Australian politics are consumed this week by the mail-in vote that will determine the future of gay marriage in the nation. The latest polling by the Guardian shows that while favor for marriage equality is waning as compared to its peak polling support in past weeks, a vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage is still the expected outcome.
The matter has led to many heated debates, even by political standards, to the extent that even sporting bodies are becoming involved. Swimming Australia released a statement on Tuesday that is gingerly supportive of the measure (with a ‘yes’ vote being for legalizing gay marriage). While the organization made it clear that after a meeting they “felt it appropriate for all Swimming members to have the opportunity to have their own position,” they also said that “without exception, each Board & Executive member will be exercising their individual right as Australians to support the notion of marriage equality.”
That can be interpreted as something along the lines of “we won’t tell our members how to vote, but every powerful person at Swimming Australia will support marriage equality,” while simultaneously encouraging respectful discussion.
Among the Australian swimmers who are in favor of marriage equality is Ian Thorpe, who came out as gay after he completed his swimming career. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Thorpe said “The reason why it’s personally important for me is the message it sends to a young me – that the way that I felt is equal to the way anyone else feels. I think it’s when we have this kind of recognition in marriage equality that young people can feel that and we start to get rid of all of those layers of discrimination the LGBTIQ community can face.”
Thorpe, a 9-time Olympic medalist and one-time World Record holder in the 200, 400, and 800 freestyles, has become one of the major faces of the pro-equality campaign.
In a search of Australia’s most well-known swimmers, we didn’t cross a single athlete who was publicly opposed to the bill, though most chose not to weigh in at all:
— Emily Seebohm (@emcbomb) September 17, 2017
HAPPINESS. LOVE. EQUALITY.
— Mitchell Larkin (@Larkin_mitch) September 17, 2017
Find the full statement from Swimming Australia below:
The individual Board members of Swimming Australia discussed the postal vote afforded to all Australians on the issue of marriage equality at its Board Meeting yesterday.
Swimming Australia is an organisation of members and stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and opinions; and our organisational policies reflect our ongoing and serious commitment to inclusion, fairness and acceptance.
Without exception, each Board & Executive member will be exercising their individual right as Australians to support the notion of marriage equality.
Swimming Australia CEO Mark Anderson said that the Board recognised that as a sport we have past and present champions who have strong positions on this topic. We absolutely support these individuals and support their right to have a strong voice in relation to this social issue.
Swimming Australia Directors also strongly believe that everyone has an equal right to make an informed decision on the issue and recognise that this is a topic where there will be differing views on marriage equality across the community and across our sport.
Swimming Australia Directors welcomed and encouraged an informed and respectful discussion on the issue. The organisation strongly believes that everyone has an equal right to make an informed decision on the issue.
On this basis the Board felt it appropriate for all Swimming members to have the opportunity to have their own position and encouraged all of our members to express their perspective in the postal plebiscite.