SEXPOL – NOVEMBER 15: Lyle Shelton lobbyist for No Vote speaks to the media at the Intercontinental Sydney on NOVEMBER 15, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Christopher Pearce/Fairfax Media)Lyle Shelton – the Christian lobbyist who spearheaded the crusade against same-sex marriage – says he didn’t have enough time to counter the “relentless” campaigners on the “yes” side. So now he’s gearing up for a fight that could take “years or decades” to persuade ns to change their minds.
The most prominent political opponent of the reform, former prime minister Tony Abbott, claimed vindication for the policy of putting the question directly to the people, even as 75 per cent of electors in his own seat of Warringah rejected his stance and voted for equality.
Mr Abbott, who staked much of his political capital on the “no” campaign and whose own family was split by the issue as his sister Christine Forster and daughter Frances Abbott became advocates for change, said the people had spoken and “Parliament should respect the result”.
Mr Shelton said he too accepted ‘s democratic decision.
“But in explaining the result I think we have to recognise that the “yes” vote has been campaigning for at least 10 years,” he said. “They have been relentless in this and they have seen the fruit of their relentlessness.”
The n Christian Lobby boss claimed his Coalition for Marriage had helped shift at least a million votes. The “no” vote ultimately attracted 38.4 per cent of the vote – more than 4.8 million ns.
But asked if he would now accept the result and move on from the issue, Mr Shelton said: “In a democracy no question is ever completely closed”.
He and his supporters would keep trying to persuade ns to “win this back over time”.
“That could take years or decades but I think there are millions of ns who still believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and that is a public good, and there may be a time in the future when we can persuade our fellow ns to that position once again.”
Mr Shelton said he wanted Federal Parliament to get behind the bill proposed by Liberal senator James Paterson, which would have diluted anti-discrimination laws to allow religious organisations and other service providers to discriminate against gay couples planning a wedding.
But Senator Paterson announced on Wednesday he would not proceed with his bill, clearing the way for the Malcolm Turnbull-backed bill proposed by Dean Smith.
Mr Abbott is also backing Senator Smith’s bill provided it is amended to include “freedom of conscience for all, not just the churches”.
Treasurer Scott Morrison – a religious conservative and same-sex marriage opponent – said he would respect the result and not oppose enabling legislation. However he, too, would – “consistent with my strongly held beliefs” – be seeking stronger religious protections and would only vote in favour of a bill that included stronger protections. Mr Morrison’s southern Sydney seat of Cook returned a 55 per cent “yes” vote.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he would like to see a bill that was somewhere in between the Smith and Paterson proposals.
Cabinet minister Matt Canavan indicated he may vote in support of the right bill. But Senator Smith’s bill was not it, he said.
Religious conservative backbencher Andrew Hastie said he would abstain from the vote, despite previously saying he would respect the will of the people.
“If the people of Canning want [Parliament] to legislate in favour of same-sex marriage, as their representative it is my obligation to push that through,” Mr Hastie said in 2015. The people of Canning voted 60.2 per cent in favour of the change.
Tasmanian Liberal Eric Abetz said the results was one that “I regret but respect”. He said the “no” vote was strong given the “relentless ‘yes’ campaign by the media, political elites and celebrities”. The national “no” vote percentage, he pointed out, was higher than the Coalition’s current primary vote.
Victorian backbencher Kevin Andrews said he would need to see the final bill before making up his mind on how to vote, despite a 57 per cent “yes” vote in his seat of Menzies.
Crossbencher senator Cory Bernardi said he was disappointed with the result, but 40 per cent of ns had made it clear they shared his concerns. In a video posted on social media, he used the result to recruit new members to his n Conservatives party.
“This is just the start of the battle,” he said.