Aus­tralia gay-mar­riage bill can’t get vote

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL -

CAN­BERRA, Aus­tralia — Aus­tralia’s rul­ing party on Mon­day re­jected a push to al­low law­mak­ers to de­cide whether the coun­try should rec­og­nize gay mar­riage, con­tin­u­ing a po­lit­i­cal stale­mate over the di­vi­sive change.

The con­ser­va­tive Lib­eral Party-led coali­tion was nar­rowly re-elected in July 2016 with a prom­ise to let vot­ers de­cide whether Aus­tralia should rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riage through a pop­u­lar vote. But the Senate would not al­low the so-called plebiscite.

Lib­eral Sen. Dean Smith, a gay man who pre­vi­ously op­posed legalizing same-sex mar­riage, has drafted a bill to al­low gay mar­riage now and wants his fel­low Lib­eral law­mak­ers to be al­lowed to vote on it ac­cord­ing to their con­sciences rather than party pol­icy.

A cri­sis meet­ing of Lib­eral law­mak­ers de­cided to try again to per­suade the Senate to en­dorse the plebiscite be­fore Par­lia­ment con­sid­ers vot­ing on leg­is­la­tion. The re­jected plebiscite bill will be rein­tro­duced to the Senate this week. Vot­ing on the plebiscite would be com­pul­sory, and fail­ure to vote would be pun­ish­able by a fine.

If the Senate again re­jected it, the party would pro­pose a vol­un­tary postal plebiscite in which vot­ers mail in their opin­ions in­stead of us­ing bal­lot boxes.

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