to work, imagine what it’ll be like for LGBTI students to go to college. It’s a horrifying vista, but we need to channel that worry into positive respectful conversations.”

“I think this campaign so far has held it’s nerve, it has not been blown off course, and it’s going to refuse to be blown off course, it will not go negative.” Brady said.

Brady said the last 18 months in Australia had allowed him to travel across the country, and all he’s met during that time is people who want to make marriage equality a reality.

“Australian people want marriage equality, and they haven’t fallen for the tricks and the misdirection. We just have to get their votes in box, because if we do – we’re going to win.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have advised that all Australians on the electoral roll should now have received their survey forms. If you haven’t got yours, head to the Marriage Law Postal Survey Website.  

Graeme Watson

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