Study showing Bendigo support for same-sex marriage prompts plebiscite opponents to speak out

The federal electorate of Bendigo has one of Australia's lowest levels of opposition to same-sex marriage, research has revealed. 

A University of Melbourne-led study found just 30 per cent of Bendigo residents opposed changes to the Marriage Act that would allow same-sex couples to wed.  

The study, which used data from the 2013 ABC Vote Compass, placed Bendigo 112th out of 150 electorates ranked according to their opposition to marriage equality.

The fewest naysayers were found in the inner-city seats of Melbourne and Sydney. 

But the ranking also revealed a divide between Bendigo and the rural seats that adjoin it. Mallee and Murray, both held by the National party, were among the 20 electorates with the highest estimated opposition to the policy.

But even with between 40 and 45 per cent of their constituents against the idea, both seats would return a vote in favour of marriage equality should the federal government’s proposed plebiscite take place next February. 

Just one electorate – the Queensland seat of Maranoa – had fewer supporters than opponents, suggesting the national poll would also find nationwide approval of same-sex marriage. 

The level of opposition in Bendigo did not surprise the region’s federal MP, Lisa Chesters, who said the research demonstrated a lack of need for a February plebiscite.

It was a “small, militant and vocal” minority who still opposed the policy and who threatened the wellbeing of the country’s queer community should a plebliscite occur, Ms Chesters said.  

Talks between federal Labor and Liberal MPs in Canberra this week ended in a stalemate with neither party willing to compromise on their preferred method of legislating marriage equality. 

Had the government been willing to make the plebiscite’s result binding on its MPs, Ms Chesters said her party would have again consulted with the LGBTI community about their opinion on the vote. 

Jakob Quilligan, organiser of queer community group Friends Alike Bendigo – Central Victoria, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of supporters in his community.

He too opposed a plebiscite on the subject.

“The fact remains that we've already seen some of the beginnings of the vitriol,” Mr Quilligan said. 

“I don’t want to see that given a national public platform.”

In communities where support was more tenuous than in Bendigo, the FAB – CV spokesman said it was important proponents of marriage equality remain united and look after each other’s wellbeing. 

“It still comes down to asking if someone is okay, and meaning it, and know knowing where it get actual help.”