Marriage Voting in Australia; What’s Going On and What Happens Next?

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You may have seen Australia mentioned a lot lately and you are probably wondering why. To give a brief history, Australians have been going back and forth on the opinion of same-sex marriage for years now. In 2004, the Prime Minister at that time, John Howard, clarified the definition of marriage to be “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”. Since then, there have been several attempts to get same-sex marriage put into law in Australia, but to no avail. In 2015, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia would hold a national vote to decide upon marriage equality for the nation. In order to achieve this, legislation would have needed to be passed through the Australian parliament. After two failed attempts in 2016 and 2017, the Australian government, which is now under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, announced that they would do a nationwide postal vote instead.

This brings us to where we are now. Australian citizens are currently sending in their votes on whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalized. A recent poll (Newspoll) showed that 63% of Australians surveyed supported legalizing same-sex marriage, while 30% were against the legalization of same-sex marriage and 7% were undecided. It is clear where the country stands on its opinion of same-sex marriage at this point. However, lobby groups remain divided with strong stances and campaigns on both sides. Anti-marriage equality groups, such as various Neo Nazi groups and the Australian Christian Lobby, have put forth efforts to shut down the “yes” vote and prevent the progression of the nation. The Neo Nazis have been hanging homophobic posters. Conservative lawmakers are urging a vote against “political correctness”. And certain lobby groups are claiming that the “yes” voters are trying to stop the “no” voters from expressing their views. On the flip side, various rallies have been held and the “yes” voters have been very outspoken as well. They have also brought the nation’s writers to their side. A letter, signed by over 100 Australian authors, has been written urging the nation to vote “yes” in “the interest of fairness, equality, and social reform”.

So what happens next? The national vote is due by November 15th. However, an overall “yes” vote does not automatically mean marriage equality for Australia. Instead, the government would then have to decide to pass legislation to make same-sex marriage legal and they are not legally obligated to pass it just because the public votes “yes”. Prime Minister Turnbull announced that he will introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage should the public vote “yes”. He has also stated that he will urge the Australian government to come to a decision by the end of the year. Although there have been some conservative members of the Australian government that have said they would vote against the legalization of same-sex marriage not matter what the public voted, we can remain hopeful that in a few months time we will be one step closer to a more equal and free world.

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