Aus­tralian ref­er­en­dum re­sult forces Par­lia­ment to con­sider gay mar­riage

Houston Chronicle - - WORLD -

CAN­BERRA, Aus­tralia — Aus­tralians have said they sup­port gay mar­riage in a postal sur­vey that en­sures the Par­lia­ment con­sid­ers a bill to le­gal­ize same-sex wed­dings this year.

The Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics said on Wed­nes­day 62 per­cent of reg­is­tered adults who re­sponded had voted for the re­form in an un­prece­dented two-month sur­vey.

The con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment had promised to al­low the Par­lia­ment to con­sider a bill to cre­ate mar­riage equal­ity in Aus­tralia in its fi­nal two-week ses­sion that is due to end on Dec. 7.

While gay mar­riage could be a re­al­ity in Aus­tralia by Christ­mas, some gov­ern­ment law­mak­ers have vowed to vote down gay mar­riage re­gard­less of the sur­vey’s out­come.

Op­po­nents have also ques­tioned the le­git­i­macy of any same-sex mar­riage law since sev­eral law­mak­ers could po­ten­tially be dis­qual­i­fied from Par­lia­ment due to a con­sti­tu­tional ban on dual cit­i­zens stand­ing for elec­tion.

Ire­land is the only other coun­try in the world to put the di­vi­sive is­sue to a pop­u­lar vote. In Ire­land, 61 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers turned out for a ref­er­en­dum in 2015 and 62 per­cent of those voted to al­low mar­riage equal­ity.

In Aus­tralia, al­most 80 per­cent of more than 16 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers posted in bal­lots, de­spite gay mar­riage op­po­nents de­scrib­ing it as a bou­tique is­sue that did not in­ter­est most of the pub­lic.

Gay rights ad­vo­cates had op­posed the non­bind­ing 100 mil­lion Aus­tralian dol­lar ($76 mil­lion) sur­vey as an un­nec­es­sary ob­sta­cle. The United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee last week crit­i­cized Aus­tralia for putting gays and les­bians “through an un­nec­es­sary and di­vi­sive pub­lic opin­ion poll.”

In 2015, then-Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott, a same-sex mar­riage op­po­nent, com­mit­ted his con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment to hold­ing a na­tion­wide vote to de­cide whether the unions should be le­gal.

He was re­placed weeks later by cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, who sup­ports mar­riage equal­ity and op­posed the pub­lic vote but even­tu­ally agreed to it in a deal with party power bro­kers.

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