Muslims 'not to blame for Western Sydney No result'


A Western Sydney Yes voter says religion is not to blame for the high number of No voters in his area, the lack of Yes campaigning in the region is.

In the wake of a historic vote in favour of marriage equality, the spotlight has been placed on the few electorates where the majority voted No.

Migrant populations with a religious background have been recorded as the least supportive of same-sex marriage in Australia.

On Wednesday the country had its say on legalising same-sex marriage.

Eighty per cent of eligible Australians voted in the postal survey and of that, more than 61 per cent said Yes.

But a day after the result, it has become clear that not all communities feel the same.

More than 12.7 million people voted across 150 federal electorates.

133 of those seats voted Yes and 17 said No.

Thirteen of the electorates with a majority No vote were in Western Sydney.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the conservative views held by some religious groups may explain the trend.

"In some of those seats you've got a very big Muslim community who are very, who are very conservative on issues like this and very little support for same-sex marriage," he said.

How Western Sydney voters responded to the postal survey
How Western Sydney voters responded to the postal survey

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm on Thursday linked the religious and cultural diversity of voters in electorates which strongly voted No in the postal survey to Australian immigration policy.

"We are a very tolerant society. We want to make sure that we maintain that tolerance," Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra.

"If we had a very high level of immigration from those same countries where those western Sydney electorates are derived from then we wouldn't have got a positive vote."

Fahad Ali is a Muslim man who lives in Western Sydney, who also advocates for marriage equality.

He felt the two aren't mutually exclusive and that religion is not to blame for the high No vote in his area.

"If you look at Blaxland which had the highest No vote in the country, you see that 30 per cent of people there are Muslim and the majority aren't Muslim." 

He believed a lack of campaigning by same-sex marriage advocates in Western Sydney was behind the higher rates of No votes in the area.

"Unfortunately the Yes campaign, they didn't really go into Western Sydney, it didn't really build in diverse communities out west and the consequences of that is that they voted No. 

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

Belinda McLennan is Chief Operating Officer of AMES, a Melbourne-based organisation that advocates on behalf of migrants.

She said newly arrived migrants of different backgrounds form a significant portion of the electorates that voted against same-sex marriage.

"I don't think they're making a comment about same-sex marriage. I think they're making a comment about where they have been, what their cultural experience has been, what their religious experience has been, and where they feel comfortable and obviously settling in a country is a process of becoming more comfortable, in Australia, with diversity, with multiculturalism, with different views about how the world works so the concern would be that that would be held against people rather than that that is a reflection of the experience of those people at this stage in their settlement journeys in Australia."

According to some economists, once the same-sex marriage bill passes parliament, it could generate between $500 to $1 billion for the economy, and boost the wedding industry and associated businesses.

Jenny Punch from Vision in White, a bridal boutique in the heart of Parramatta, said orders for same-sex couples planning to marry are already coming in.

"I'm very excited about it, in fact, we have had two phone calls this morning for people booking in their suits for weddings in March and April, so it's already starting."

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