Social media erupted on 11 August 2015 as Australia waited for its government's political parties to decide if they would give their parliamentarians a free vote on a bill to legalise same sex marriage. The online temperature rose considerably when the decision went against those pushing for change.
The Twitter hashtag #marriageequality had many thousands of tweets during the afternoon and evening. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was the central figure and main target. He chose not to take the matter first to his cabinet which is split 50/50 on the issue. Nor did the PM allow his own Liberal party room to decide. He blindsided his opponents by referring it to the joint Coalition party room. This includes the National Party, which has a predominantly conservative, rural base. Ultimately, the vote was 66 to 33 to uphold the current policy.
Many tweeters were still trying to influence their members of parliament beforehand.
Melissa B. provided a link to a website where the public can find out where their local MP stands.
— Melissa B. (@mebbela) August 11, 2015
MPs were greeted by a rainbow and #wecandothis hashtag installation at Canberra airport as they returned after the winter break.
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) August 9, 2015
Jack Crow used strong appeals to religious belief in many of his tweets:
— jack crow (@JONOVID1) August 11, 2015
There was even some humour:
— Neil (@jones1686) August 11, 2015
— dontboilthesauce (@dbtsauce) August 11, 2015
Sally Rugg seemed to have some hope, mixed with a warning:
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) August 11, 2015
There was plenty of time for reflection as the party room debate took six hours. When news broke, actor Dan Ewing spoke for many:
My heart goes out to Aussie gay & lesbian couples. Don't judge the rest of us on our half wit government. We love you all. #MarriageEquality
— ᴰᴬᴺ ᴱᵂᴵᴺᴳ (@_DanEwing) August 12, 2015
These views typified the overwhelming negative response:
— Patrick Stewart (@_pstewart) August 11, 2015
Tony Abbott: Wrong side of public opinion; wrong side of history. #marriagequality
— Lou Hayward (@LouHayward) August 11, 2015
This very personal issue became even more so with the reminder that the Prime Minister's lesbian sister supports same sex marriage:
— Van Badham (@vanbadham) August 11, 2015
Tara Vern shared her cynicism born of experience:
— Tara Vern (@Tara_Vern) August 11, 2015
Many others were equally scornful of Abbott's suggestion of a plebiscite somewhere down the track:
A plebiscite on gay marriage is like a referendum on homophobia. Divisive. It will bring out the haters. Australia needs LEADERSHIP. #auspol
— Sandra K Eckersley (@SandraEckersley) August 12, 2015
An interesting sideshow was the popularity of the misspelt hashtag #marriageequaility. Even professionals were not immune:
I feel so sad, for all of us. When I say the word “Australia” the hum in my heart is different to this decision. #MarriageEquaility
— richard glover (@rglover702) August 11, 2015
Richard was just one of many in the mainstream media to fall into this trap:
— Federal Politics (@PoliticsFairfax) August 12, 2015
Hopefully, they won't make the same error when marriage equality next trends in Australia as it will inevitably do.
[Thumbnail photo by Michael Miller copyright © Demotix (10 August 2015)]