Australia: We Tried To Answer Literally Every Question About The Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey

Hi. Do you have questions about Australia's upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage? Same.

BuzzFeed News has the answers to the most common questions people are asking about the postal survey. We will update this post frequently as more information comes to light.

We've split the questions up into: a) postal survey logistics; b) the High Court challenge against the survey; and c) the political background. We won't be including day-to-day coverage of the postal survey in this post, unless it pertains to a direct answer to a common question.

If you have a question you'd like us to answer, or have noticed something interesting happening around the postal vote in your neck of the woods, email


I'm just after the bare bones. What dates do I need to be aware of?

So far, the government has provided the following dates:

  • Enrol or update your details by August 24.
  • Ballots sent out from September 12.
  • You can request replacement material if it is lost or spoiled, up until 6pm on October 11.
  • Australians "strongly encouraged" to return forms by October 27.
  • Last date to return forms is November 7.
  • Result announced on November 15.

How can I make sure that I get to vote?

Enrol or check that your details are up to date with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) here. 

What question will we be answering?

"Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

Do I have to vote?

No. Unlike usual Australian elections or referendums, the postal survey is voluntary and you will not be fined for not voting.

Why are you calling it a postal survey? Isn't it a vote? What happened to the "plebiscite"?

This is...complicated, and largely because it is being run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), not the AEC. The "postal survey" language is taken directly from the Australian Bureau of Statistics memorandum. Legally, it is a survey, because the ABS only has the authority to collect data from Australians, not to run a vote or an election. And it is being run via the post, therefore, "postal survey".

If the Yes vote wins, will same-sex marriage will be legal?

It's not quite that simple. A bill still needs to pass the parliament for same-sex marriage to become legal, no matter what kind of vote/survey is held ahead of it.

If a Yes vote is returned, the government will allow its MPs a conscience vote (meaning they can vote however they like) on a private members' bill for same-sex marriage. Many governments MPs have pledged to follow the result of the postal survey, but others have said they will ignore it or just use it as a guide.

Given the numbers in the parliament, it is very likely — but not guaranteed — that a same-sex marriage bill would pass the parliament if the government allowed a conscience vote.

What if the No vote wins?

If the No vote wins, the government will not allow a conscience vote on a bill for same-sex marriage and continue to block any legislation for same-sex marriage coming forward.

It's worth noting here that Labor has said it will legislate for same-sex marriage within 100 days of winning government even in the event of a No vote. Read more via Buzzfeed