The difficulties of reporting on the no case when there is no case

OPINION

Last week, I got a call from a man who (unsuccessfully) ran for council.

He was annoyed because the Mercury was not publishing enough on the “No campaign” on marriage equality. 

Coming from him, this confused me, as – in August – I emailed all council election candidates to ask “which way will you vote and why?” and got 45 replies.

Two were nos. This man’s response was not among them.

“I didn’t want to tell you then,” he told me. “Because if I said I was voting no, people wouldn’t have voted for me.”

Read more: Wollongong Anglican church leader's public lecture on 'no' case

My mind boggling, I agreed to interview him, starting with “why are you voting no?”

“It’s hard to say, people in the no camp do find it hard to express why,” he said. (Yes, really).

I told him he’d need to try to articulate a few reasons if I was going to write a whole article on his views.

He said there was “fear about change”, and that it might “affect religious freedom”, but when I asked what and how, he couldn’t say. 

Read more: Heartbroken Wollongong woman's open letter to 'no' voters

And then he said, word for word: "If I say to someone that I'm married currently, people just assume I'm married to a woman. But in the future, if I say I'm married, do I have to then clarify that I'm married to a woman? You shouldn't have to need to clarify that."

Essentially, his best reason to say no was: people might think married people are gay.

With misgivings and sadness that this could pose any sort of problem let alone enough of one to make someone vote to prevent equal rights, I agreed to pitch a story.

Read more: How Illawarra MPs will vote in same-sex marriage postal survey

I wrote a draft, sent it to my editor and went home for the weekend. 

On Monday, there was an email.

“I’ve just been thinking about it a lot and would prefer that you didn’t write a story or mention that I would consider voting “no” in the survey,” the man said. 

Now, if I held flimsy views based on nothing more than the fear (perhaps we should call it phobia?) about a perception people might think I was gay, I wouldn’t want them published either.

I guess that’s why stories about No voters are harder to find.

Read more: You will know in your heart whether you did enough