Australia to vote on same-sex marriage

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the ruling and urged all Australians to take part in the survey

Australia to vote on same-sex marriage

Australia's High Court has ruled that the national postal vote on same-sex marriage will continue after various attempts of the marriage equality advocates failed. Same-sex marriage supporters had taken the government to court over the postal vote which they argued was both unnecessary and an illegal use of public funds.

Australians will receive the chance to have their say on same-sex marriage. Through this action, thanks to the High Court ruling, the Government could spend $122 million of taxpayers’ money on the controversial postal survey. All ballots will present the same question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”; it will be sent to households across the nation on September 12th.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview that “Lucy and I will be voting yes and I will be encouraging others to vote yes, as well”. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tweeted “Let’s win this” but warned of a “booby trap”. Shorten said there was the danger that “government conservatives” would take advantage of the lack of clarity around potential same-sex legislation to encourage the “no” vote. “We can’t allow a booby trap by the government conservatives to derail the survey”, Shorten said during a press conference. “Without a survey, they can’t do their day job. But then, if the conservatives argue, ‘We are having the survey but we haven’t seen the final details of the bill, then you must vote no’, that is a booby”, he affirms.

Activist group GetUp said the Government had been sneaky in circumnavigating Parliament and the vote could be “the biggest own goal the Liberal party has ever seen”. Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, one of the main groups against same-sex marriage, said the vote will be a “referendum on freedoms and radical sex education in schools”. If most people vote in favor, a vote will then be held in parliament which Turnbull says he expects will make same-sex marriage legal. If Australians vote no, Turnbull has said the parliamentary vote will not proceed.

Australians have long been in favor of marriage equality, but multiple governments have affirmed that they wanted to keep the traditional definition of union within the country’s law. Campaigns by both the “yes” and “no” campaigns have kicked off immediately. The “yes” side has released a television ad campaign featuring Olympian Ian Thorpe with the catch cry “it’s about a fair go”. Both sides were reportedly handing out cards directing people to vote outside the High Court.

The Government funded the multi-million survey using laws which allowed spending if there was an urgent need and the situation was unforeseen. Same-sex marriage advocates argued the survey was neither urgent nor unforeseen so the Government could not spend the funds without parliamentary approval, which it would be unlikely to receive. The High Court ruled that was not the case, effectively giving the green light to the poll.

Unlike usual votes, the postal survey is voluntary. Forms need to be returned by early November but “yes” campaigners have predicted that 80 percent of the forms could be sent back by the end of next week. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who will be running the survey, voters will have until November 7th to submit their forms.

The final result will be revealed on November 15th.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto 

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