Australian politicians returning to the federal parliament today were met with conflicting messages about marriage. Thousands of flowers covered the forecourt of Parliament House as a thank-you to the MPs opposing a push to legalise same-sex marriage. But already as they flew in to Canberra this morning the MPs found the terminal building lit up in rainbow colours and a giant #WeCanDoThis campaign sign out the front.

A bill supporting gay marriage and sponsored by members of the federal coalition and Labor is due to be introduced in parliament on Tuesday. Australia is the holdout against ssm in Anglo world and Prime Minister Tony Abbott is personally against legalisation.

In a repeat of recent scenes in Ireland gay rights supporters were out in force over the weekend, and part of Sydney’s main street was closed on Sunday to allow a large crowd rallied by a group calling itself Community Action Against Homophobia to march though.

But on Friday the newly formed Marriage Alliance heard that their television ad on the meaning of marriage had been rejected by two major television channels (Channel 7 and Channel 10). It is very difficult to raise a civil debate about the meaning of marriage when even paid TV ads — of the most restrained nature — are being blocked by broadcasters, says alliance member Australian Family Association (AFA).

The flower power approach to MPs was an effort to keep the debate civil, said a spokesman for the Christian Federation that arranged the gesture. A tough call in the face of man-woman marriage supporters being labelled homophobic.

BTW, no less than 30 LGBT, human rights and legal lobbies told a 2012 Federal inquiry on Australia’s anti-discrimination laws that they wanted no exemptions, or draconian restrictions on exemptions in such laws, for churches, schools and community groups — let alone businesses. So what protection from prosecution would there be, asks the AFA, for those who conscientiously object to co-operating with a ssm law?

It looks like that visit DownUnder from top US marriage debater Ryan Anderson can’t some too soon:

Canberra: Tuesday 18th August, at 7pm The Cost of Equality.

Melbourne: Thursday 20th August, at 6pm  The Cost of Equality.

Auckland (NZ): Monday 24th August at Family First Forum

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet