‘Yes’ win expected in Australian gay marriage vote that exposed divisions
Australians will finally learn the result of a controversial national poll on same-sex marriage Wednesday, with an expected “yes” vote set to unleash a divisive debate over how then to enshrine marriage equality into law.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is due to announce at 10:00 am (23:00 GMT Tuesday) how the estimated 12.6 million Australians who participated in the poll have voted.
But the two-month-long voting process has highlighted deep divisions in Australian society that are likely to complicate the task of following up the nonbinding poll with legislation legalizing marriage equality.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a moderate who supports marriage equality, has pledged that if a majority vote “yes”, his government will quickly introduce a bill to change the marriage laws.
But he must battle conservative elements within his ruling coalition who are demanding “religious freedom” exemptions in any new law to protect the rights of those who oppose gay marriage on faith grounds.
“We won’t stop working until every couple is equal under the law,” the Equality Campaign, the leading group supporting the “yes” vote, said in a statement Tuesday.
“If the result is yes, our politicians will need to follow through on a yes result by passing a fair bill that supports true equality.”
The postal vote was designed to end more than a decade of political wrangling in Australia over the marriage equality issue.
The conservative government failed twice to get parliament’s upper house Senate to approve an election promise last year to hold a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
But it also rejected calls, including by the main opposition Labor Party, to introduce legislation in parliament to resolve the debate. The postal ballot appeared to be its only option amid public pressure for action.
Turnbull insisted this week that he would oppose efforts by some in his coalition to introduce laws that would allow for discrimination against same-sex weddings by businesses.