‘Yes’ win ex­pected in Aus­tralian gay mar­riage vote that ex­posed di­vi­sions

Global Times - - World -

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.

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