Marriage equality is squarely on the political agenda as Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten try to curry favour with voters in a lengthy campaign leading up to the July 2 federal election.
It is now almost certain that the majority of Australians will get their wish and, no matter which party wins at the polling booths, same-sex marriage will become a reality sooner rather than later.
Prime Minister Turnbull this week gave his strongest commitment on the timing of a plebiscite (public vote), saying it would be held before the end of the year if the Coalition retains government.
“We will hold it as soon as possible after the election. Given that the election is on 2 July, we do have ample time between then and the end of the year.
“So I would expect it to be held this calendar year.”
“But it will be held as soon as practical, as obviously legislation has got to pass through the Parliament so all I can do is give you my commitment to hold a plebiscite as soon as we can and it will be a very straightforward question and we will be asking the Australian people whether they support the definition of marriage being extended to include couples of the same sex.”
If elected, Labor would not hold the $160 million plebiscite, which they call a divisive waste of money, and have instead promised a vote on the legislation within 100 days of taking office.
LGBT rights campaigners have warned that a public vote would be expensive, drawn-out and divisive – as well as largely futile, given the overwhelming support equal marriage enjoys among the general public.
The Australian Greens are calling on Mr Turnbull to grant LNP members a free parliamentary vote on marriage equality if he is returned to government.
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s comments would give some Australians the inkling that we could have marriage equality realised by the end of the year – but we can do it without spending $160 million and sending people straight back to the polls after a marathon election campaign,” Senator Robert Simms said.
“This debate has dragged on long enough, and it seems Mr Turnbull won’t be satisfied until LGBTI people are dragged through the mud by the harmful hate campaigns against this community a plebiscite would drum up.
“It’s not too late for him to dump the pointless and costly plebiscite. No more excuses, delays and hiding behind stale old policies – Australians want marriage equality and they want to see this matter dealt with by the parliament, regardless of who is in the lodge.”