Australian referendum result forces Parliament to consider gay marriage
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.