The guy in charge of Australia’s equal marriage vote once described gay people as ‘sordid and unnatural’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The minister responsible for overseeing Australia’s same-sex marriage postal vote once penned a piece warning that gay people could “wipe out humanity”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the green light to an informal ‘postal vote’ of Australians on equal marriage, which will be advisory and non-binding in nature.

The guy in charge of Australia’s equal marriage vote once described gay people as ‘sordid and unnatural’

In a bid to circumvent Parliament, the vote will be carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which means it will not be regulated under Commonwealth Electoral Act rules.

The plan, which is already subject to legal action, came under more scrutiny today after it emerged that the minister responsible for overseeing the vote has a history of homophobia.

Small Business Minister Michael McCormack, who is in charge of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, penned a shockingly homophobic editorial for a regional newspaper in 1993.

He said: “A week never goes by any more that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society.

“Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay.”

Mr McCormack insisted he no longer holds the same views.

He said in a statement to Sky News: “I wrote this editorial nearly 25 years ago and I want to assure the public my views have changed quite significantly since the time of publication.

“I have grown and learnt not only to tolerate, but to accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique.

“I apologised wholeheartedly for the comments at the time and many times since, but I am making this statement to unreservedly apologise again today.”

The planned postal vote has come under strong criticism for its flaws, which include a serious risk of fraud, substantial cost, and lack of regulation.

LGBT campaigners have warned that this means that the anti-gay marriage campaign will be essentially free to peddle outright mistruths and homophobic smears with little recourse when the vote goes ahead.

Campaign materials from the anti-LGBT Australian Marriage Forum already describes equal marriage as “stealing children” from straight people.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten told the PM: “I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash – not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because he agrees to it, he clearly doesn’t. But because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.”

Despite fears of a boycott, LGBT campaigners have already started preparing for a ‘Yes’ campaign.

The Executive Director of The Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady, said: “The campaign will continue to exhaust every political and legal avenue to stop this unnecessary and non-binding survey that sets a terrible precedent for Australia.

“However, we must also be prepared for the very real possiblity of a postal plebiscite if our legal challenge is defeated.

“If we are faced with a postal plebiscite we have a duty to every Australian who supports fairness and equality to win it.

“Australians have 13 days to ensure as many people have enrolled to vote and updated their home addresses with the Australian Electoral Commission. This is critical for young people, strong advocates for marriage equality, to ensure their voice is not further disenfranchised by this Government.

“We call on everyone who believes every Australian should be treated equally under the law to make sure they, their families and friends are correctly enrolled with the AEC and signed up to the Equality Campaign to win a ‘Yes’ vote.”

Alex Greenwich of The Equality Campaign: “Marriage equality can only be delivered by a vote in parliament. This Government has failed LGBTI Australians, their families and friends. We will fight this process, but if the legal challenge is defeated we need to be ready to win. We need the overwhelming national support for equality to become a resounding ‘yes’ vote.”

Tim Gartrell, who joins the The Equality Campaign today as Campaign Director, said: We need to demonstrate the strength and overwhelming support for marriage equality in Australia.

“Our campaign is simply about a fair go for every Australian and we urge supporters across the nation to get behind and join The Equality Campaign as we work to make marriage equailty in Australia a reality.”

Long-time marriage equality advocate and just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said: “The only thing worse than having this unrepresentative, non-binding, expensive, divisive postal vote is losing it.

“Two weeks ago we surveyed the LGBTI community about how to respond to the postal vote and the majority said, if it can’t be stopped, win it.

“We hope the current High Court challenge will succeed, but if it doesn’t we are ready to win the postal vote.

“Our first priority will be working with local advocates in regional Australia to encourage young people to enrol to vote and update their contact details.

“Then we will focus on mobilising our contacts across Australia to have ballots returned.

“Our message will be that if you want a fairer Australia vote ‘yes’.”

Mr Croome said he respects those people who do not wish to participate in the postal vote but urged them to seriously consider their position.

“I urge everyone considering boycotting the vote to seriously consider if they can throw their ballot in the bin after so many people have worked so hard for so long to achieve marriage equality.”