Cory Bernardi warns marriage equality will lead to 'legal warfare' against opponents

Australian Conservatives senator tells crowd at launch for the no campaign: ‘We’re under assault because we’re on the right side of legal and moral history’

The Australian Conservatives party senator Cory Bernardi has rallied the spirits of anti-same sex marriage campaigners, telling the national launch of the Coalition for Marriage’s no campaign that they are on the right side of legal and moral history and that is why they are being attacked.

Spearheading the launch at the International Convention Centre Sydney on Saturday evening, Bernardi warned the audience that if the Marriage Act was changed to include same-sex couples it would lead to “legal warfare” against supporters of traditional marriage.

His warning fitted with the tone of the event, which placed its focus on the flow-on effects of altering marriage.

But his warnings were countered by yes campaigners on Sunday, during the national launch of the marriage equality #PostYourYes campaign.

Yes rallies were scheduled for Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth on Sunday, with advocates pushing to get as many marriage equality supporters as possible to post their same-sex marriage survey forms back to the Bureau of Statistics.

On Saturday evening, Bernardi was joined by prominent Coalition politicians Matt Canavan and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, as well as Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby, during the anti-same sex marriage launch.

An estimated 1,000 people, many with shirts and placards bearing the slogan “It’s OK to say no”, filled the ICC Sydney at Darling Harbour on Saturday night.

“The marriage plebiscite is a referendum on consequences,” the event page said about the postal survey, which is neither a plebiscite nor a referendum.

“Changing the Marriage Act will affect you, your family and all Australians.”

The event page repeated claims that “radical gay sex education” may become compulsory in schools, and that changing the marriage act “gives licence to gay activists, weaponising anti-discrimination legislation and using it to stifle debate or dissent”.

Bernardi, who received a standing ovation before he began his speech, said free speech was under attack from those seeking to redefine marriage, and their mission would have predictable consequences.

“We’re under assault because we’re on the right side of legal and moral history,” he said, adding that same-sex marriage would lead to “weaponised” anti-discrimination laws.

No campaigners took to the skies above Sydney on Sunday.
No campaigners take their message to the sky above Sydney on Sunday. Photograph: Lenore Taylor/The Guardian

Shelton, who believes parents should allowed to take their children to gay conversion therapy, made exactly the same warning about weaponised anti-discrimination laws.

He also pointed to the former prime minister John Howard, who intervened in the marriage equality debate this week to accuse the Turnbull government of failing to deal with the matter of religious freedom before the postal survey went ahead.

“If Malcolm Turnbull, George Brandis and Bill Shorten don’t know how your freedoms are going to be protected, vote no,” he said.

The campaigns over marriage equality have stepped up this week as postal vote forms began being delivered.

Research by an advertising analytics firm found opponents of marriage equality had outspent yes campaigners on television advertising by about five to one.

Ebiquity found the no campaign had spent $312,000 and the yes campaign $64,000 on TV ads. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has spent $1.7m on the campaign so far.

Advocates of the yes campaign are pushing supporters to get their vote in the post.

Well-known marriage equality advocates, political leaders, couples and campaigners have begun sharing their plans to encourage others to tick yes and post their forms back to the ABS.

Alex Greenwich, independent MP for Sydney and co-chair of the Equality Campaign, said on Sunday ahead of the rally in Adelaide that the postal survey was an exciting opportunity to vote yes to national values of fairness and equality.

“Millions of envelopes have already been sent out by the ABS, with millions more set to arrive in mail boxes this week. In those envelopes are the hope, dreams and aspiration of everyday Aussies who simply want to marry the person they love in the country we all cherish,” he said.

Sarah Hanson-Young, Christopher Pyne, Penny Wong and Alex Greenwich at a marriage equality rally in Adelaide on Sunday.
Sarah Hanson-Young, Christopher Pyne, Penny Wong and Alex Greenwich at a marriage equality rally in Adelaide on Sunday. Photograph: Supplied by Alex Greenwich

“So today, we launch our national ‘get out to vote’ campaign, to empower all supporters of marriage equality to vote yes – yes for their friends, their family members, their work mates and neighbours, and yes to a fair go for all.

“From today we will be knocking as many doors as possible, ringing as many relos as we can and doing everything possible to ensure yes is a success.

“When 11.30am on the 15th of November comes, let’s hope this is a moment our nation can finally celebrate getting this done together.”

Greenwich was joined at the rally by Liberal MP Christopher Pyne and Labor senator Penny Wong.

Tony Abbott’s sister and City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster and her partner Virginia Edwards appeared in Leichhardt in Sydney on Sunday morning to promote the yes campaign.

On Friday, seven former presidents of the Australian Medical Association launched a video in support of marriage equality, urging people to vote yes.


Gareth Hutchens and Helen Davidson

The GuardianTramp

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