The first TV advertisement promoting a “no” vote in the upcoming same-sex marriage postal survey has been criticised as “deliberately misleading”.
The ad, produced by the Coalition for Marriage and authorised by Marriage Alliance spokeswoman Sophie York, was released online and aired on TV on Tuesday evening. The ad attempts to conflate the legalisation of same-sex marriage with what the group refers to as “radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education programs” in schools.
“Australian parents have a right to know how a change in the marriage law will affect what their kids are taught at school,” Ms York added in a statement.
But marriage equality campaigners have blasted the ad as “divisive and dishonest”.
“The people behind this ad know that Australians believe everyone should have the same opportunity to marry, so they are deliberately resorting to misleading people, pretending this is about something else,” The Equality Campaign’s Executive Director Tiernan Brady said.
“Despite such provocation we remain committed to a respectful campaign of conversations. As they strive to divide Australians, we will campaign to unite them.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said most people are aware the ad is “total rubbish” and “offensive and hurtful” to LGBTI Australians and their families.
“This is exactly what was predicted when Malcolm Turnbull decided to waste $122 million on a postal survey. He gave the green light to this rubbish,” Mr Shorten said.
“This is not freedom of speech. This is freedom to hurt. I just want to tell LGBTI families that they are not on their own.”
— AU Marriage Equality (@AMEquality) August 29, 2017
This month it emerged that the postal survey wouldn’t be subject to the same rules against deceptive or misleading information that would be in place during an election.
Legislation addressing this won’t be introduced by the government until after a legal challenge to the postal survey’s validity is heard in the High Court on September 5 and 6.
Prominent same-sex marriage opponents including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Australian Christian Lobby have repeatedly claimed that legalising same-sex marriage would threaten religious freedom.
But Attorney-General George Brandis said any same-sex marriage bill introduced by the Coalition would contain “very strong protections” for religious freedom, and he warned against opponents clouding the issue with other topics.
“Let’s remember what this plebiscite is about. It is about one question and one question only: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?'” Senator Brandis, who supports same-sex marriage, told ABC’s Q&A program on Monday.
“That’s it, that is the only question the Australian people are being asked to decide.”